SOUTH BEND – Ah! For coffee aficionados, nothing equals the smell of freshly brewed coffee – except, perhaps, the taste of it.
But when it comes fresh from another country, and – what's more – from a former South Bend resident, the aroma is more than refreshing. It's intoxicating.
That coffee is La Esmeralda, grown in Puerto Rico and imported to this area by former resident Howarth Rowe. It's sold locally at Elixir Coffee Shop in South Bend.
Rowe, who is better known simply as H, imports coffee beans monthly from a supplier who is a descendent of one of the oldest coffee producing families in Puerto Rico. “His family was the sole provider for coffee beans to the Vatican and the Pope for over 200 years,” Rowe said in an email.
“Some of the coffee beans come directly from my own farm that is located in the highlands of central Puerto Rico. I roast them fresh on demand and ship them to my customers within a couple of days.”
Roasting is carefully monitored, he wrote, to ensure freshness and flavor.
“I slow roast the coffee to a rich medium dark roast with a slight smoky flavor with next to no bitter after taste,” he wrote. “I sell only whole bean coffee and recommend to my customers that they only grind these beans fresh just before they brew.”
Fresh roasting and quick shipping are only two parts of a process to keep the beans as fresh as possible for buyers more than 3,000 miles away.
The beans, Rowe said, are packaged in black Mylar bags “with vacuum valves to preserve ultimate freshness. Keep the bag sealed after opening with the resealable Mylar bag. Always store in a cool storage cabinet and do not freeze the beans.”
So what's his tie to this area?
He grew up in South Bend with his parents, Capt. Howarth Rowe and Anna Hoffer-Rowe, with brother Dave, who still lives here. He attended South Bend schools until his freshman year when he left the area to attend Florida Air Academy, a private military based high school in Melbourne, Fla. The coffee business came later, after a move to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
H still visits the area at least twice a year to visit his family, brother Dave, sister-in-law Val, and nephews Bill and Nick.
Still wondering about H and his coffee? Check it out at Elixir in South Bend!