Rik Kleinfeldt is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his New Harvest Coffee Roasters by moving into a big new space in Providence, what he calls “their forever home.”
Expanding into the Farm Fresh Food Hub, with a state-of-the-art roaster, will position the company to become a regional powerhouse as “a bigger, better roaster.”
“We’ve been building on this for 20 years,” he said.
The new roaster, manufactured in California, has three times the capacity and much more precision, Kleinfeldt added.
“We will be producing lots more coffee,” he said.
His first year in business, focusing on high quality coffee for cafes, bakeries and other wholesale accounts, he produced 20,000 pounds.
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Now, with a line of retail coffees, and large institutional sales, he produces 350,000 pounds.
“We could roast a million pounds with the new machine,” he said.
The new roastery is under construction and Kleinfeldt hopes for a May opening.
The space also will include New Harvest Coffee and Spirits, a coffee and cocktail bar with outdoor patio that seats 50, a bar and a window that overlooks the roasting process.Overhead garage doors will open for more transparency. Think drinks and a show.
Coming out of COVID, business is down. Wholesale and institutional accounts such as Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design have been minimal during the pandemic.
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But Kleinfeldt is an optimist and believes his regular business will return, and they will gain regionally.
“The pandemic changed how we thought about planning the space,” he said.
He thinks it helped them focus on efficiency.
New Harvest also has a new logo for rebranding and new packaging.
“It’s simply been a time of change,” he said.
Of moving to 10 Sims Ave., Kleinfeldt says, “I like the energy in the neighborhood.”
In addition to being the home of Farm Fresh RI and its farmers market, the neighborhood also includes Industrious Spirits Co., The Steel Yard industrial-arts site and Revival Brewing, which has been holding pop-ups and building out new space.
New Harvest’s first decades of growth started in an old shed in Rumford before growing in the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket.
“Until now, we grew in an organic way, that is to say haphazardly,” Kleinfeldt said.
Most of their space in Pawtucket did double-duty as the company grew. Still they managed to offer cupping, or tasting classes, and conduct barista training there — things they will also do in Providence. He also expects to add more staff.
The former coffee and spirits bar is now closed in the Arcade in Providence as they move everything under one roof.
The move to Providence gives them more space to practice what is unique to their business. That is, to offer a lab for training baristas, coffee shop owners and the public.
“There will be huge garage doors so people can see the transparency of roasting and training. We will be showing off everything that we do,” he said.
Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Kleinfeldt only knew about instant coffee for daily drinking and perked coffee for company.
His ah-ha moment came when he was an exchange student in Greece during high school.
“I realized coffee didn’t have to be bitter and stale,” he said. He began looking for espresso to drink back in the States in the late 1980s.
He came to Providence for graduate school, got his master’s and was working on his Ph.D. in European history when he went to work at the Coffee Exchange in 1991.
He said he learned a lot from owner Charles Fishbein. That included appreciating light roasted coffee from the beans of small farms for their complex flavor notes of apple, grape and citrus. He had been into dark-roasted French.
When he started New Harvest, his focus was to introduce small farm light roasts. That meant coffee from farms that might grow 1,500 pounds and dry and process it on their own.
That small farm connection has stayed with him.
Lost during COVID was travel to the coffee regions that supply New Harvest. Kleinfeldt generally travels once a year and will typically also send an employee on a second trip. They visit each of the four origin countries they focus on (Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Colombia) at least every other year.
This is all part of their Source Direct program, which means they buy beans directly from farmers and partners.
Kleinfeldt said this was an important step to create open and transparent business relationships, where they know they are paying a sustainable price and the growers know they have committed long-term partners. He said this supports not only the growing and processing of high-quality coffee but also improved standards of living for growers and their communities.
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He said a good example of this is Los Portillos, from a small farm in Cielito, Honduras, owned by Adolfo Reyes.
“Since 2008, we have been buying his entire crop for more than twice the Fair Trade price. In our visits there over the years, we have seen the impact that higher coffee prices can have on a small coffee growing community.
“New Harvest, along with other like-minded roasters, have established long-term relationships in El Cielito, which has supported the construction of a school and other infrastructure improvements,” he said.
Post COVID, with all the growth changes and the stability of their mission from the beginning, Kleinfeldt believes a new wholesale boom is just around the corner.
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