This Is Albuquerque: Red Rock Roasters

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Red Rock Roasters
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Nancy Langer, managing co-owner, founded Red Rock Roasters in 1993 with husband David in their converted barn in Corrales. Their daughter, Rachel, is coffee director.

What is your business philosophy?

Creating a business that we can be proud of. For us, that means taking care of everyone along the supply chain: our coffee producers, our employees and of course our customers.

What is your company’s greatest asset?

The people! Our employees are truly like family to us. We’re so lucky to have their creativity and commitment.

What are your strongest business traits?

Perseverance. That’s what it takes to make it as a small business in what is, frankly, a challenging local economy.

Also, transparency is something that not every coffee company has. We let people into our factory and share knowledge about various aspects of our business with both our customers and the public. We survive and grow because we keep up with the industry, but also respect hundreds of years of European and Middle Eastern coffee tradition.

Why did you choose to do business in Albuquerque?

We fell in love with the Land of Enchantment: with the outdoors and with the people! We really love it here. But coming from California, there was a bit of culture shock. Coffee culture was nonexistent here when we started. It was Maxwell House.

From that point of view, New Mexico was the frontier. We faced challenges in introducing specialty coffees here, and we still do. The hardest part wasn’t about the price. The hardest part was educating people about why they should care about good coffee.

Coffee is as much about the aesthetic dining experience as food or wine.

What motivates you to succeed besides the desire to make money?

To create a sustainable business that can endure for all involved. Creating a livelihood that provides jobs to New Mexico is not a minor part of what we do. It makes me happy.

The other thing that gets me up in the morning is the challenge. The industry keeps changing. Coffee is getting better and better. Striving to be the best when your competition is also improving is very rewarding.

What successes in the past year are you the most proud of accomplishing?

We are pleased with our new sales growth in an increasingly competitive market. This shows that our brand is resonating with people. It indicates increased recognition of our quality among customers and peers.

We’ve begun to approach coffee roasting with a much more data- and evidence-based approach, marrying the craft with the science. Experience has taught us so much, but it’s important to read new studies as they come out.

We became founding members of the New Mexico Coffee Association. Elevating New Mexico’s coffee culture has always been part of our mission, and if that means working and sharing knowledge with our competitors, then we’re happy to do it.

What significant changes have you implemented recently?

Our new cupping lab brings the wine tasting experience to coffee. For many years we had no venue for showing off the best we can do. This new, bright, inviting space allows us to continue the coffee conversation with our customers.

What do you offer that the competition doesn’t?

Coffee crafted through generations of knowledge. You can’t be a craft roaster if you don’t have experience.

People are buying really bad green coffee and roasting it badly and they don’t even know it because they don’t have the cupping skills. That is why educating the customer is so important to us. And that’s why we have succeeded.

What was your best business decision?

For a business established in 1993, the hard part is keeping yourself open to new ideas. We hire people with good ideas and we listen.

What is your company’s greatest challenge?

Differentiating ourselves in the marketplace. As a wholesaler, some of our customers don’t know when they are drinking our coffee. And our biggest daily frustration is that we can’t control how the coffee is ultimately brewed, even with a training program in place. If you just roast for your own cafe, you get to control everything.

What contributions to the community (charitable or otherwise) are you most proud of?

We donate 10 percent of our profits to local and coffeeland charities—you can see which ones on our website. Creating jobs with a living wage and benefits is very important to us.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We invite everyone to come by and see what we are doing at our cupping lab. Ask all the coffee questions you were afraid to ask a barista! We always have a free brewed sample of whatever’s fresh and exciting.
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