Unlocked Coffee Roasters has expanded its business to include a coffee shop on Perry Avenue and is already a favorite of many BJU students.
Unlocked began as an online business selling retail and wholesale coffee in October 2018 before opening its brick-and-mortar coffee shop in September 2020. The company is owned by husband and wife Andres Camrago and Rocio Salazar. Coffee is part of the couple’s cultural heritage, and the Colombian immigrants make sure to include their roots in their coffee.
“We wanted to have something that made us feel closer to home but also something of our own,” Camrago said. “We asked God to give us an idea of what would be the route to go. Everything started sparkling and showing us coffee was the way He was leading us to.”
Camrago said the shop is unique because Unlocked keeps a connection between different cultures. Camrago said Unlocked is sure to keep their Hispanic-Latino touch in everything they do.
In addition to the shop’s signature lattes, espressos and more, the shop serves tea, breakfast smoothies, fruit bowls and baked items, including avocado toast, bagels and pandebono, a Colombian cheese bread Camrago said is the coffee shop’s superstar.
The industrial-style shop itself has plenty of individual and group seating for patrons. Camrago takes care to speak to his customers and introduce himself, welcoming them to the shop. He said he has already met a few BJU students who have become regulars.
“We wanted a place that people felt comfortable coming in and enjoy everything we do as part of a family,” Camrago said. “People love to come and be able to be at a table when even someone is at the other side. They don’t get interrupted by noise, and they feel the atmosphere is great.”
Esdras Borges, a BJU graduate student, finds Unlocked a great place to study due to its spaciousness. “I love the coffee shop atmosphere for studying,” Borges said. “I think because it’s a good specialty coffee, I’m more excited about being there.”
The shop’s house-roasted coffee beans come from all over the world, including Colombia, Ethiopia and Costa Rica. Their newest coffee is a Rwandan bean for pour-over style coffee brewing.
Borges said his go-to coffee is their pour-over. “They have a lot of good Colombian beans,” Borges said. “There’s one called paramo that’s a really good one.” Borges also enjoys the shop’s signature pandebono.
The beans are roasted in-house by Camrago and part-time employee Michael Dunlop, a BJU seminary student. Dunlop said he started roasting coffee about 10 years ago from home before buying a used roaster from another local Greenville coffee shop, Methodical Coffee.
After familiarizing himself with the roaster he kept in his garage, Dunlop learned from Borges, a friend and fellow home coffee roaster, that Camrago was looking for a part-time roaster at his new business. Dunlop took the opportunity.
Camrago and Dunlop take great care in roasting Unlocked’s beans. Dunlop said roasting the beans is essentially burning the coffee from green coffee beans to brown coffee beans. “Obviously there’s a lot that goes on,” Dunlop said. “It’s driving off a lot of moisture at the beginning, and then throughout the roast, there are lots of chemical reactions that are happening and acids that are transforming, sugars that are degrading and transforming.”
“Ultimately at the end of it, you’re wanting to come out with a really good expression of what the coffee had in it from the farm,” Dunlop said. “You don’t really want to roast away all of the nuances of the original coffee,” Dunlop said.
Unlocked tries to preserve the sweetness, fruity notes or any other particular flavors in each type of coffee beans. “You’re actually tasting really clear, sweet and bright flavors,” Dunlop said.
Camrago said as first-time business owners, the learning curve of owning and running a business was even more challenging with COVID-19. “No one expects to open a business in the middle of a pandemic,” Camrago said. “COVID either will be our strength builder or our killer.” Nevertheless, Camrago said he and his wife love their new business. “We are doing what we love, and when you do so, [it’s] just going to your dream job every day,” Camrago said.