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Jake Snyder, Red Skies Photography

Benson’s Beans

Zero Prophet Coffee’s unique blends

By Harry Harwood and Charles Dubow

There’s coffee—and then there’s coffee. Too many of us throw money away at Starbucks or Dunkin’, happy to sacrifice taste and calories for that quick, easy jolt of caffeine. But for aficionados there is a deeper, richer, altogether more satisfying experience that comes only from brewing up the finest roasted beans and savoring the beauty of a truly well-made—and organic blend. That is how Nicholas Benson, the founder of Washington-based Zero Prophet Coffee, believes coffee should be enjoyed.

Jake Snyder, Red Skies Photography LLC

Benson, a Middlebury grad who is also a translator and English teacher at The Frederick Gunn School, started roasting beans in his kitchen in 2007 for the enjoyment of himself and friends. “I love coffee and wanted to share my roasts with others who share my passion. I began to sell more coffee under the table and soon it made sense to start selling in a store. But to do that I had to make it into a proper business. That meant getting on the books, paying taxes. But if I didn’t do it the right way then I couldn’t get coffee to people who need it.”

The name and logo for “Zero Prophet Coffee” came to him while doodling during a slow meeting. “I could already tell that it wasn’t going to make a big profit, so the prophecy was that it would be a zero profit,” he says with a smile. Instead of focusing on profits, Benson instead donates much of them towards local and environmental causes like Clean Ocean Access, Steep Rock Association, and a Honduran-based charity that helps stray dogs.

He sources his beans from Africa, Indonesia, and Central and South America. They are all certified organic, and the majority are Fair Trade. He loves to experiment with different beans and roasts. Currently he offers 17 different blends. Richness, liveliness, density, balance, and depth are what he says make a great coffee. Benson explains that occasionally a single varietal can have these layers, but it is more reliable to create a unique taste by blending different beans.

Jake Snyder, Red Skies Photography LLC

“I love finding three beans that together achieve something like a layer-cake—typically a base that’s like chocolate, an earthy caramel layer, and something more unusual or intense that might not be as pleasing on its own.” For example, one of his blends, the rich, full-bodied Torrefazione (Italian for “roasting”) Washington, contains beans from Sumatra, Java, and Nicaragua.

Benson acknowledges that despite the enormous pleasure he derives from making—and consuming—coffee, running a small business has its challenges. “I wish I didn’t have to worry about things like book-keeping. I’m not exactly a natural accountant. Maybe one day if we get big enough I’ll be able to hire someone to do the number-crunching for me.”

Jake Snyder, Red Skies Photography LLC

In the meantime, he is happy to just keep on making great coffee. Currently Benson’s beans can be purchased through his website or at Litchfield area shops and restaurants, such as the Washington Food Market, The Smithy, The Po, New Morning, Community Table, and elsewhere.

Zero Prophet Coffee
273 Sabbaday Lane (office)

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