By Lee Noes
WAXHAW – Janet Baker doesn’t see coffee as some old school energy drink quickly concocted from hot water and prepackaged, store-bought beans. The way Baker views it, coffee needs to be handled the same way a vintner creates a fine wine or torcedor rolls a quintessential cigar.
Patience, care and attention to detail are the traits needed, and they are the ones Baker and her husband, Kyle, pleasantly place into each cup at the Sospeso Coffee Roasters in Waxhaw.
The Bakers began the business in 2012. They moved into their current location, a quaint wood building near a 19th-century cotton mill that now houses luxury apartments and an American-style tapas restaurant in 2018.
“It’s a great place to come and visit,” Janet Baker said. “Family-oriented, and indoor and outdoor seating. People know they are going to get an amazing cup of coffee.”
Baker never considered herself a serious connoisseur of coffee. Kyle claimed that title by meticulously learning to brew in the family kitchen while living in San Francisco.
Their first roaster was an industrial heat gun Baker compared to an amplified hair dryer with a cylinder cover where the beans were placed. They eventually upgraded to a home roaster, but still considered it a hobby until Kyle’s marketing job relocated the family to Waxhaw in 2011. The couple chose Union County for its slower pace and resemblance to where Kyle grew up in Virginia, but quickly realized the area needed the specialty-style coffee they wanted to offer.
A year later, the business was born as Janet and Kyle began selling their product at the Waxhaw Farmers Market. Kyle is involved with sourcing and selection of the organic beans by using direct trade and a coffee broker to import from small growers in Africa, Asia and South and Central America. This allows the Bakers to keep the beans as fresh as possible by staying in direct contact with the farmers. Janet worked in public relations for high tech companies and brought her background in communication to lead sales and community outreach.
A connection to the community is essential as Sospeso has young families with small children, teenagers looking for a social spot and older couples visiting the establishment.
Frank Aurichio is a regular. He said the kindness Janet displays is just as important as the abundance of coffee options he enjoys on a weekly basis. Aurichio told a story of Janet not only giving a few quick lessons on how to brew at home, she even supplied some beans to use.
“Her (coffee) is still better than mine,” said Aurichio. “She puts a lot of effort into it, and she knows what she is doing. I trust her opinion on making coffee.”
The ties to the community are not just economically driven. Janet Baker said the business gives coffee to the local elementary school when the teachers have professional development. They donate proceeds to local food banks and give coffee to a women’s shelter in Monroe.
“We look for ways to always give back,” Janet Baker said. “And it will always be a core value for us.”
Baker also stays up with the latest trends the coffee community goes through. The days of corporate companies dominating the market have given way to coffee following a similar path as craft beers with homestyle brewers developing signature flavors like fruit or chocolate. The two crafts have become even more intertwined as the Bakers supply several breweries in the area with coffee beans to use as flavoring. In turn, Sospeso has developed its own bourbon-flavored coffee by taking empty liquor barrels they received from a company in Charlotte and regularly turn unroasted beans in them for several weeks until an enriched bourbon smell is created on the beans.
Sospeso has also benefitted from a business venture with Baked and Tempered, a bakery run by the husband and wife team of Ben and Lauren Kallenbach, who have a combined 25 years of experience in the pastry industry. The two businesses work together in the building and have named their joint endeavor the 4th Corner Bakehouse and Coffee Co.
The extra effort has paid off for the Bakers as online responses include describing the coffee as incredible or delicious, and the store itself as inviting.
“It means we are fulfilling the values of the business,” Janet Baker said of the accolades. “This is an inviting place for people to come and get a great product and for us to be an integral part of the Waxhaw community.”
Where to find it
Sospeso Coffee Roasters is located at 205 Salem St. in Waxhaw. The store is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. It is closed on Sunday and Monday. Visit www.sospesocof fee.com for details.