When owners of Oconee Coffee Roasters Jin and Jenny moved to Morgan County in December 2019 to be closer to family and fulfill their dreams of owning their own coffee roastery and café, they never expected a global pandemic to slow them down.
“We didn’t plan for COVID but we did plan for the business,” Jin said. “We wanted to open sometime in the springtime but it took a little bit longer.”
The couple attributes the delayed opening date to slower shipping of their handmade coffee roaster, which is among the aspects that set the shop apart from others in the area. But the setback didn’t faze Jin too much. He said it gave him more time with their newest addition a now 3-month-old son Micah, who was born on March 1.
Oconee Coffee Roasters is just one of the many businesses to open in Georgia’s Lake Country amid the pandemic. The new specialty coffee shop opened in mid-May in downtown Madison and has been attracting a lot of attention on social media ever since.
“I’ve never experienced coffee culture like this with so much support from the community,” Jin said.
That fact alone speaks volumes of the new shop located on Academy St. beside Madison Markets as Jin has 15 years of experience in the specialty coffee industry. Jin began his love affair with coffee roasting in Annapolis, Maryland, where he spent seven years working at Ceremony Coffee Roasters before moving to the Denver area to work at Sweet Bloom Roasters.
As Jin and Jenny’s family began to grow, they realized it was time to move south to be near Jenny’s family who retired in Buckhead after years in the military. As the couple drove around their new home, they stumbled upon the space that now houses the roastery and café. The couple said they didn’t have to do much to the space, other than a fresh coat of paint and building the coffee bar.
“We keep it simple, a little more spacious and clean,” Jin said.
The simple design of the shop aids in vision for it.
“You can see everything when I make drinks,” Jin said. “It’s very visual. You can see the skill and technique we put into making a really good quality drink.”
The art of making the specialty coffees and the perfect roast is something Jin has been honing for years.
“You learn by doing it,” Jin said. “When you’re in the industry, you just have to pay attention, ask questions, practice and just learn.”
He said it takes a lot of cupping, or tasting the coffee, to come up with the perfect roast. Oconee Roasters uses their handmade in Nevada commercial San Franciscan Roaster and green coffee beans at the peak of seasonal freshness from family owned farms from across the globe to craft a medium roast coffee to make their drinks.
“Right now we are trying to keep everything simple, coffee focused,” Jin said. “We want the coffee to speak to our customers.”
Jin said they were a little concerned about how the locals would take to the roast they were doing on the coffee because it is on the lighter side but patrons have been very open to accepting it and learning about coffee from him and his wife.
“We want to thank them for trying something a little bit different,” Jin said.
Oconee Coffee Roasters is all about the experience, from the visuals of seeing Jin craft the drinks, to experiencing how the coffee is roasted to how it is served. According to Jenny, the café works to incorporate local goods into making the coffee.
“We want to have high quality ingredients that pairs with coffee that you take time to roast well,” Jenny said.
Recently, the couple announced via social media that they were using Rock House Creamery Milk to make their drinks. Rock House is located just up the road in Newborn.
“The kids love to go pick up the milk with me and see the cows,” Jin said. “We are blessed and thankful that everything is so close by.”
The café also offers pastries from Kiki’s Bakeshop in Watksinville. The shop also only offers a pure organic sugar, one simple syrup made in-house and a chocolate sauce to make mochas instead of offering many different flavors.
The couple wants people to truly enjoy the taste of the coffee, so they only offer one size for hot coffees, a 12-ounce cup. They said they noticed that people tend to purchase big cups, add a lot of sugar and cream to the drinks and set them aside and when they go to drink it its cold and not at its optimum flavor.
“We want to encourage people to drink the coffee and think about the unique qualities the coffee has to offer,” Jin said. “So from when it’s hot until they finish it, it’s still enjoyable.”
In the future, the couple plans to launch a tea line, which they are currently in the testing and sampling stages. The tea will also be about the experience, being prepared in front of you.
Currently, Oconee Coffee Roasters is open Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. However, Jin said they might adjust those hours in the fall. The coffee company is also interested in supplying coffee to local restaurants, organizations and other area coffee shops.
Just as COVID-19 delayed the opening, it is causing the couple to examine when to do an official grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony. Jenny said the best way to keep up with all the company’s happenings and announcements is to find them on social media.