King Bean coffee hits shelves

Roasting intensifies the color and taste of coffee beans. Beans are green before roasting and turn progressively darker in the process.

Love the coffee at Peninsula Grill or Slightly North of Broad?

King Bean Coffee Roasters creates custom blends and roasts for these restaurants and others around Charleston. Now, after years of flying under the radar, the local company is selling seven blends at retail so the public can have a similar coffee experience at home.

Kurt Weinberger became a coffee entrepreneur in the mid-1990s after serving in the Navy and living in Seattle. He witnessed the rise of the coffee craze there and returned home to South Carolina, where logic, fate and opportunity combined to set a course in business.

One, as an avionics specialist in the military, and two, as the son of restaurateurs in Hilton Head,

Weinberger had both the mechanical and food service know-how to start King Bean. He purchased a coffee roaster and trained in New York and Italy with coffee companies.

After moving to Charleston in 1996, he discovered a big demand for selling and repairing espresso machines. "There were a lot of restaurants that had broken machines," he says.

Weinberger also learned that restaurants, hotels and shops were buying coffee out of the area. He decided to go after that market as well, and today, King Bean has evolved into a full-service company providing custom-blended coffees and tea, equipment and maintenance support. That includes espresso and cappuccino, American-style drip coffee, and iced and hot teas.

SNOB was his first account, but he added a number of fine-dining establishments along the way: Oak Steakhouse, Peninsula Grill and Cypress, for example.

Diners then started asking where they could buy the coffee, he says. So this year, King Bean heeded their calls and launched a retail line. The seven blends are available at Whole Foods, selling for $10.99 for a 12-ounce bag. They include Colombian, Malawi AAA, Panama, Brasilian DeCaf, Plantation Blend, Sullivan's Blend and an espresso, La Dolce Vita.

Weinberger obtains beans from all over the world. He says it's a constant challenge because bean crops and sources are ever-changing.

"That's the hard part. You need to know how to shop. You're always on the quest for the best coffee you can find."

Visit www.kingbean.com or call 722-7650.

Teresa Taylor is the food editor. Reach her at 937-4886.