Bliss by the Mugful

Categories:  Business    Food & Drink
Wednesday, May 10th, 2017 at 1:30 PM
Bliss by the Mugful by Ryan Smith
Ryan Smith

I walk into Happy Mug Coffee, and get hard-smacked in the nose with the smell of thousands of prize beans.

I’m content.

A calm electrical whir preceding him from across the roasting company’s warehouse-area floor, owner/founder Matt Shay zips up to me on a hands-free segway, all smiles.

Man, I think, I would be smiling, too.

We say how-do, then Shay offers up a sample of some new coffee, freshly roasted right here in sunny Edinboro. It tastes like beer, he says.

I feel the liquid’s warmth in my hands. I smell. I sip.

It’s coffee that tastes like beer. Not just coffee, but a really punchy, bright, lively coffee – and not just beer, but a hearty, wholesome stout, smoothly imparted with little hints of oak barrel-aging.

I stand next to that very barrel as Shay, Happy Mug’s founder and roaster-in-chief, tells me more about it: It’s Meadville-based Voodoo Brewery’s, he says, and they used it to make a special breakfast stout featuring Happy Mug’s Ugandan coffee, then passed it on to these specialty coffee roasters about 20 miles north so they could do their thing with it.

So now, he says, “they have a beer that tastes like coffee, and we have a coffee that tastes like beer.”

That’s just one particular new roast – some of the roughly 2,000 pounds of coffee Shay says go out the doors of the Happy Mug roastery each week.

In only a couple of minutes, I’ve seen that coffee, I’ve smelled it, I’ve tasted it, and I’ve touched it, with Shay filling me in on the details of its origins along the way.

I’m very happy here at Happy Mug, and I’ve barely made it through the door.

I’m picking up a pretty good vibe from Shay, too. He gets a bit of a sparkle in his eye when it becomes clear that I (kinda) know my stuff. And he seems like a guy who’s most happy in this chockful-of-coffee element: surrounded by the beans, talking about the beans, roasting the beans, tasting the beans, and – thanks to the marvel of internet-based commerce – sharing the best results with coffee lovers near and far.

He’s also the kind of guy (and these are his words, not mine) who, if you showed up to his house for dinner, might not be wearing matching socks. Who may, say, put some lumpy gravy on the table.

“But the coffee,” he says, “would be perfect.”

I can dig that.

He’s also a guy who seems to have figured out, for himself anyway, the difficult puzzle of savoring life’s work.

I can dig that, too.

“I just come in and have fun,” the 36-year-old western Pennsylvania native tells me, and it shows that he means it. “I see this as my hobby.

“Obviously, it’s gotten way out of control.”

Out of (or in?) control enough, he says, that he relies on the help of five full- and part-time employees to help receive, sample, test-roast, re-roast, perfect, and ship coffee beans from singular, ethical sources – as well as some coveted coffee-crafting estates around the world – to customers’ doors in all 50 states.

Their catalogue of offerings is high-stacked, with dozens of (not-so) standard, special and espresso roasts, as well as roast-your-own green beans, teas, and related tools and accessories.

Happy Mug’s aim, Shay says, is to “produce the most exotic, unique coffee” you’ll find, and “make sure that it’s delivered to you freshly.”

Their motto? Drink Coffee. Be Happy.

There’s a refreshing lack of pretense in that, in the whole operation, and in the coffee, too, which seems to allow it to sort of stand up and speak for itself without a lot of background noise.

For Shay and his cohorts, it really does seem to be all about love for that glorious bean.

“Coffee has a way of bringing people together,” says Shay. “It’s a way of making your day better … [an] extra little spark in the morning.”

With a good cup of coffee, he says, “we might have a good day.”

Thanks for filling it up, Happy Mug.

To learn more about Happy Mug, including its hours, list of offerings, where you can find it locally, and how to place an order, visit happymugcoffee.com, call 547.3462, or visit their facility at 220 W. Plum St. in Edinboro.

Ryan Smith is always up for a good cup of coffee. He can be reached at rsmith@eriereader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @ryanmsmithplens.

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