Hugo Coffee Roasters opens in Park City
March 4, 2016
Claudia McMullin, owner of Hugo Coffee Shop at the Kimball Junction Visitor Information Center, had long been mulling over ideas of how she could take her business to the next level.
"All kinds of opportunities presented themselves in the first year and a half of business," she said. "Do I want to open a shop in Salt Lake? I even looked at doing a children’s book about Hugo the dog, making him a character in a children’s book."
But the trajectory of her business changed when the roaster that had been supplying her shop with coffee beans was sold to a distribution company. McMullin soon contacted John Lynn, who had been her supplier’s roaster, about whether he’d be interested in venturing out on his own with her.
Now, several months later, Hugo Coffee Roasters is up and running in the Silver Creek Business Park near U.S. 40. With Lynn as head roaster, it has launched with four coffees: Bonafide, a dark roast; New Trick, a light roast; Howler, an espresso; and the decaffeinated Downward Dog. Additionally, Hugo plans to offer additional single-origin blends on a rotating basis. The first, which does not yet have a name, comes from farms in Guatemala that support women’s education and health initiatives in the country.
Hugo Coffee Roaster — which is closed to the public, though tastings can be made by appointment — is now supplying the coffee at Hugo Coffee Shop. McMullin is also selling her blends wholesale to several coffee shops and restaurants in the area.
"I want to be the highest quality regionally, and I think we’re close, if not already there," she said. "Our coffee, in my opinion, is that good."
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For Lynn, coming up with a line of roasts has been a dream come true. Born and raised in south Louisiana, he has distinct memories of his grandmother making him a mixture of coffee and milk, which first spurred his love for coffee. But he didn’t develop a passion for roasting and seeking out the highest-quality brews until about 10 years ago.
He was working in a coffee shop in Salt Lake and discovered that a competitor’s blends blew away the ones he was brewing and all the others he had tasted. The question of what made that coffee so good set him on a journey. He sought to learn from industry experts in the area, and he began roasting beans on a makeshift popcorn popper in a garage.
"Pretty soon, in my garage I was making coffee that was 10 times better than anything I could get my hands on in Salt Lake," Lynn said. "That was shocking to me. That’s when I started banging on people’s doors. I was really interested in coffee, and I wanted to be involved in this."
He eventually took a one-day-a-week job with McMullin’s previous supplier, Silver Bean Coffee. Within a few months, it turned into a full-time roasting position, which he held until McMullin recruited him to help start her roaster.
It is the first time Lynn has had the autonomy to create his own blends, and he’s savoring the experience.
"Claudia gave me the opportunity that nobody had given me yet, which was full control," he said. "I think we make a great team. I get to do what I love."
For McMullin, the partnership with Lynn is also proving to be a boon. She said it’s been rewarding to learn more about the coffee roasting trade and develop roasts that have earned a welcome reception from the public so far.
"It’s super fun," she said, "because at the core of my coffee shop that I own, I want my customers to be really happy. I bend over backwards to make them happy. I’m very proud of the coffee, and people are telling me they’re loving the coffee. It’s all good."