Not a bright and early riser? You can still feel like one even if you get up at noon. Simply make a cup or pot of Bright an Early coffee from Duncan Coffee, Houston’s fifth-generation, family-owned coffee company. This business, one of the oldest commercial coffee roasters in the country recently received an injection of youthful excitement.
The Duncan family is crowing about the new generation of Duncan brothers, Herschel Mills the fifth (V) and Lawton Duncan. They are entering into company leadership roles in marketing and operations, respectively, with a focus on expanding the coffee company’s retailing of their original coffee brand – Bright and Early.
“We've really gotten behind our ‘Bright and Early’ coffee. It’s a re-creation of our family’s original and best-selling brands,” said Mills V. He should know, having grown up in the coffee business, he recalls around age five crawling on bags of coffee in the warehouse and later working just about every job there was. “Today, we are still Duncan Coffee Company, the company my family started five generations ago. We use the Duncan Coffee brand mostly for restaurants, country clubs and hotels. But, in retail, we focus on Bright and Early. We’ve been taste testing it, versus other brands with customers in the marketplace, like we did recently at Sam’s Club. It’s their favorite. My job is to expand it into more retail establishments, both locally and nationally,” continued Mills V.
The legacy that became Duncan Coffee Company and the Bright and Early coffee brand started in Houston on August 12, 1918. This is when Herschel Mills Duncan the first fired up the roaster for the Duncan Coffee Company's first batch of coffee. After that, he developed special coffee blends which were exclusively sold to the finest restaurants, hotels and railroad dining cars. His commitment to quality and freshness soon had the attention of coffee drinkers across the nation.
Mills V says, “I’m also focused on raising the standards still higher for our company and its products. I’m progressing with my certifications as a coffee quality grader, master roaster and master cupper by the Specialty Coffee Association. They are the nonprofit association promoting quality, education and fair market practices in the international coffee industry.”
While both Mills V and Lawton have responsibility for marketing and day-to-operations, their father and mother are still involved in the business and have a wealth of coffee experience to share. Their father Herschel Mills Duncan IV (the great-great grandson of the founder) is not yet ready to take a backseat position. “Let’s just say, I’m just riding shotgun on this venture now. Coffee is a business with lots of component parts. My wife Carolyn and I are here to share our knowledge, give guidance and to jump in where and when my sons need help.” Says Mills IV.
“Right now, as I see it, quality, customer service and retail sales are all equally,” says Mills V. “It is the basis of our vision going forward. We continue to look for top quality Arabica beans and usually only buy the top 2-3 percent. We also roast every order right before it ships. Chefs tell us that when our coffee arrives, it’s still warm. When they open a bag, everyone in the restaurant kitchen lights up when they take in the aroma of our fresh roasted coffee. This is how we guarantee a cup of coffee that tastes fresh and bold and has aromatic flavors that can satisfy today’s savvy and often demanding coffee drinkers.”
Duncan Coffee also has a growing number of premium quality teas as their customers see it as a healthy alternative both as a cold and hot beverage. This venture arose with the company’s relationship with Dilmah Tea, a Sri Lankan family tea company, one of the world's most experienced teamaker that focus on quality, authenticity and variety.