Settling down with a young toddler after a whirlwind career as an art dealer, Travas Clifton moved next door to a coffee roaster in Toronto where he realized everything he knew about coffee was wrong.
After diving into his new obsession and learning everything about coffee processing and roasting, Travas moved to New Jersey where he began (illegally) roasting his naturally processed coffee beans that he sold from a converted hot dog cart in 2013. His unique product quickly caught on and Modcup has grown to three retail locations including a converted 1969 Citron truck that was once installed inside the Mack-Cali building along the waterfront at Exchange Place.
Q. What does sustainability mean to you and your business?
A. It’s very important. The earth is either burning or flooding it seems these days. At Modcup we sell an agricultural product. A product that depends on the earth being in balance. When the earth is so out of balance our industry is volatile and volatility is bad for business.
Q. What makes your cafe or business unique?
A. In the area of Jersey City, we are the only specialty coffee roaster. But what makes us stand apart from other cafe roasters in the country is that we focus on buying and roasting naturally processed coffees which are coffees that can taste like chocolate, blueberry, peaches or apricots.
How is that different from your local corner store that sells a blueberry coffee? They sell flavored coffee - coffee that has chemical flavors roasted with it - rumored to be a potentially cancerous process.
The flavors in our coffees are the result of the coffee bean being dried inside the fruit, a natural process. Remember coffee is a fruit. And the bean is actually the seed of that fruit. That seed is one of the most complex on the planet, containing between 800-1200 flavonoids that can contribute to aroma and taste. When coffee beans are dried inside their cherry husk the fruity side of the flavor spectrum is in play, and when roasted appropriately these flavors come to the forefront of the cup. People come to Modcup for rich full bodied, fruity, chocolate-ly coffee - Ethiopian coffees are always the most popular.
Q. What are your thoughts on sustainability in your industry or neighborhood?
A. I think the specialty coffee industry is aware of the change that is needed and the speed at which it needs to take place, after all if the change is not enacted fast the industry may not have much of a fruit to reap seeds from and thus no coffee to roast or brew. Single serve cups are the biggest hurdle to overcome.
I'd like to see more places adopt a Scottish mentality. I was at the recent Glasgow coffee festival and not one single serve cup was used at the entire weekend festival. Everyone who attended was given a reusable cup that they returned at the end of the day. And there is a proposed ban on the table for all single use cups in cafes.
It’s not a difficult thing to enact, we as humans just have to think differently. We have to get out of the habit of our "throw away" culture. We are literally throwing away our planet in the process. Cow’s milk is the pink elephant in the room in the coffee industry. Arise sir oat!
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