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Something new's brewing on Bay Street
In America’s coffee heartland, beans are big business.
Just ask Carlos Otero.
Otero, 45, is the owner of Rosa Coffee Roasters, a wholesale coffee roaster that opened in 2008 on Bay Street. His customers include restaurants and espresso stands including Bay Buoy Espresso, Jump Start and City Blends in Bremerton. He does retail business as well.
“We sell a mix of different types of beans,” he said. “It’s a great, high-quality bean that you get from most of the smaller roasters.”
Otero, who moved to Kitsap County in 1983 with the military, has always called the area home, despite working in Seattle for most of his career. He got his start in coffee by installing equipment and doing service for a beverage company that did espresso machines and carts. He moved into parts, and then sales — and then came home.
After adopting a daughter with his wife, Maira, 44, he took a job doing sales for the company to stay closer to his family. He was let go from his job during a leave of absence as his wife battled breast cancer.
While Maira was undergoing chemotherapy, they started Rosa Coffee.
She is now fine and works for Morgan Stanley in Gig Harbor.
But Otero’s java roots go back even further.
“I have been drinking coffee since I was knee high to a grasshopper,” he said, adding that it’s a staple in Spanish families. “I didn’t know any different. We drank coffee like most families drink orange juice.”
He said coffee was one of the first things he learned to make, citing the process as “Put water on the stove, put coffee grounds through it, strain it through and make coffee.”
Now, he also roasts it.
The beans come from a green-bean importer, and with his primary objective being to have “outstanding quality beans,” he does business in Seattle, Kirkland and California.
Otero said Rosa Coffee sells five blends including the Bay Street Blend, a dark coffee that is the roaster’s best seller.
“It’s the most medium blend,” he explained. “Most people who don’t know what they want don’t want something too bold. It’s the lightest blend that I do, but it has a very good flavor.”
Also on the menu is their signature offering, the Rosa Coffee Blend, which Otero describes as having a nutty flavor and some citrus tones. While he feels it may be too bold for some people, it’s what he personally drinks at home.
“You have to cater to other people’s tastes,” he said. “I can think that I have the best blend in the world, but if somebody doesn’t like it, it doesn’t benefit me much.”
The beans are sold by the half-pound or pound, and while he said he prefers to sell whole beans, they will grind them for customers. The employees also provide complimentary training in how to grind coffee as fresh as possible, proper extraction and the steaming of milk and putting drinks together.
“You want to make sure what you do for them is equal to or above what they’re used to,” he said of customers.
Next up, Otero said, he could be taking his beans a little further east — Florida, where he has family that could run the business.
“Back east, they don’t have coffee like we have here,” he said, adding that you’re hard-pressed to find an espresso stand. “Even if it’s not directly through me ... I think it would be phenomenal the kind of growth they would have.”