BANGOR, Maine — Coffee from Sumatra, wood-fire roasted in Blue Hill, meets chaga, the wonder fungus. On the market for just three months, the Blue Hill blend from Unrest Roasting Co. is turning heads and heating up cups in Greater Bangor.
“It doesn’t taste like mushrooms. It has an earthy flavor to it. An accent on your typical coffee roast. It’s smokey,” said Zeth Lundy, co-owner of Central Street Farmhouse in Bangor, where bags of Unrest’s medium chaga blend is a top seller.
Lundy, who stocks do-it-yourself urban homesteading gear, such as homebrewing and cheesemaking supplies, was attracted to the new, natural hybrid coffee blend created by neophyte roaster Micah Beaulieu.
“I like it from a flavor perspective,” Lundy said. “Then there’s the health component, which gives it an X factor.”
That X factor, combining a natural antioxidant that grows on birch trees in Maine with killer caffeine, gives this new, hand-crafted product an edge.
“You have to go into the woods to find chaga, and that hits a point that appeals to Mainers,” Lundy said.
Touted as a preventative for ailments that include lyme disease, cancer, tumors and the flu, chaga brings added benefits and revenue to farmers and herbalists in Maine.
Beaulieu, a carpenter by trade, started roasting his own beans as a hobby. A fan of chaga for years, the idea to combine ground chaga with coffee seemed like a no-brainer.
“There is nothing in the world that has more antioxidants,” Beaulieu, 35, said. “People love coffee, and this is something different.”
Beaulieu has several roasts under the Unrest label, including an Allagash Dark and Mount Desert blonde, but chaga was “the one I really wanted to do.”
It’s different enough to make Brett Settle, owner of Giacomo’s in downtown Bangor, shake up his Coffee By Design lineup to add the newcomer. Last Friday afternoon he was sold out of the popular, organic brew.
“It’s something local, so I thought I would give it a shot,” Settle said. “It’s selling well. All by word of mouth.”
Two strong trends coming together can give a tiny company a mega boost. The Augusta native is starting slow. The only other place to find his coffee besides these Bangor outfits is the Hampden Farmers Market and online at unrestroasters.com. Interest is starting to pique.
“It’s something that grows in our backyard,” Beaulieu said. “It lends itself quite well paired with coffee.”
Lundy doesn’t lead with chaga’s health properties when he talks up the blend in his shop. He doesn’t have to.
“It’s been out there in the public’s consciousness. The fact that this is wood-fired roasted is intriguing. He makes it by hand. Its very, very, very, small batch,” Lundy said. “Our customers are all about that.”