Utah Coffee

Salt Lake Roasting Company

Without a great roast, coffee isn’t worth beans.


Tom Overton – Roaster at Salt Lake Roasting Company. Photo by Steven Vargo.

For many people, coffee is the elixir of life and the brew that gets them through. Hot or cold, an invigorating cup of liquid motivation can make the difference between a great day and an ordinary one. At Salt Lake Roasting Company, you get a savory cup of coffee from a real coffee expert who knows how to extract the most provocative flavors from the world’s best beans.

After years in the restaurant business, the one thing John Bolton wanted was to give his customers a cup of coffee worthy of his food, so he learned the art of coffee roasting, and went into the coffee business.

“I was chefing up at Snowbird,” John recalls, “and I had responsibilities over four different restaurants. I had clientele from all over the world coming to ski, and we were able to serve them great food, but I couldn’t serve them good coffee and that was bugging me. I bought a small roaster from a guy in Cleveland, a 12-kilo roaster, and started roasting coffee at night. I’d get off work at 10 or 11 and roast until 1 or 2 in the morning.”

John’s approach, when he started roasting in 1981, was to emphasize the culture behind coffee. “I traveled to 28 countries of origin to buy coffee,” he says, “some of those seven or eight times. My goal was not only to buy the best coffee I could, but to learn about the people who grew the coffee and what was important to them, and to have a story I could bring back to my customers.”

To a coffee novice, it may not matter what pains the roaster took to brew the ultimate cup. But in John’s world, “As far as roasting goes, you can take the same beans and roast them at seven different degrees of roast, and if we did a blind cupping, you’d think you were tasting seven different coffees. Roasting is subjective,” he says. “What is the perfect cup of coffee? It’s like asking ‘what is the perfect pizza? Is it thick crust or thin crust? Is it a lot of sauce or a little sauce?’”

John explains that as you roast darker you gain intensity of flavor, but that at a certain point you sacrifice varietal characteristics for that richer flavor. As the sugars start to caramelize, the burnt flavor begins to dominate. “Every roaster interprets, for every coffee they roast, what’s the best place, where does this coffee taste the best? And then they hope to have customers who support that. One person’s burnt coffee is another person’s perfect coffee.”

John looks forward to serving perfect coffee to his customers, old and new, at a new location five blocks east sometime in early May.

SLRC has two locations:

SLRC Downtown – 320 E 400 S (Soon to be moving to 820 E 400 S)
Phone: 801-363-7572

SLRC Library Square – 210 E 400 S

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