Rook Roasters is a rapidly growing Monmouth County (NJ) based chain of coffee shops. I first fell in love with them after my girlfriend’s sister introduced us to the “New Orleans style.” It’s a dark blend which uses chickory that is mindblowing. I get it with soy milk – not something that normally works but the baristas at Rook pull it off everytime.
The company has been featured on NBC, CNBC and many print publications. Despite their busy schedules Holly Migliacchio, the co-founder was nice enough to answer some questions. For link to Rook locations, see below the interview.
RoodonFood (R): Why did Rook choose coffee drinks as the product to sell?
Holly (H): Both Shawn and I have always been coffee lovers. We were childhood friends working in totally different industries in the corporate world when we quit our jobs. We had no intentions of going into business together until we got into a conversation about our mutual interest in the future of the coffee industry. That coffee conversation ended up being the driver that helped us ultimately decide start our business.
R: My favorite drink is the New Orleans style which uses chicory giving it a slightly smoky flavor. Chicory was a popular coffee through the Great Depression but isn’t as common these days outside of Louisiana. What made you decide to bring it back?
H: We researched and developed our menu over the course of nine months before opening our first location. During that time period, we learned a lot about different coffee traditions from all over the country and the world. We wanted to have just a couple of options that were outside the realm of the single origin coffees we planned on offering. After dabbling with different chicory recipes, we came up with something we could not turn our back on…the taste was just too good!
R: How does cold-brew enhance flavor?
H: Cold brew is not so much about enhancing flavor as it is about the fact that it’s a different style of brewing iced coffee. The result of cold brewing is that you have a concentrate that is nearly 70% less acidic than a typical iced coffee. By default, it’s smoother and richer in flavor. Since it’s a concentrate, it also holds up better with ice, which typically has a tendency to dilute iced coffee. In typical iced coffee preparation hot coffee is poured over ice. To balance the melting ice, most people will overcompensate by adding more coffee. That changes the necessary balance for flavor, creating a bitter over-extracted taste.
R: What makes your coffee special?
H: There are a number of things that make Rook special. As far as our coffees, we seek the highest quality, single origin specialty coffees we can get our hands on. We also make trips to the countries of origin to build relationships and ensure we continue to have access to great coffees. We meticulously roast those coffees and serve them as fresh as possible. In our retail locations, each and every cup is made to order. There are no urns or pre-made coffees on the premises. In addition, we have a tremendous focus on the experience customers have in our stores. Coupling a great product with over-the-top customer service is what makes the entire Rook experience special.
R: Rook is based in Monmouth county, NJ. Where else do you plan to expand to? Is NYC part your expansion plans? Any plans to open a location on a Jersey shore boardwalk?
H: We do not currently have plans to open in NYC, but it is a location that is not off the table. As we continue to build our brand, you will most likely see more locations popping up in Monmouth County, but we also hope to continue to grow in the Tri-State area in the near future.
R: What would you say is your signature product?
H: Our New Orleans Style Cold Brew has become the one beverage I would say is our signature product (by far in the summer months). It became in such high demand over the years, that we began bottling it in 2012.
R: What is your best-selling drink?
H: New Orleans Style Cold Brew 😉
R: How did you choose the Rook bird as your mascot?
H: Our original plans for Rook Coffee were to open up a retail shop in Brooklyn, which is where the word rook came from (inside the word B”rook”lyn). As we were building the business and spending a lot of time in Monmouth County, where we both grew up, we made the decision to change our business plan and keep the company local. At that point we loved the name we’d come up with, and the logo choice was between the castle piece in the game of chess or a black crow. You now know which one won.