It started with a popcorn maker. About nine years ago, Josh Schmitt set up shop in his garage to craft his own specialty coffee. After being fed up with not being able to find fresh beans on the shelf at local grocery stores, he thought he’d give roasting a try.
“When you buy [coffee] at the store, you have to consider its shelf life. The expiration date doesn’t equal freshness,” Schmitt explained on a phone call with Creative Loafing Tampa.
Schmitt started diving deeper into what made fresh, better quality joe. That meant focusing on single-origin coffee. Single-origin coffee is coffee grown within a single known geographic origin, which can offer unique characteristics and specific tastes when compared to blended coffees.
Noticing that there weren’t many options in the Bradenton/Sarasota area offering specialty coffee, Schmitt’s wife, Abbey, encouraged him to start roasting for others, which turned into Josh trying his luck at the Bradenton Farmer’s Market and the beginning of Banyan Coffee Co.
“We sold out right away,” Josh said with a laugh. “We looked at each other and were like, 'Well, looks like we have to get more coffee for next week.'”
At the time, Josh was operating a small roaster for the market, but once he began linking up with businesses in the area for wholesale deals, he knew it was time for an upgrade. “It was like the analogy from the movie Jaws, ‘I think we're gonna need a bigger boat,’” he said.
Now the Banyan Coffee Co. team is running a nearly 1,000-square-foot space, ordering coffee by the pallet to compensate for the demand. “It’s kind of crazy, and we’ve been blessed in the situation we’ve been dealt to build this business,” Schmit said.
While much of Banyan’s focus is on the wholesale side, the Schmitts can still be found at the weekend Bradenton Farmer’s Market with beans, and their coffee cart nearby serving up fresh cups.
The street-legal coffee cart is a renovated ‘84 Cushman that formerly operated as a hot dog truck. Josh, with the help of a buddy, stripped it down and rebuilt the back end to be a “Mean Bean Slingin’ Machine.” It can be booked for private events and can travel as far as Naples/Orlando to serve up cold brew coffee on tap (as well as Nitro cold brew coffee), pour overs, drip coffee, and hand-pressed espresso.
“We want people to have a good experience with our coffee, that’s why we have our cart. Coffee can be intimidating for people who are new to it, and we want our [coffee] to be open and approachable.”
Even though things are heating up for Banyan, Josh wants to keep things light. He even has a note in his warehouse that reads “if you’re not having fun then why are you doing it?” Speaking of fun, the Banyan team likes to keep it cheeky, making Macho Man the roaster's unofficial mascot. You can find a Macho Man figurine in the coffee cart and even on merch. Josh describes that brand as “goofy-authentic.”
If you’re not quite ready to venture out to the Bradenton Farmer’s Market to meet the Schmitt dup in person, the Banyan brewhouse offers free shipping for orders over $25 (adds up to two bags of beans) as well as local delivery if you live nearby.
Banyan’s website offers wholesale buying options as well as by the bag orders. Shoppers can choose from light, medium, dark roasts and exclusive releases. You can even grab cold brew bottles (32-oz., 1-gal., or a keg), coffee sets as well as merch and equipment for coffee snobs—aka people who appreciate a good cup of java.
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