Home Food + DrinkCoffee Hudson Roasters: 3 Generations of Coffee Roasting in Hoboken

Hudson Roasters: 3 Generations of Coffee Roasting in Hoboken

by Megan Joseph
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If you’ve ever been anywhere near 16th Street in Hoboken, you may have noticed the distinct smell of coffee lingering in the air. But what you may not know is that smell comes from Pan American Coffee Company, which has operated in that exact location for over 50 years. After decades of traditional coffee production, Hudson Roasters is the company’s most recent subsidiary. Read on to find out more about this coffee haven that’s been going strong here in Hoboken for three generations.  

Hudson Roasters

{Photo courtesy of Bernadette Gerrity}

Bernadette Gerrity and her cousin Sal Santuccio, both 27, are co-owners of Hudson Roasters. They created the lifestyle brand in 2016 to diversify the craft coffee portfolio at Pan American and pay homage to Hudson County. With the help of family, friends and their own determination, Bernadette and Sal wanted to bridge the gap between their parent company and the local area.

A Need for Hoboken Specialty Coffee

Hudson Roasters’ products were first sold last year at Ruffage and Rummage, a midtown farmer’s market at Willow and 6th Street. Bernadette says this is where they met a lot of local vendors, but not many people knew their coffee was actually made in right here in Hoboken.

See More: A Guide to the Coffee Shops of Hoboken

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They’ve gone from one to five coffee varieties in the past three years, building a brand and getting the Hudson Roasters name out there. The website features each coffee sold in 12-ounce bags at $10 to $13 each. Ethiopian Yirgicheffe was their first batch, which has bright, floral aromas and cherry undertones. Bernadette describes the taste like tea or wine-like.

“Legend has it, coffee actually originated in Ethiopia,” she said. “The country has an entire coffee drinking culture and it’s very ceremonial — almost sacred.”

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Hudson’s other products include 100% Colombian and Guatemalan coffee, both certified by Fair Trade; a Papua New Guinea coffee with flavors like cacao, caramel, and hints of lemon; and a Costa Rica Tarrazu coffee, which tastes rounder and more chocolatey.

Sal explains the Papua New Guinea roast is from a small plantation called Plantation AX and the Costa Rican farmers are very progressive in their practice, which resonates with their coffee quality. For Bernadette and Sal, it’s necessary to tell the story of where their coffee comes from and to support local economies at the origin.

“It’s really important to drink these coffees with a purpose,” Bernadette said. “The journey from seed to cup to consumer is so long. I feel like living in the tri-state area, it’s often easy to lose touch.”

The two cousins have traveled the world for coffee, both as a part of Pan American and as importers, their first jobs related to the industry. Bernadette worked as an importer from 2015 to the beginning of 2018 after graduating from The New School in Manhattan with a degree in psychology.

She gained knowledge of the coffee trading and importing processes as the only and youngest woman in her department. Even though it’s a male-dominated industry, Bernadette never felt her gender was something that held her back. She credits that confidence and drive to the female role models in her life, her mother and aunt.

“It’s important to know that in today’s world, women can do anything,” she said. “There’s nothing holding you back.”

A Childhood with Coffee

Bernadette and sal

{Photo courtesy of Bernadette Gerrity}

Both Bernadette and Sal were drinking coffee from a young age with their family as part of a cultural tradition. Bernadette recalls her mom and aunt working at Pan American six days a week, putting their passion and love into the company. In her apartment building’s elevator recently, Bernadette overheard someone say how much it smelled like coffee in the tight space.

“I had this moment where I said to myself, ‘I am my mother. I’m turning into my mom,’” Bernadette said. “I honestly couldn’t think of a better person to be just like or walk in their footsteps.”

Sal also has memories about his family rooted in coffee, always wanting to be involved in the company from a young age. He worked in the warehouse during summers in high school but gave it a break while attending Manhattan College in the Bronx for marketing and technology. After graduation, Sal worked in Brooklyn where he saw how much the specialty coffee industry was growing. That’s when he started dreaming of launching his own brand.

The day-to-day is always changing for Bernadette, Sal, and their moms. Whether it’s price fluctuation, fixing vital machinery, or power outages, they’re always up for a challenge. At a family business, they all feel responsible and want to be involved with everything.

Sal says the most rewarding part of the job is hearing great customer feedback and supporting their almost 50 employees who contribute to their success daily. They consider themselves lucky for having a family in the coffee industry and don’t take any day for granted.

Read More: A Visit to Hidden Grounds Coffee in Hoboken

Roots at Pan American

Pan American itself was created by the late Roy Montes de Oca, Bernadette and Sal’s grandfather. He immigrated to the United States from Cuba with his wife and eldest daughter. In the early stages of the company, their grandmother would roast the coffee on the stovetop during the day and when Roy came home from work, he would sell it door-to-door.

A Korean War Veteran passionate about the American dream and his home country, Roy inspired three generations of coffee roasting. Today, Pan American is female-owned and operated by both Bernadette and Sal’s mothers, Edilia and Ruth, who are 100% Cuban.

aroma coffee

{Photo courtesy of Bernadette Gerrity}

hudson roasters factory

{Photo courtesy of Bernadette Gerrity}

With the specialty coffee market growing at an exponential rate, Pan American also wants to maintain its three main brands — Café Aroma, El Coqui, and Café El Morro. Over the past few decades, they’ve also focused on private label, which means roasting and packaging coffee for other companies.

Bernadette says Pan American is planning outreach efforts for the Latino community, like sponsoring Hispanic parades in Hudson County and many other local fundraisers.

Brand Ambition

hudson roasters mug

{Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Arthur}

Hudson Roasters has recently sponsored episodes of Wake Up with WIO, an Instagram Live show in partnership with exercise studio Work It Out. They’ve also hosted various events with Athleta in downtown Hoboken.

This year’s goals for the brand include getting into more local cafes, restaurants, and workspaces, as well as curating and enhancing its social media presence.

Naturally, Bernadette and Sal both take their coffee black. When they’re not drinking their own delicious brands, they’ll often put Caffe Vita, Toby’s Estate, or Oslo on drip. Rarely do they indulge in Starbucks drinks, but they do appreciate what the company has done for espresso.

“I would rather give my business to a small, local cafe than a larger conglomerate,” Bernadette said. “If there’s room for someone on the shelf, there’s room for their competitor.”

The duo has also launched additional products on the Hudson Roasters website: a handmade, organic coffee scrub with Himalayan salt and coconut oil, and artwork by NYC-based artist Miguel Gesso. Bernadette says their goal is to turn Hudson Roasters into a lifestyle brand.

“We want to drive traffic to our site and have guests visit for other reasons than just coffee,” she said. “The art and body scrub are simply small steps in the right direction.”

Check out the website at HudsonRoasters.com and PanAmericanCoffee.com for all their coffee varieties and other products. Support this Hoboken business and get to know the aroma of 16th Street.

Have a favorite roast from Hudson Roasters or excited to try their beans? Let us know in the comments!

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