Rich Gregory, local specialty-coffee connoisseur

By Libby Sherwood
Staff Writer

Rich Gregory thought being a police officer was difficult — until he became a café owner. As the proprietor and roaster at Prescott’s Coffee Roasters, Gregory learns constantly — always busy, always experimenting.

“It used to be that the laws were pretty much the laws and they applied to everybody, all the time, and now I have all these wonderful variables that I have to keep track of,” shared Gregory.

Over the past three years, Prescott residents have witnessed a transformation in Coffee Roasters, a direct reflection of Gregory’s amassed knowledge and growth in the business.

Prior to owning the café, Gregory frequented Roasters for 10 years. He feared it falling into the wrong hands, so when the store went up for sale, he decided to make an investment, unaware that it would soon become a passion. Within the first year, Gregory abandoned his normal job as a police officer in Phoenix in order to devote himself to coffee full-time.

Photo by Libby Sherwood.

“I went from a very rigid ‘this is how we do things,’ always having… instruction, to all of a sudden, it’s all opinion and what you like,” he said, chuckling.

Through training, Gregory transformed. “I had my mind blown,” he said.
Gregory offers samples to customers, listens to their first, second and even third impressions, and often puts their opinions to use.

“You have that same kind of variety in coffee just like you do with wine,” he said, comparing his new light-roast Bali blend to a fruity white wine, and his darker roasts to a California cabernet or red zinfandel.

“I’m always tasting an ounce or two of everything on drip. It’s not just a matter of tasting the coffee, it’s a matter of tasting it two days after it’s roasted — a week after it’s roasted. It’s a matter of tasting it out of the brewer or out of a press pot — they’re all really different.”

  • Like many business owners in the food industry, Gregory deals with the politics of labeling products “organic.” He invests in getting his coffee Fair Trade certified, although his unlabeled products (about 50 percent) are still from coffee farm co-ops and produced organically.

To him, it does not make sense to compromise on quality or endorse cheap labor. He even purchases organic cotton and hemp t-shirts and hats.

Together with long-time manager and health-conscious baker Marie Railey, Gregory encourages people from all walks of life to mingle over a cup of daily grind.

This article appeared in the May 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.
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