For Peet’s Sake

Peet’s Coffee’s first East Coast roastery will open in Suffolk.

Who doesn’t want fresh coffee, faster? Soon, San Francisco-based Peet’s Coffee will cut almost in half the time it takes to deliver fresh-roasted beans to its 11 locations in Northern Virginia and many more throughout the East Coast. The retailer is gaining a foothold in the mid-Atlantic market for specialty coffee with an initial investment of $58 million for its first East Coast roasting and manufacturing facility—to be built in Suffolk.

“Suffolk is a strategic location,” says Peet’s CEO David Burwick. “The Port of Virginia is one of just two ports on the East Coast that received ICE certification as an exchange port for coffee imports, placing the Commonwealth in a prime position to help Peet’s distribute product.” This means that the Port of Virginia joins New York, Miami, New Orleans and Houston as one of only five domestic delivery points in the U.S. approved by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for coffee imports.

For years now, Starbucks has been the ubiquitous specialty coffee provider. But many people don’t realize that the founders of that chain drew inspiration—and for their first year of business, coffee beans—from the equally-celebrated roaster-retailer Peet’s Coffee & Tea in Berkeley, California, whose hand-roasting process has influenced artisan coffee roasters across the industry, like Three Ships Coffee in Virginia Beach, Lamplighter in Richmond and Beanetics in Annandale.

Peet’s, whose original owner sold the business in 1979, was acquired in 2012 by a German investment firm, which also holds stakes in Caribou Coffee, Krispy Kreme and the luxury clothier Jimmy Choo. Since then, the West Coast brand has steadily nurtured an East Coast following of “Peetniks,” having opened 23 stores in the Washington, D.C., metro area alone since 2014. Additionally, Peet’s retails directly to more than 14,000 grocers nationwide and has a unique reputation among its marketplace competitors: Unlike other coffee brands which may leave unsold product on the grocery store shelf for up to 12 months, Peet’s removes their products after only 90 days to guarantee freshness.

Which brings us back to Suffolk. With a Virginia-based roastery well-positioned along the Interstate 95 corridor, coffee shipments will arrive to East Coast stores within 72 hours of roasting, as opposed to five days later as they do now when shipped from California. According to Burwick, this ensures that Peetniks receive the “freshest beans possible.”

Expected to open in 2019, the 175,000 square-foot roasting facility broke ground in June and will create 135 jobs in Suffolk. “We are currently in the process of training apprentices in the art of hand roasting,” says Burwick, “to maintain our dedication and craft of producing the freshest and most flavorful beans.”,,,

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