Free cups of coffee were all Charlie Mustard wanted when he volunteered to roast coffee at Jittery Joe’s in Athens, Georgia. At the time, he was working on his graduate thesis at the University of Georgia in nutrition and chugging cups of coffee as he wrote. Twenty-two years later he’s still at Jittery Joe’s, but now as their head coffee roaster.
“That was awesome they let me do that because I didn’t know anything about roasting coffee,” said Mustard with a laugh. But he found the answers at the UGA library. “There was a whole shelf dedicated to coffee and coffee production.” With a background in biological sciences from Clemson, and having focused on sciences most of his life, Mustard said, “Oh yeah, I can do this.”
Now he’s roasting batches from all over the world and has mastered how to get each bean to open the flavors indicative of their area. “If I am roasting a coffee from Tanzania for example, I am thinking about temperature, humidity, air pressure, size and density of the bean and how the bean was processed on the farm — to name a few of the variables” he said.
Jittery Joe’s is now sold all over the Southeast, throughout the country and around the globe, including being the brand packaged for the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta. Roasting has even taken him as far as Japan to teach, as well as learn techniques.
“I actually do reflect from time to time about how much coffee we roast and how many cups are consumed every day — you can make 35 to 40 cups of coffee per pound. It blows your mind when you think about how many cups we’ve shared with this community,” he said. “This community is such a neat, creative place to be. There are so many who are being creative, whether that’s in a band, painting, acting or writing poetry. What I really like is that we get to help fuel that creativity.”
Mustard’s love of his job even filtered into his 20- and 21-year-old children’s lives. Mustard said when they were little he caught one son on the playground saying, “My daddy doesn’t work, he just drinks coffee all day.”
“Just for me personally, I see success in that I’m doing something that I truly like doing. What
excites you that you say, ‘I can do this for the rest of my life’? My children have never heard me saying, ‘Work sucks.’”
— Julia Sellers