Quality over quantity

Monty Ruckman, owner of Jackson's Corner Cafe, whips up an eggnog latte. Photo by Henry Culvyhouse

NEW MARKET — Monty Ruckman is a man who knows his coffee.

“I spent 21 years in the Navy drinking a lot of bad coffee, and the same thing as a defense contractor for 19 years,” Ruckman said.

Seven years ago, Ruckman ran into his boss, an ex-navy captain, outside a Starbucks.

“He said to me, ‘I can’t believe you’re drinking that crap,'” Ruckman recalled. “He said, ‘You need to start roasting it yourself.'”

So Ruckman went out and bought a home roasting kit, with a capacity of a quarter pound of coffee beans and began roasting it himself. Soon, his co-workers could smell his brews and then they tasted them. Next thing he knew, Ruckman was getting orders for his coffee.

Today, Ruckman is a roast master at his own commercial coffee roasting operation called Cabin Creek Roasters, as well as the owner of Jackson’s Corner Café, which opened in early June. The café offers patrons freshly roasted coffees from Guatemala, Indonesia, and India, to name a few, as well as teas, lattes, espressos and food.

Buying fresh coffee beans from all over the world, Ruckman can roast 33 pounds of coffee beans an hour, but by February, he anticipates having a roaster capable of processing 99 pounds an hour. He said this will make his café the only one with a roaster in the valley, excluding Winchester.

“People can sit here, drink a cup of coffee and smell the beans being roasted,” Ruckman said. “They can order a pound of coffee and then go watch it be roasted. People like seeing the process.”

He said the reason it will take so long to install the roaster is that it is being shipped from Turkey.

“If you look at places in America that are building roasters, you’ll see a lot of those parts are made in Turkey,” Ruckman said. “They really love their coffee in Turkey.”

Ruckman said what sets his coffees apart from big names like Maxwell House and Folgers is his emphasis on quality over quantity.

“A lot of coffee roasters will throw high heat at their beans to get it done and out the door quickly,” Ruckman said. “What I do is after I hear the beans crack in the roaster, I lower the temperature down to let the beans come into their final temperature on their own.”

Ruckman said the lower temperatures help make his coffee come across smoother than the competition. Having roasted beans commercially for five years, he decided he would make the transition to owning a café after he was able to verify he could run his roasting operation at the Lee-Jackson Building.

“It’s always been my dream to own a café,” Ruckman said. “But I roast my beans in Edinburg and my wife pointed out I can’t be two places at once. Once we were able to clear having a commercial roaster here with the county and town, it was a go.”

He said the reception from the community has been tremendous.  “The town welcomed us with open arms.”

Just ask Jen Lear, a New Market resident and regular customer. While not a coffee drinker, Lear said she loves stopping in for tea.

“I like the small-town feel and the atmosphere here,” Lear said. “I plan on buying some loose leaf tea and I’ve had the soups and the sandwiches. It’s all good here.”

In addition to the new roaster, Ruckman said his café will start serving wine from Cave Ridge Vineyards, based in Mount Jackson, in January. He said he will focus primarily on serving wine between 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as expand the menu to include cheese and berries.

Jackson’s Corner Café is in the Lee-Jackson Building at 9386 South Congress St. in New Market. The café is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com