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Whispering Bean making some noise with West Side cafe

bizo_jd_01aug_jessicadyerALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Psst. Have you heard about Whispering Bean?

Owners Angie and David Weigand have been running the coffee-roasting business from their Rio Rancho home for the past three years. Fitting it in between his engineering job and her career in the dental field, they roasted in the garage, bagged in a spare bedroom and sold through the internet, averaging about 12 bags a month.

Whispering Bean was, you might say, a pretty quiet operation.

But not so much anymore.

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Last month, the couple expanded by opening a new cafe and roastery next to Sprouts in the Corrales Shopping Center.

“For us to grow bigger, we decided we have to open a coffee shop because people want to taste it,” Angie says.

Barista Becky Donofrio serves a cool drink to a customer at the Whispering Bean coffee shop. (Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

Barista Becky Donofrio serves a cool drink to a customer at the Whispering Bean coffee shop. (Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

Whispering Bean customers can now have a barista whip up a cappuccino or mocha. They can order a pour-over cup, cold brew, or the popular butter-and-MCT-oil coffee blend known at Whispering Bean as “Trail Blazing Coffee.”

Those in a hurry can use the cafe’s grab-and-go station, pouring themselves a cup and dropping $2 in a jar.

The cafe also sells 12-ounce bags of roasted beans ($13.65), which come from Brazil, Peru, Guatemala, Egypt and Cameroon via California importers. Whispering Bean offers single-source bags and also some blends.

The Whispering Bean at the Corrales Shopping Center on Albuquerque's West Side is a cafe and coffee roastery.(Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

The Whispering Bean at the Corrales Shopping Center on Albuquerque’s West Side is a cafe and coffee roastery.(Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

The bags have already emerged as the shop’s top seller, something Angie says reflects the lack of major local roasting options on the West Side.

“People want their beans fresh,” she says.

Whispering Bean – even in its previous, home-based iteration – is the somewhat unexpected result of a birthday gift. Angie says David presented her with an espresso machine a few years ago and then suggested they roast their own beans. They purchased what she calls “one of those little popcorn pop home roasters,” and soon graduated to a more advanced version and roasted for others. They eventually invested in a small commercial roaster and were selling coffee online.

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But they thought growth depended on exposing more people to the product, hence the cafe.

“People want to see it or taste it,” Angie says. “And once they can taste the coffee, it’s a whole different experience.”

Whispering Bean now roasts just feet away from its cafe, using a separate space behind the shop. While Angie has left the dental field to run the cafe full-time, David continues to work around his day job, coming in evenings to roast. He remains solely responsible for that side of the business, having honed his skills through research and experimentation.

“David being an engineer and into the technical (stuff) … he’s written down every single roast he’s ever done,” Angie says, noting that he documents how variables such as temperature and duration affect taste.

Whispering Bean will formally celebrate its grand opening on Saturday, Aug. 6.

The shop – which also serves some New Mexico Pie Co. baked goods and savory snacks like quiche – is open from 6 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays.

The address is 10701 Coors NW at Alameda. The phone number is 697-9919.

Coffee talk, part two

A group of Albuquerque entrepreneurs thinks there’s a market for people who want their coffee fresh … and hassle-free.

They recently started Pour Vida, an internet-based mail-order coffee company that promises customers in all 50 states that their beans will arrive at their homes within five days of their being roasted in Albuquerque’s North Valley.

“It’s just a notion of ‘Let’s get it to your door,'” says Erin Ferreira, who started the business with husband Arien Gessner and Jamie Rushad Gros. “You don’t have to worry about getting to the grocery store or making that trip to a roaster downtown or wherever just to get the coffee.

“The idea is to take (that errand) off your plate.”

Customers can order one bag at a time for $14.99. Shipping is free. But Ferreira says the goal is getting customers to subscribe for more regular deliveries at a lower price per bag. The founders want to test an idea Gessner had in business school for a software-based system that recognizes – and responds – to customers’ consumption rate of regularly used products, Ferreira says.

But, she adds, the business is also born of their passion for coffee.

They started about a month ago and are now roasting organic, fair trade beans to order and dropping them in the mail within 24 hours.

“It’s joyous,” Ferreira says of the customers’ experience. “You get your mail in your mailbox and you’re like ‘Oh, my god. The flavor and the smell.’ (The quick turnaround) takes it up a notch. It’s unreal.”

For more information or to place an order, go online to http://pourvida.com.

Johnny Rockets reimagined

One national burger chain is doing the opposite of super-sizing and Albuquerque is among the first to see its smaller, new version.

Johnny Rockets Express opened recently at Coronado Center, becoming only the third reduced-footprint location of its kind in the U.S. It is part of the food court rather than having its own sit-down space.

The Express version is equipped “to (cut) food production times by more than half,” the company says in a news release. The only other Expresses in the U.S. so far are in Livermore, Calif., and Phoenix, Ariz., according to Johnny Rockets spokeswoman.

The menu has a handful of burgers with a choice of beef, chicken, turkey and veggie patties ($5.99-$9.29), plus the likes of hot dogs, French fries and milkshakes.

In other news …

• As I recently reported on my blog, Heimat House Restaurant & Beer Garden has closed its Northeast Albuquerque doors. Owner Carri Phillis says she intends to transition some of its most popular offerings – like the German beers, brats and pretzels – to her other business, a Downtown restaurant at 420 Central SW. Now called Adieux, she plans to rebrand it Side Effex as part of the change.

• David’s Bridal has opened its new store at Winrock Town Center, 2100 Louisiana NE. It replaces the wedding wear emporium’s former site on Menaul NE, near Carlisle. Jacqueline May will serve as the manager of the store, which is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays. The phone number is 837-2800.

• Chick-fil-A will temporarily shut down its Paseo del Norte/San Pedro NE store for a remodeling project. It will be closed from Friday to the middle of September.

If you have retail news to share, contact me at jdyer@abqjournal.com or 823-3864. For more on Albuquerque shopping and restaurant news, visit my blog at abqjournal.com or follow @abqdyer on Twitter.

 

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