Boulder’s Sightless Roaster: Gerry Leary
Scott Rowland • August 11, 2015 • Lifestyle •
Master roaster and founder of the Unseen Bean, Gerry Leary, may be physically blind, but his vision is as robust as his organic, shade-grown coffee.
When roasting, a component of bean awareness is attuned to pick out a desirable color (depending on the roast) in the conventional process. The visual sensation is so “necessarily” utilized in the roasting world that Leary was met with uncertainty during his initial search for guidance. But you can’t deter a man like Leary from his calling. Besides, there is an even more important sense to his methodology: sound.
Over 12 years of experience have allowed Leary to develop a process that requires a refined sense of taste and a more acute sense of hearing than most roasters in the industry. The technique that he utilizes incorporates a talking thermometer/timer, the unmistakable aroma of finely roasted coffee and a flavor profile based on body instead of caffeine count (a bold decision amongst such a high-energy society). Overall, the most exceptional aspect of his production process is the awareness required to pick out a distinct sound amongst the thousands of beans bouncing around in the roaster.
That’s right, Leary’s expertise comes from knowing what finely roasted coffee sounds like.
Even though Leary’s approach developed in accordance with his inability to see, he maintains the humble opinion that, “You don’t have to use my method to get good coffee. I’ve had other coffees that are just as good.”
With outreach extending as far as California, Leary eventually found a teacher willing to look past his sightless predisposition and show him a way to roast without seeing the beans. In 2003, he visited the West Coast Specialty Coffee Company in Burlingame, CA where they confirmed that there is more to roasting coffee than just its appearance. Filled with hope, he immediately began the training process to get certified as a master coffee roaster.
Leary’s dream to be a professional roaster came to fruition in 2004 when he purchased commercial equipment and opened The Unseen Bean roasting facility in Longmont, CO (currently operating in Lafayette). With a growing operation underway, he began to distribute beans such as the bold and nutty Columbia, a sweet tasting New Guinea and a citrusy Ethiopian. Before long, The Unseen Bean’s coffee could be found across the United States and internationally in Canada and England.
In 2007, Leary opened The Unseen Bean Cafe at the Pearl St. Mall in Boulder, CO expanding his expertise beyond master roaster and into the world of coffee store owner. (The shop is quaint with a rustic feel and a lovely place to start the day with a quality cup of blind roasted coffee!)
There must be something in the sound because Leary has shown nothing but success and appreciation for his craft: “I just want to brew better coffee today than I did yesterday, and tomorrow better than I did today…. That’s all I care about.”
Since their inception, The Unseen Bean roasting facility and the cafe have brewed into a smooth, yet bold business venture. Leary may be humble about his sophisticated technique, but I think he’s stepped into uncharted waters and brought back a line of full-bodied coffee beans roasted to perfection. All for the love of java!The Unseen Bean