If the name Morning Bell Coffee Roasters doesn't ring, well, a bell, don't worry. Nadav Mer and his wife Dara Wald opened up off 11th and Grand avenues just about two weeks ago now. Roasting beans from a farmer and friend in Nicaragua, Mer is making some of the most unique coffee in town. His small roastery space and tasting room operates four hours a day on weekdays only, but if you love coffee, it's well worth the trip.
Mer, his wife, and his daughter all moved to Chandler when his wife got a new job as a post-doc researcher at ASU. Before that, the young family lived in Gainesville, Florida, where they ran a larger-scale roastery called Tree City Coffee Roasters. With about four years of roasting experience, Mer certainly isn't the most experienced roaster in town, but his connection to his farmers is one-of-a-kind.
Right now Mer offers one bean with a medium roast. It comes in either washed or natural varieties at $16 per pound. That bean comes from the Selva Negra farm in Nicaragua, which Mer visited with his wife and daughter, who was only one year old at the time. Mer directly deals with the organic farm, though he plans on expanding his offerings to include an espresso roast, a decaf, and a Brazillian bean in the future.
Mer roasts this bean in the medium range, which, when brewed, exposes a strong butterscotch flavor, but also leaves a very clean, bright finish. Admittedly, he says he prefers this coffee lightly roasted, which he describes as "almost abrasive" and "intense" if you aren't used to the experience. In general, he says he prefers light roasts the same way meat lovers prefer rare steaks.
"It's like cooking meat: the more you char it, the more it tastes like the grill," he explains. "Lighter roasts retain more of those origin flavors."
However, like steaks, medium is pretty much industry standard for a more universal appeal, so that's what he roasts at. Four years ago, Mer taught himself the art of roasting on a converted barbecue that he built into a roaster after deciding coffee, and not homebrewing, was the path for him.
Now he roasts on one of the smallest commercial roasters on the market. His current roaster is only capable of processing 3.3 pounds of coffee at a time, making the Morning Bell experience about as boutique as you can get.
Mer roasting in small quantities allows him to ensure his strict freshness standards are met. He prefers his coffees be brewed within one week of their roast date, which is handwritten on every bag, but refuses to sell coffee that's any older than two weeks old.
While Morning Bell operates mostly as a retail location and roasting space, Mer offers cups of his coffee brewed by either Aeropress or French Press for $3 per cup. While he offers just the one bean right now, if that roast is any indication, his future offerings will be something to look out for in the Phoenix coffee scene.
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The tasting room is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. currently and is the only place right now that you can try Morning Bell's coffee. Mer says the limited hours allow him to spend time with his family, which is what the business is really about.
"Anything that we offer we have to like at home before we sell it in the shop," he says.
However, Mer's coffee will be prominently featured at ThirdSpace in a couple of weeks, which will be located in the building in front of his small roastery. Until then, get yourself a cup of his Aeropress-brewed Selva Negra Estate coffee. You won't be sorry.