Tucked away in Avon on Hatteras Island, Cape Hatteras Coffee Company is a fledgling roastery exploring the excitement of third wave coffee with Matt Stankavich at the helm.
“I started it pretty much in my front yard in 2015,” Stankavich says. “I started roasting coffee in a skillet. I don’t know what it was that got me to do it. I was just curious.”
The company was established in 2016.
Stankavich says his background in science inspired his interest in it more than anything, just a curiosity and reading about it and the science behind it, the actual molecular changes in coffee, and how heat applied at different times totally affects the taste,” he says.
Through his experimentations, he discovered flavors he didn’t realize coffee could have like blueberry or strawberry. Natural process coffee, he says, is his favorite way of having those flavors brought to life.
“They pick the coffee cherries and then they just let them sit out in the sun and dry. Then they take the dried cherry off the coffee seeds. What that does is leaves this fruity taste in the coffee. You can roast it, and you actually get berry tastes in your coffee cup. It’s amazing.”
Stankavich, who works for Dare County EMS and roasts on his days off, shares spaces in local restaurants to do his roasting. Cape Hatteras Coffee Company is sold predominantly at summer markets where he offers bags of coffee alongside pour over coffee and iced coffee.
“I’ve been going to Manteo consistently for a few years, but I would say my home market is Avon,” he says. “I like the markets, they’re great. There are a lot of people like me who have their hobbies and it’s a small business forum that’s somewhere between a career and a hobby.”
He’s also branched out to selling to several retail locations on Hatteras Island, including Waves Market and Deli, Conner’s Supermarket, and Lee Robinson General store. Cape Hatteras Coffee Company’s website offers information about each coffee offered and online purchasing, which Stankavich says is especially popular for gift giving around the holidays.
Coffee, he says, varies in flavor depending upon the area in which it is grown and the circumstances under which it is grown, not unlike wine.
“I apply similar principles to most roasts but the coffee kind of goes its own course. I have some profiles and stuff that I’ll apply,” he says. “I tweak almost every coffee in some way, but I generally apply a general principle, and the coffee might react to that differently depending on its density, process type, and its size. There are a bunch of different variables.”
When asked about his roasting process, he says he typically roast for about 15 minutes.
“I don’t have a very big coffee roaster. I do about 5 pounds at a time. Some of the other places in the area, they are roasting 20 or 30 pounds, and that’s still considered small.”
Stankavich cites expense as a reason why roasting is slower to grow in popularity.
“A coffee roaster will cost you the price of a new truck. It’s ridiculously expensive,” he says.
For now, Stankavich says he has no plans to switch to full-time roasting, but he has a desire to continue to learn about all aspects of coffee as he experiments with his roasting process.
“It’s a business, but it’s somewhere between a hobby and an actual job. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it because it is a lot of work. I could pick up overtime, if I really wanted more money. It’s not about finances at this point, it’s about sustaining the business, getting better at it, and getting it out to more people.”
Stankavich says he likes to think of his coffee as something “people something that they’re not necessarily going to get from the grocery store. I want people to see it and try it. There is such a thing as good coffee that you can drink black, and you don’t have to load it up with cream and sugar.”