Susan Bloom, Correspondent
Larry Fisher says his background in analytical thinking has come in extremely handy since he and his wife, Sonia, opened Eagle Specialty Coffee, their gourmet coffee shop, organic juice bar and cafe in Eatontown, in March.
"The preparation of a quality cup of specialty coffee, especially espresso-based drinks, is a highly technical process which requires great precision and fine tuning in terms of the weight of the coffee, the ratio of the coffee to water, the temperature of the water and many other factors," he said. "It's an art form that takes practice to perfect."
Fisher didn't rush the process. After deciding to open a coffee shop two years ago - "Sonia and I have always appreciated and enjoyed quality coffee," the 47-year-old engineering professional said - the Tinton Falls couple spent the better part of 2012 and 2013 doing research on different coffee beans, educating themselves on the coffee market and even pursuing hands-on training from the nation's foremost experts at the American Barista & Coffee School in Portland, Oregon, where they learned how to prepare coffee, run a coffee shop, and maintain high quality consistently.
An engineer who had long worked for both big and small firms, Fisher said that he and his wife were ready to do something creative and entrepreneurial that tied into their enjoyment of great coffee, and Eagle Specialty Coffee was born.
Typically hand-picked on smaller farms, "specialty coffee is different than mass-market coffee in that it emphasizes quality from growing to brewing and represents the top 1 percent of product in the world," Fisher said. At Eagle Specialty Coffee, "our coffee is freshly roasted by a seasoned local roaster, and we focus on exceptional preparation to ensure a fuller, richer, properly extracted cup every time."
Eagle offers freshly roasted brewed coffee, such as their rich, smooth, and popular Sumatran Dark Roast (priced at $1.95 for a 12-ounce cup), pour-over coffee, a full line of espressos, lattes and cappuccinos ($3.25 for a 12-ounce cup), and whole-bean coffee. The shop also offers a line of teas, fresh-squeezed organic fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies, and gourmet breakfast and lunch items, such as scones, blueberry muffins, French macarons and other baked goods as well as hearty salads, sandwiches, fresh fruit cups and yogurt parfaits.
"People are eating healthier these days and we recognize that not everyone is a coffee drinker, so we wanted to offer an expanded menu of options," Fisher said. "We sampled dozens of items before settling on exactly what we wanted to carry; we care about all of our products and put time into ensuring that everything offered here is of the highest quality."
For those who want to enjoy these menu items offsite, the shop also offers a growing catering arm to supply its drinks and breakfast and lunch confections to nearby offices and businesses for meetings, events, and parties.
Eatontown resident Carol Rigler is among a growing group of regular customers who enjoy weekly visits to the shop.
At 53, "I have a lot of experience drinking coffee!" the telecommunications engineer joked. "Visiting the shop is my Sunday treat — I get the newspapers and a latte and it's 'me time' for the week.
"I like Eagle Specialty Coffee because they offer the best of everything and really understand what it takes to make a superior, smoother, yummier, and tastier cup of coffee," Rigler added. "I also enjoy their salads and energy bars, and love to support local, independent shops like theirs. It's a relaxing place with a friendly, community feel, and their wide menu will appeal to more than just traditional coffee customers."
While Fisher acknowledges that there are other competing specialty coffee shops within a 10-mile radius and that it can be a difficult market to break into, "the specialty coffee market in the U.S. has grown at a double-digit pace despite the recent recession, and the market isn't close to saturation; there isn't a specialty coffeehouse on every corner," he said. "We feel our quality will stand on its own, as will our commitment to supporting local organizations and their fundraising initiatives. We're partners in this community."
Of their new venture, the team is passionate and optimistic.
"Opening our own business has required a lot of hard work, but it's been richly rewarding," said Fisher, who handles the shop's finance, marketing and back-office functions while Sonia serves as weekday daytime manager. "It comes down to your customers telling you that they love your product, which makes all the hard work worth it."