At Dessert Oasis, 16-Year-Old Roaster Knows 'A Good Coffee Speaks for Itself'
Adams High School sophomore Nathan Hamood runs the downtown coffee shop and knows all about quality java.
While the Friends' Central Perk had the white-haired, Rachel-swooning Gunther as its resident coffee expert, downtown Rochester has something better.
Meet Nathan Hamood.
He's the head roaster and "Director of Quality Control" at The Dessert Oasis.
He's also 16 years old.
Every day after school, and all day when school's not in session, you'll find Hamood at The Dessert Oasis, doing what he loves best, which he says is "basically anything to do with coffee."
From Caribou to hand-crafted
When Hamood's parents first opened The Dessert Oasis nearly three years ago Hamood thought it was "a cool thing," and although he drank coffee — usually from Caribou — he didn't know much about it.
"I started researching coffee when we opened," Hamood said. "It was a surprise even to me to find the interest in coffee that I had."
Based on his research he really wanted The Dessert Oasis to roast its own coffee beans.
He convinced his dad, Jamal, to invest in a $600 roaster.
"It was small, like a convection oven," Hamood said. "Soon it had paid for itself and as demand grew for our roasted coffee, including wholesale accounts, we upgraded to a bigger and better roaster."
The new roaster can roast 32 pounds in an hour, which Hamood says is still small enough to focus on quality but large enough to be time-efficient.
Hamood also rotates the coffee selection based on what's in season to make sure they're serving the freshest beans.
"We usually have six to seven coffees, each from different farms and regions, at any given time," he said.
Hamood's personal favorite right now is Finca Santa Ana from Guatemala.
"It's a nice, complex kind of coffee with lots of facets. It has bright fruit tones and a caramel quality to it," he said.
According to Hamood, that quality is what separates the hand-crafted coffees The Dessert Oasis serves from the chain coffees.
"A hand-crafted coffee doesn't need a ton of mild or flavored syrups to taste great. A good coffee speaks for itself."
Besides the coffee itself, Hamood's favorite aspect of his job is the people.
"I get to deal with a lot of coffee farmers and importers and that's my favorite thing," Hamood said.
"We work with small farms that are really quality-driven. We make sure the farmers are paid fairly. That's important to us. In the grand scheme of things it also creates incentive for the farmers to grow better coffee each year."
And because neither man — nor boy — can survive on coffee alone, Hamood's other passion is playing drums, which is another nice fit with The Dessert Oasis.
"A lot of how The Dessert Oasis came to be revolves around music. My sister, Stephanie, sings and plays the guitar. My dad's business partner had the idea of opening a coffee shop after watching an episode of Friends so Stephanie would have a place to play."
Live music is featured nightly; Stephanie, now an Oakland University student, performs.
Although the drums don't lend themselves to the intimate vibe of The Dessert Oasis, Hamood works with his family to select the musical acts.
"It's a cool business to get into," Hamood said, "And it's been a great surprise how open people are to specialty coffees."
The Dessert Oasis is located at 205 South Main, at the corner of Second Street. It's open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. There's live music nightly and specialty desserts baked in house daily. Call 248-453-5239 with questions.