Empire State of Grind: Erika Vonie Leads Expansion at Brooklyn’s Variety Coffee Roasters

Erika Vonie

One of the most rewarding aspects of competing in barista competitions is not the moment in the limelight or even the free swag, it’s the friendships one makes with other committed coffee professionals. We were excited to learn one of our barista comp friends just took an exciting new position with Brooklyn’s Variety Coffee Roasters. We caught up with Erika Vonie to chat about working with a new roaster, competing in barista competitions, and the best place to drink coffee in NYC. All photos by Ashley Revell.  

Erika Vonie

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get started in the coffee industry?

My involvement in specialty coffee began when I moved to Philadelphia in 2009 and started [Continue Reading…]

Charleston’s Black Tap Coffee Begins Roasting Venture

Black Tap Coffee street view

It seems like roasteries are popping up all across the country lately and Charleston, S.C. is no exception. Since our review of Black Tap Coffee back in 2013, this beautiful and quality-driven coffee shop has taken on its own roasting operations, further extending their commitment to superior coffee and and to Charleston’s community. When we last visited Black Tap, they were skillfully serving up Counter Culture coffee and offering a variety of pastries from Wild Flour, a local bakery. Now, almost two years later, they’re still serving Wild Flour’s baked goods (though they’ve added a few new items like a banana nutella turnover, a ham and cheese turnover, and a mini quiche) and still preparing good, handcrafted coffee products for all of their customers in a clean, modern space, but they’re no longer a Counter Culture account; instead, they roast their own beans. We caught up with Ross Jett, co-owner of Black Tap Coffee, to ask him a few questions about this big change and get some pointers for any aspiring shop-turned-roaster.

Since we last talked, you all have started to roast your own beans. What prompted the transition? What kind of hurdles did you have to leap?

The move from being a Counter Culture account to roasting our own coffee came partly out of necessity and partly out of demand. As the owner of a growing business and the head of a dedicated, loyal staff, its my responsibility to enable my best employees to grow with the business. Tripp Gandy, who is now our roaster and green buyer, was one such employee. I recognized in him one of the best [Continue Reading…]

First Impressions: Acaia Lunar Scale

Acaia Lunar

One of the benefits of having an amazing sponsor like Prima Coffee is that occasionally they ask us to help them test new products. Even better is when that new product is a piece of equipment we've been dying to try since we first heard of it.  … [Continue reading]

Palace Coffee Shares What it Takes to be America’s Best Coffeehouse


Recent controversy around the cancelations of regional barista competitions by the SCAA has led to lively online discussion concerning the future of coffee competitions. Many voices are calling for a competition that features teamwork, audience … [Continue reading]

Is This The Best Barista Documentary Yet?

Here at the Coffee Compass we love barista competitions and documentary films. It just so happens that Prima Coffee shares this esoteric intersection of interest. Their new documentary, The World Barista Championship - A Global Influence, takes a … [Continue reading]

Gear Review: Monarch Methods Kettle


A few months ago we published a short post admiring our friend Brian Schiele's Monarch Methods Kettle. Someone must have read the article, because my coworkers at Quills Coffee surprised me with one as a graduation present. I was taught to never look … [Continue reading]