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West Charlotte coffee roaster using sensory techniques to help those with disabilities



CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The owner of a new kind of coffee house is connecting with the Charlotte community through all five senses. The sensory-inspired business is also employing people who are often overlooked in the workforce.

The inspiration for the Haerfest Coffee Roasting Company came in 1998. Fast forward two decades and the business has been operating in Charlotte for a little over a year now. A walk inside could give someone a sensory overload and the owner says that’s exactly the goal.

If you follow your nose off Berryhill Road in West Charlotte, you’ll smell the scent of freshly roasted coffee. Haerfest Coffee workers don’t just roast coffee at the location, they also package it and sell it at a connected coffee house.

“So what we’ve done is created a coffee experience that is one of a kind in the world,” said owner, Toby Foreman.

The experience starts in the “coffee lab”. It’s where someone can experience different notes of coffee, similar to a wine tasting.

“Each person walking through is going to have their own experience unique to themselves, identifying a coffee application or a flavor,” said Foreman.

Each different flavor of coffee is associated with a color. With the press of a button, the coffee lab lighting will change to those coffee colors. You can even sense the taste of coffee by touch.

The goal is to use all five senses as a helpful way for customers to choose their favorite cup of joe, but you could say there is an even more important reason why the senses shine.

“Each one of our employees has a different way they are coming to the business because they have intellectual developmental disabilities,” said Foreman.

People with Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities roast the coffee beans, package them and even print logos on bags. They are given a paycheck each week.

“Because typically individuals who are in that position are in the background and we don’t want to do that, we want to make them in the forefront,” said Foreman.

Foreman has always put people first, starting with his own family. His brother has autism and his son Reid has down syndrome.

Reid’s first job opportunity came at the roasting company.

“To see my son thriving is all the joy in the world for me,” said Foreman.

When customers buy a bag of coffee, there will be a sensory sleeve or label featuring artwork. Those with intellectual disabilities create the art. The artists are told the “notes” or words people used to describe the coffee and then they create colored paintings based on the descriptions.

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