Take it from us — the weekly farmer's market at the Workhouse Arts Center features some of the best coffee you've ever tasted. There, you'll find Arka Chaudhuri of Kustomcoffee.com, a small business that he runs from his Oakton basement.
Chaudhuri, 39, is a native of Calcutta, India, and moved to Chicago in 1999 and Northern Virginia three years ago. During the day he's the director of technology for the American Clean Skies Foundation, but at night he's roasting small batches of specialized coffees from Burundi and Colombia.
"Two years ago I was a customer at Starbucks, and it wasn't until I tried Sommo Coffee from a master roaster at the Oakton Farmer's Market that my eyes opened literally and figuratively to the power of a good blend," Chaudhuri told Patch. "That's when I started my blog and got into home roasting for myself and friends and family."
In February 2010, Chaudhuri launched his coffee subscription business, and sends roasts by the pound to customers. "A good cup of coffee comes from the bean, the roast and the extraction of coffee from the bean into the water," he said. "The flavor in coffee depends on the land around it. Coffee plants take three-to-five years to become mature, and in the interim, farmers plant fruit and vegetables in the same soil. So, when you taste a good cup, you'll be able to discern all sorts of interesting flavors."
Chaudhuri talks of coffee like a wine enthusiast. "Coffee has more than 700 flavor compounds — much more than wine," he said. "Experiencing those flavors is something that you have to train yourself to do. Try this experiment: pour yourself a cup and slurp as hard as you can, taking the coffee all the way to the back of your tongue. You'll start to notice all these flavors, which is what is called the origin of the character of the coffee."
Too often, coffee is ruined with water that's too hot, he said. "The ideal temperature is 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just before the water goes into a rolling boil," said Chaudhuri. "And good coffee should never be bitter, and bitterness comes from over-roasting."
You can meet Arka Chaudhuri at the Workhouse Farmer's Market each Thursday from 3:30 – 7 p.m. on the Workhouse Quad at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.