Coffee company’s charitable goals perk up local causes

The signature name for SOLUDE Coffee was created by co-founder Gareth Forsey as a variation on the word solitude — conjuring up a time conducive to a quiet cup of coffee. SOLUDE Coffee also translates into help for local causes.

"We built the business model around causes," said Mr. Forsey, of Wilton, who co-founded the SoNo-based coffee company about a year ago, with David Martin of Westport.

The idea was to create a "great product" that would also serve as a fund-raising vehicle for "local charitable causes," according to Mr. Forsey. These causes include the Wilton-based Circle of Care, which assists children with cancer and their families; the ALS Association, the Bridge, Family and Children's Agency, Kids in Crisis, the Lynne Cohen Foundation for Ovarian Cancer Research, Norwalk Reads, Project Returns, True Sojourners, Wilton Family Y, and the Wilton Playshop.

Mr. Forsey, a former corporate executive at MasterCard, took a career break three years ago and began studying theology at Bridge Church in South Norwalk. He also volunteered at the church's rescue mission, assisting the homeless and helping distribute food and clothing to those in need.

"This work has been rewarding ... it has given me a much higher quality of life," Mr. Forsey said.

He decided to use his business acumen to raise funds for the missions at Bridge Church, and other causes.

His partner, Mr. Martin, "stumbled upon air-roasted coffee," and the two decided to use this formula for their product.

So how does this work?

"First, we select our coffees from the three main coffee-producing regions of the world — Latin America, Africa and Asia Pacific," Mr. Forsey said. "We only buy coffee cherries of the highest grades."

Next, "the freshly harvested coffee beans are shipped to SOLUDE Coffee's roasters at a plant off Main Avenue in Norwalk. Our experts examine each shipment, roasting, brewing and tasting small batches, to ensure it is of the highest quality," Mr. Forsey said.

Then the beans are ready for the air-roasting process.

"The specific technique is a closely guarded secret, but we can say that our roasters use patented, computer-controlled ovens in which our beans are roasted in hot air," he said. "We never apply direct heat to the ovens. This ensures that our beans can be consistently roasted to the very high temperatures required to bring out the full flavor of each green bean without burning the tips or edges."

This technique contrasts with traditional roasting ovens, which "use direct heat sources which can burn the edges of the beans," he said. Those burnt edges are what creates the bitter aftertaste in so many coffees."

Instead, SOLUDE coffee is characterized by a "distinctive rich, smooth taste and aroma, with no bitter aftertaste," Mr. Forsey said.

The coffee has been selling well. "Our customers love it and have been returning for more, over and over," he said. "People who drink it switch to it."

The coffee comes in a range of varieties, including single-origin coffees, an espresso roast, an Italian roast and a mocha java. Decaffeinated coffees are also available, as are organic coffees.

"We have a coffee for every taste palate," said Mr. Forsey.

Through programs outlined on SOLUDE's website, individuals and charitable causes may register to participate. SOLUDE consultants or partners in the business may choose to participate in the "Coffee for Causes" program, according to the website. These consultants and partners allocate a portion of their commission to the causes of their choice, which are listed at the website. SOLUDE then matches their contribution to the cause.

Just in time for the holiday season, SOLUDE is offering a new line of products. "We've got some wonderful gift baskets," Mr. Forsey said.