OROVILLE — Deb Barrett soaks up the sights and scents of her heart’s delight, savoring the aroma of her freshly roasted coffee as she serves it to friends old and new in her recently-opened coffeehouse, Steam Bee Goods Co.
“I love making folks happy a cup at a time,” said Barrett. “I’m having a ball.”
The coffeehouse is in the 49 Degree North Art Gallery at 1412 Main St., where Barrett hosted her grand opening Sunday, Sept. 23.
Barrett roasts the beans on site, and has refined the art to making a strong, full-flavored coffee without the acidity.
“That’s my secret,” said Barrett, who began roasting beans in 2010.
“I’ve been in food service since high school. That’s how I put myself through college,” said Barrett, who retired from paralegal work in 2004 and ran a full-service restaurant and coffeehouse for 15 years in Arkansas.
“It makes me happier than being a paralegal did. You’re giving someone something instead of taking it away.”
She came to Oroville five years ago, following a best friend from high school who came to town to work as a Border Patrol agent almost a decade ago.
When the two finally realized they loved each other, she moved north, and they married.
Barrett spent time training through the Washington State Beekeeping program and now has two hives of bees, each containing about 60,000 bees.
When the desire to get back into food service returned, she decided to keep it small and just focus on coffee, earning the money to purchase equipment through housecleaning contracts.
“This espresso machine from Italy costs more than my car,” said Barrett. “It’s been a long time coming and I’m really grateful to have the ability and skill to do this successfully and the support to back the decision.”
Barrett said along with her husband, her mother also provided support. Her son, who was raised in the coffee business, plans to move here in a year and work alongside his mom.
“This little place is a good location to get started in, and I hope to upgrade and purchase a storefront after he gets here to help,” said Barrett.
“You can start small and add, but you can’t start large and successfully pull back in a business.”
Barrett’s business model might be small, but her business standards are big.
“I take my craft and my business very seriously,” said Barrett. “You can make someone’s day with a good cup of coffee.”
The beans come green from the Burman Coffee Traders back east.
She roasts frequently in small batches. One favorite is a five-bean blend from South and Central America and Africa and Indonesia.
“Every month I will do a new roast,” said Barrett. “October’s will be an Ethiopian single origin, my favorite.”
One thing she strives for is consistency.
“This isn’t Starbucks. My drinks don’t have fancy names, but they do have 15 years of experience and care in this craft behind them,” said Barrett.
While she could fill a customer’s request for a caramel macchiato, she hoped they would at least try a plain drip coffee, and take it black, she said.
“I made my first sale today and it made me very happy. The customer wasn’t used to drinking black coffee, but I convinced her to try it. She took one sip of her coffee and she smiled,” said Barrett.
“Your first business dollar is always exciting.”
Barrett also features pastries from off site, including pies from Red Barn in Tonasket.
“I’m very excited to be able to offer her pies,” said Barrett.
The coffee shop’s hours are a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and she will add Tuesdays in mid-October.
She will also be open on the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a coffee event during the lunch hour showcasing new roasts, traditional coffees and education.
“There are a lot of traditional drinks that folks don’t know the origin of,” said Barrett. “I’ll have a fabulous dessert with the educational coffee drink, giving people something to learn about and enjoy on a Saturday.”
Barrett’s freshly roasted beans are available by the pound or half-pound.
“By the cup or the pound, it’s good all around,” said Barrett.