Michigan BLUE Magazine
The smallest detail that can start your day off right like the perfect sunrise over a glistening lake or the savory aroma of a strong, rich brew of coffee. Ben Wolfe of Traverse City’s Deep Blue Coffee starts almost every day enjoying both. As owner of Deep Blue Coffee Company and a host of guide fishing services in the Traverse city area, Wolfe knows a thing or two about enjoying the beauty of its many lakes with a reel and rod in one hand and a rich cup of joe in the other.
A French chef by training, Ben began his career by wowing restaurant goers at New York’s famed La Caravelle but returned to northern Michigan to follow his passion for freshwater fishing. As Ben and every fishing enthusiast knows, the art of the catch begins before you set the bait. It begins with the perfect cup of coffee and Ben set out to provide that for his customers by roasting his own beans into blends that would be as memorable as the “one that got away”.
How did you first get into the coffee business?
Deep Blue Coffee Company was born as an extension of my guide fishing businesses. Many of my customers are out-of-town guests and I wanted to offer a fantastic cup of coffee to begin each day. As a chef, I didn’t want to serve just run-of-the mill stuff, so I sought out a local roaster. Together, we worked for 6 weeks to formulate my first proprietary blend, which is 100% Fair Trade and Certified Organic.
Where do you get your inspiration for new blends?
It all begins with the bean. Everything that we have is considered a blend, pulling the best characteristics from each origin and pairing it with others to create a unique taste profile. Small batch roasting is a mix of highly technical skills and artisan creativity. We use all our abilities: sight, smell and sound to know when the beans are at their peak of flavor.
What is your most unconventional way to use coffee in cooking?
I’m mostly traditional when it comes to coffee in my cooking, but I do commonly use coffee in a dry rub for barbecues and steaks. It adds a smoky, deeply roasted flavor that’s hard to match.
What is your favorite food and coffee pairing (besides a fresh donut!)?
I don’t tend to pair a lot of food with my coffee, but I do try to pair characteristics within my coffee blends. For instance, the Summer Campfire Blend pairs a milk chocolate note with a hint of dark smokiness. Add a touch of milk for a wonderful toasted marshmallow creaminess that is so much like a S’more it’s ridiculous.
Where do you like to go for a day trip?
I don’t have a lot of spare time for day trips, but when my wife Mary Lane, who owns Live For Art Gallery in Beulah, and I have a couple of hours, we’ll spend it on the beach with our dog. It’s a great reminder of why we live here, and what we enjoy about being in northern Michigan. And of course, we go fishing!
What do you most enjoy about the coffee business?
One of the other deeply rewarding aspects of Deep Blue Coffee is supporting various charities to affect positive change. Our Traverse City Bass Blend benefits clean water in the Grand Traverse area with 100% of the proceeds donated to the Watershed Center. The Lighthouse Blend benefits the Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort. We are committed to the earth, to farmers, and where practical, we try to use organic and Fair Trade beans.
What quality do you most admire in a person?
Sincerity. People that are genuine and sincere tend to be those that most often surround myself with. They are the people that I tend to admire the most.
What is your most satisfying achievement?
The most rewarding thing is to hear a customer tell me that they love what I’m doing. For somebody to say that they truly love my coffee or when a fishing business customer tells me that they had the best fishing trip experience of their life–it’s tough to top that. In both cases, it means that somebody has recognized our hard work, dedication and commitment.