ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Rachel Bennett, with a new coffee roaster, plans to open Lightning Coffee at 271 Western Ave.
By MATT DEMIRS
LYNN — Rachel Bennett plans to launch what she calls the North Shore’s first-of-its-kind specialty coffee bean shop on Western Avenue next month.
Lightning Coffee, under construction in the Lydia Pinkham Building, wants to be more than just another java shop. The 31-year-old Swampscott resident said she hopes it will be an educational experience for coffee drinkers.
Bennett said she has spent months tasting and selecting the beans the shop will carry. Each week, she and her husband try nearly a dozen varieties of beans they brew at home. The self-described coffee connoisseur said she has sampled at least 40 different beans from exotic places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa and East Timor in Southeast Asia.
“Brewing coffee has become a lot like lab work for me,” she said. “I’ve gotten really into taking notes. It’s a lot of focus, attention to details, being organized. That’s when I decided I wanted to scale up.”
Bennett brings an acquired taste to Lynn honed in the specialty coffee scene in St. Louis while studying for her doctorate in neuroscience from Washington University.
“Specialty coffee is a big scene in St. Louis,” she said. “There is a large emphasis on people doing small batch coffees. I wanted to be able to share it with the people of the North Shore.”
Lightning Coffee won’t be a traditional coffee shop, Bennett said. She plans to offer beans from all over the world for sale, as well as freshly brewed coffee.
The cost of a 12 ounce bag of coffee beans will range from $10-$15. Initially, a cup of coffee will be free, but after the cafe is established, the cost for a large cup of Joe will be between $2-$3.
Bennett has spent an estimated $30,000 to launch the business. The most expensive item is a coffee roaster which was shipped from Buckeye, Ariz., near her childhood home.
Bennett said the support from the artists and creative business owners housed in the Lydia Pinkham Building will create a conversation among tenants, who have already expressed their excitement while the business comes together.
Bennett said she loves the 800-square-foot space where coats were once manufactured. While the first floor space was zoned for light industrial, she has tried to create a welcoming environment for the coffee devotees.
Lightning Coffee will feature a section in the center of the shop for customers to taste the different blends. Bennett said this should help attract business while allowing the public to explore their taste buds.
There will be about a half dozen so-called single origin coffee beans, which are grown on one farm in one country. They will also carry a cold brew. There will be also be a brew station on Saturdays, where Bennett said she hopes to share her love for specialty coffee and connect with residents.
Lightning will face competition from White Rose Coffeehouse and Land of A Thousand Hills Coffee Co. in the downtown. Soon, The Brew will open in the flatiron building on Central Street compete with high-end coffee and free wifi.
Peter Giuliano, a member of the Specialty Coffee Association, a California-based trade group, has seen a rise in independent specialty coffee shops and describes the phenomenon as a trend.
“We think there is a slow, steady rise that parallels the growth of the specialty coffee movement,” he told Yahoo Business. “We credit the start of the specialty coffee revolution to Peet’s Coffee opening in San Francisco in the 1960s. That inspired another wave with Coffee Bean, Tea Leaf and Starbucks in Seattle opening in the ’70s and ’80s. Now the people who grew up drinking good coffee are opening their own coffee shops.”
Matt Demirs can be reached at [email protected]