Heading up to their home in the Catskills was a chance to unplug and spend time together with their young children. Away from the hustle and bustle of their city jobs and life in North Jersey, Jodie Dawson and Kristine-Ellis Petrik immersed themselves in the serenity that comes with fresh mountain air and pastoral landscapes.
But away from the crowds, away from the go-go-go—what’s a gal got to do to get a good cup of coffee?
Ten years ago, Dawson and Petrik asked that question. The most common response?
“Well, Citgo has pretty good coffee.”
The answer they landed on? They had to open their own spot. But for Dawson, a clinical psychologist and Petrik, a CNN executive, it was an unlikely basket in which to stow their eggs. Even initially, their mountain town daydream was to establish a little local market. While calling around for potential vendors, Dawson got on the horn with a coffee roastery closing its doors but willing to sell the business in full.
A decade later, the pair run a coffee empire with four shops including two near their home in Montclair, and a wholesale business that supplies coffee for the historic Phoenicia Diner and lifestyle brand Beekman 1802, among others.
Though the two had no formal coffee training, the former owners of what became Java Love trained them on the roasting equipment before handing over the reins. Years before, Petrik trained be a sommelier—something she never used in the wine world but drew from in her understanding and evaluation of how coffee is supposed to taste. Dawson brings something different to the table.
“It’s funny, the way our brains work is so different. I can’t remember anything about the details about the terroir and which was grown where. I always have to remind myself and look it up and really study it. But recently I’ve been recognizing that my palate is very fine tuned,” Dawson said. “We do a lot of coffee cupping and quality control. We both trained on the equipment together and I was never allowed to touch it again … I’m not a kinesthetic person, it doesn’t flow for me. But when I taste the coffee, I know [when it needs tweaking], I just don’t know how.”
“I think there are people who are super tasters and Jodie is one of them,” Petrik said. “I am not a super taster, but I have a larger library of understanding. Jodie is all gut. She couldn’t taste something and say, ‘it needs more development at higher temperature.’ She doesn’t know the map of how to get there. She just knows we don’t want to be here; we want to be 10 miles down the road. I get us there.”
In August, Java Love launched a Women’s Coffee Producers series to celebrate women-grown coffee. They’ve thus far featured coffee produced in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Peru.
“Right now, it’s limited supply, because they’re smaller farms, but everything, all the purchases go back to the farms to help them with their infrastructure. We just feel really good about it, and it’s really a celebration of women all along this coffee chain,” Dawson said.
“The first one we released was the Mexican chiapas, and we were doing the tasting of it, and it’s honestly like no other coffee we had,” Petrik said. “They’re all such unique, amazing coffees, and in the coffee industry women are incredibly underrepresented. By doing this, and by investing in them, it’s changing the socioeconomic structures in these farming communities and giving women more power and financial freedom. It’s amazing when you can help change the cycle.”
They hope to get out to the coffee growing regions in the next year or so to admire their growers’ work. In Peru, two cousins from a long line of coffee growers went to their parents and proposed they lease them a portion of the adjoining farms for a women-only grow operation. Nine women work there now, experimenting with different varietals and organic beans. Their coffee, Petrik said, is routinely rated in the 90s by critics, compared to the coffee on farms nearby rated in the 80s.
“They’re outperforming their male counterparts by quite a lot,” Petrik said.