by Noor Hindi

“This is where the magic happens,” says Johnna Economou, gesturing to the giant coffee roaster inside Pearl Coffee Company.

Since childhood, coffee has been the epicenter of Johnna’s life. She started drinking coffee in grade school and spent parts of her upbringing delivering coffee to restaurants in Akron with her dad, John N. Economou. By her mid-20s, Johnna could tell you the exact type of bean and its roast from one sip of coffee.

Pearl Coffee Company opened in 1919 and is the brainchild of Johnna’s grandfather, Nicholas Economou, and his brothers. They emigrated to America after growing up in Greece and then later spent time in Cairo, Egypt, where they worked for a coffee company and learned different roasting techniques.

“Roasting is like an art,” Johnna says. “It depends on the type of quality beans you have, time, temperature, and the way it’s roasted and the way it’s ground.”

Johnna started working at the family business after graduating from The University of Akron. She remembers the first few years on the job, when she would do coffee tastings with her dad.

“We had a small roaster so we could do each bean, like a Brazil, or a Columbian, or a Tanzanian. And he would sit there and say, ‘OK, what do you taste? Does it have a wine-y taste to it? Does it have a sour taste to it? Is it earthy? Does it have a little bit of a cocoa undertone?’”

Today, Pearl Coffee Company sells more than 60 different flavored coffee choices. Johnna is the president and owner of the company. She says the most popular choice for customers is the Diana Restaurant Blend, which is their lightest roast and features an undertone of cocoa.

When I ask what goes in the blend, she replies, “I’m not going to tell you because that’s our family secret. If I tell you, I have to kill you.”

Each time a new batch of coffee is roasted, Johnna tastes it to make sure it’s good.

“This is her life. She can drink a cup of coffee and she can tell when it’s off,” says general manager Elizabeth Campbell. Elizabeth has been working at Pearl Coffee Company for about 15 years.

To celebrate Pearl Coffee Company’s 100th anniversary, Johnna is planning to have an open house in October so customers can visit the shop, explore the building and learn how coffee is roasted.

In the meantime, Johnna says the construction in front of Pearl Coffee Company has been a challenge, and she encourages people to visit and try their coffee. (In fact, if you visit Pearl Coffee Company and mention this article between May 22 and the end of the year, Johnna will give you a $1 discount on a pound of coffee as part of their centennial celebration!)

Visiting Pearl Coffee Company for the first time? Johnna recommends the following coffees:

  • The Scandinavian Morning Blend, which was created by Johnna’s father, and includes a mix of the Italian roast, French roast, European roast and the regular roast.  
  • If you like flavored coffee, the Jonnette French Silk, which is similar to French silk pie and has a subtle chocolate flavor with a hint of whipped cream.

Pearl Coffee Company grounds are also available at Acme.

Pearl Coffee Company
675 South Broadway St.
Open Monday-Friday from 8 am – 5 pm and Saturdays from 8am – 12pm
330-253-7184

Noor Hindi is The Devil Strip’s Senior Reporter. Email her at noor@thedevilstrip.com.

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