Karen Blankenzee has been on a journey that began in in her native South Korea, took her to Australia and New Zealand before landing her and her new husband in Florida. But it wasn’t until an extended trip back to Seoul that she found her current passion: coffee.
And while she has had a coffee roasting business in Longwood for several years, she will soon have her first coffee shop when Rosso Coffee Bar opens in the Marketplace at Avalon Park.
During that long trip back to South Korea, Blankenzee, 49, found herself with a lot of time on her hands. So a friend who owned a growing chain of coffee shops – “Korean people live on caffeine,” she said – suggested she attend his company’s coffee roasting lab. She was fascinated by the process and set out to learn everything she could about it, earning a certificate to be a professional coffee taster.
When she returned to Central Florida, she set about making her newfound passion her profession.
Her business in Longwood, Rosso Specialty Coffee, is officially permitted as a manufacturing space and so she can only roast the beans there. Customers come in and buy bags of roasted beans and she sells to some restaurants and coffee bars. But she really wanted to have a place where she could serve customers her carefully brewed coffee.
A customer suggested she have a look at Avalon Park and when she visited she was surprised by the dearth of coffee shops. But most of the available retail space was too big for the kind of shop she had in mind. So when she heard about the Marketplace at Avalon Park, an upscale food hall scheduled to open soon, she thought that would be ideal.
She even moved to Avalon Park. (And became a U.S. citizen in 2019.)
Blankenzee, pictured at left, said that visitors to her coffee bar will be able to tell the difference in the quality of her specialty beans, which she roasts to medium. “I hate when people say ‘coffee is coffee,’” she said. “My coffee doesn’t have the harsh bitterness,” she said. “Even if you drink espresso you’ll find it very smooth.”
Rosso Coffee Bar will specialize in espresso based coffees, but Blankenzee says she’ll also offer pour-over brews as well as a line of high-end teas.