People can't help but notice the black hoodies with an outline of a white lion and the "Noble Coffee" logo being worn around the Rogue Valley. This isn't a fashion statement, but a representation of the public following Ashland-based Noble Coffee Roasting has built in four years.
At almost any given moment inside Noble's coffee house in the Railroad District, visitors can see the roasting machine in action and an expert, called the roaster, beside it, cradling a small sample of beans in hand and taking diligent notes.
The roaster considers the beans' color, smell and temperature as well as dozens of other variables to tease out features distinctive to those beans.
A few days later, the roaster will "cup" — taste — the coffee in a new cupping/teaching facility in the back of the coffeehouse at 281 Fourth St.
A large notebook contains the profile — the aroma, flavor, body and finish — of each of the around 14,000 coffees Noble staffers have roasted since they opened, says owner Jared Rennie.
To source the beans, Rennie travels to Central and South America. He was just invited to Honduras to sit on an international panel of judges for the Cup of Excellence, a prestigious coffee competition and auction.
Rennie meets with the certified organic coffee producers at their farms and buys directly from them.
"Noble only buys coffee produced without any chemicals," Rennie said, adding that, in general, nonorganic coffee "is the number one most chemically laden crop that we consume. The use of these synthetics didn't exist 60 years ago."
For its sustainable methods and quality, Noble recently received the Local Hero award by Edible Portland magazine.
Visitors to Noble's walk-up Window at 46 E. Main St. and its booth at the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market can also try a fresh cup of coffee.
"The growers market is a phenomenal way to interact with our customers," said Marjorie Gosling, Noble's director of sales and education. "To be outside, affected by the elements, hot or cold, and (we) still make a wonderful cup of coffee."
Like other vendors that produce from turnips to donuts, Noble shares the philosophy of directly supporting the quality of life of farmers.
Elisabeth Swarttouw is an Ashland-based writer who works at Mix Sweet Shop and researches coffee.