A new brand of local brew

In the near future, sundry students could seek refuge between classes at a small privately owned coffee shop nestled on the edge of campus. One common factor would bring these students, like the owners, together – a tasty cup of brew. This place exists only as a twinkle in the eyes of USF students Ray Vinson and David Ebner.

Unimpressed by the quality of coffee offered locally, Vinson and Ebner came together to provide “a drink that deserves the title of coffee.” The two students started about a year ago with some raw coffee beans and a popcorn machine, and had soon made their first cup of homemade coffee.

Ebner, a creative writing major, co-founded Ray and Dave’s Coffee with his friend, Vinson, an environmental science major.

The two make cups of mystery coffee to serve to their friends in an event called a “cupping,” giving their friends a chance to smell, taste and rate the varities of coffee that Vinson and Ebner offer.

According to www.rayanddavescoffee.com, the two had been deceived by coffee companies – a darker roast does not guarantee a bolder flavor, nor does it mean the product contains more caffeine, but rather the contrary. Another misconception: “Blends” are usually a way for coffee manufacturers to sell a cheaper, inferior product and make it sound exclusive.

“There are oils inside of coffee beans that contain caffeine,” said Ebner. “When the beans are roasted, the oils extract from the beans. A darker bean loses a lot of its caffeine during the roasting process, which explains the glossy outer coating, and the lighter roasts maintain a high level of caffeine.”

Whatever the differences, all coffee beans have one common characteristic: they should be consumed within two weeks of the roasting date to ensure the best quality. Ebner said that many big businesses put additives in their beans to preserve the smell and flavor. Another crime that these companies commit is to burn their coffee beans and falsely labeling them “bold.”

Ebner hopes to start selling Ray and Dave’s Coffee at the Bull Market this semester. “Our customer base has grown so we can no longer get by with just the popcorn popper, unless we’re doing smaller orders. We’ve roasted 15 different types of origins – one of my favorites was the Tanzania tea berry,” Ebner said.

The co-founder said he and Vinson bought a grill and converted it to a roaster. “It roasts 10 pounds of beans in 20 to 30 minutes,” Ebner said, and added that their home-built roaster is superior to the commercial roaster that would have cost $10,000.

Both Ebner and Vinson said they would like to set up a small café in the future. The students would prefer to stay local to preserve the freshness and quality of the coffee. Vinson also introduced the idea of chocolate-covered coffee beans, which they hope to start selling at the Bull Market.

Vinson and Ebner are living, breathing encyclopedias of coffee, and their passion for the complex little bean goes far beyond just roasting it. Customers can purchase bags on their Web site, but Ebner said he and Vinson would prefer that students call the business at (813) 463-8189 if they’d like a bag of Ray and Dave’s Coffee. The prices range from $6 for a half-pound to $40 for a 5-pound bag.