Tom's Journey to Craft Coffee Roasting

One foggy morning in 1995 in the small market town of Chichicastenango in the Guatemalan highlands, after a bad night’s sleep I went to a small cafe for breakfast. I was backpacking across Honduras and Guatemala with a friend, and we had wandered up to Chichi for the Sunday market day. The waitress asked if I wanted coffee or tea with my breakfast, and I answered in my broken Spanish that I definitely needed coffee to wake up.

Up to this point in my life, coffee for me was a bitter brew used to stay awake and study in college. Good coffee meant I made it 3 times as strong as normal and I drank it because I was tough. That’s what I expected that misty morning. Instead, something incredible came. The waitress returned and set a small clay pot in front of me. I took the lid off, inhaled, and an aroma I had never smelled before filled my nostrils: coffee, grown in the surrounding Guatemalan mountains, fresh roasted and brewed. I had never smelled or tasted something so good, and I fell in love.

My quest for excellent coffee began that April morning over 20 years ago. From first finding local coffee stores with good coffee beans, to online websites that would roast to order and have fresh coffee at my door in 3 days, to making the jump to roasting for myself and exploring all the different beans I could find from around the world, my coffee journey continued through the years. And while I love coffees from across the globe, Guatemala has always been my favorite and I returned again and again. I have visited different coffee plantations there, learned the growing and drying processes, stayed on little coffee farmlets in the mountains to see how people lived with coffee, and taken roasting classes at Anacafe, the Guatemalan National Coffee Association.

I started the DawnBreaker Coffee Roastery as my next step in advancing my love for fine coffee, and my love for sharing the taste of fine coffee with others. The mission of DawnBreaker Coffee is two-fold. First, to make art, because that is what an artisan at their craft does. And second, to be an ethical business, buying our beans at fair prices from producers who care for their community and the environment.

For years now, I’ve roasted coffee for myself, my family and friends. Now, I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you.

—Tom Atkinson, owner and roaster of DawnBreaker Coffee