Whole Foods Market recently opened a store in Overland Park, just about 15 minutes from home. It’s a welcome addition. I’m not an especially rabid consumer of all things organic — in Kansas City, organic very often translates into sad looking foodstuff that’s scrawny and full of bugs — not my ideal. I am, however, a big fan of *fresh* food. And from what I’ve seen so far, Whole Foods delivers not only terrific produce, but a far wider selection than I’ve been able to find anywhere else… if I’ve been able to find it anywhere else at all.

I am amused by the paradox… Organic produce. Soy and vegan products. Veal. Veal? Yeah… and maybe the biggest selection of veal in Kansas City. Go figure.

Most intriguing of all, however, is the in-store coffee roaster. Yes… they roast in-store. Daily. The green coffee comes from Allegro, where Kevin Knox rules the roast [or at least the selection of coffees]. The roaster itself is a huge beastie… an air-roaster with a glass roasting chamber the size of a ten-gallon aquarium. It’s something of a work of art as well — hammered copper, brass and chrome rule the day. I’d never seen a roaster quite its equal, so I rummaged around on the Net to find out more. I turned up Sherri Johns at the intersection of Allegro coffee and Whole Foods, so I zapped her an email with my questions.

These days Sherri is an independent coffee consultant and author [if I had 26 years’ experience in the coffee business, I’d hope to pursue a similar track] and she was very generous with her reply… The Whole Foods in-store roaster is a JavaMaster, the creation of Dick Sewell, a coffee guy and tinkerer from the cold reaches of Michigan [a better place than most, I imagine, to crank up a large coffee roaster]. It makes for an engaging display. More to the point, it makes for pretty good coffee, too.

I sampled the store’s Allegro and Red Sea blends, both roasted that same day, and stored in open-dated bins. The Red Sea blend was rich with blueberries, revealing its strong measure of Ethiopian Harar. The Allegro blend is a “twin-peaked” Central blend, which I am pretty certain is the house coffee of Kansas City’s Hereford House restaurants… distinct for it’s complementary acidic high notes — a Tarrazu and a Colombian, I think. Yummy stuff.

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