SILVER CITY – Brother Bernard Marino wears an apron over his monk’s habit while he watches a roaster toast several pounds of Brazilian coffee. He listens for the snap and crackle that suggest the beans are nearly done.
“Our first batch came out pretty nice, providentially,” said Brother Bernard.
“Abbey Roast” is the name of their brand, which began selling in Albuquerque Shamrock stores this month and is available online. It’s the product of a partnership with a Benedictine monastery in Brazil that needed a market for the coffee it grows and an answer to the monks’ desire to raise funds to expand their monastery in the pine woods of the Gila National Forest.
The monks didn’t always know how to roast coffee: Bernie Digman, owner of the Las Cruces café Milagro Coffee y Espresso, taught them.
Digman called them “very, very good students” and “pretty intense about everything they do.”
Was it just a coincidence that the name of Digman’s coffee shop means “miracle” in Spanish?
“They would say no,” Digman said.
They roasted their beans in Milagro – the monks in their habits slipping past college students and businesspeople chatting over cappuccinos – for several months until they got the hang of it. Then they approached Idaho-based Diedrich Roasters about purchasing a roaster. The company offered them a discount and payments at no interest.
“The first 10 years of being a monk here, we weren’t allowed to have coffee,” Brother Bernard recalls. “Ten worst years of my life. Try getting up at 3 a.m. and not being able to drink coffee.”