Listen to this article

by Cathy Deutsch
Photography by Justin Negard

Bob Mullins was not a coffee drinker, and he was well into his mid 30’s before he even tasted it. Shortly after his second son was born, Mullins began working two jobs – midnight to 6:00 a.m. loading trucks at Otto Brehm in Yonkers and a day job at the Bank of New York in Hartsdale. Eventually, he stopped working nearly round the clock and became employed in building management. But before he did, his friends made a suggestion that improved his day-to-day life.

“I was so tired, and everyone told me that I had to drink coffee,” he remembers. “So that’s how my coffee habit started. It was something to give me a little boost.”

Mullins purchased a glass Pyrex percolator and became captivated by the process. He appreciated watching the beans brew to the exact strength he preferred.

“I got really into fine-tuning,” Mullins explains.

One day, a friend made him a cup of coffee with a Chemex Coffeemaker (which is known for its distinct brewing style where the device/filter is placed directly over the mug and the freshly-brewed coffee simply drips in), and he was shocked by how different that cup tasted.

“It was the best cup of coffee I’d ever had in my life,” exclaims Mullins. “I could not believe how good that cup of coffee was. It spun my head!”

After that, Mullins dove deeper. He purchased a small professional roaster from Mill City Roasters in Minnesota and began to teach himself how to roast – he admits that, at first, a lot of beans went into the compost bin. Mullins watched a lot of YouTube tutorials and traveled to Minnesota in August 2019 to take a four-day intensive roasting course at Mill City Roasters.

And the bean goes on…

As Mullins began to get “very good results” roasting his own beans, his friends began to notice. Soon, he became their go-to purveyor.

“Friends, relatives and neighbors were really enjoying it, so I left the building management industry to start the coffee business,” he remembers.

It was time to make it official. As a professional guitarist and composer for over 45 years, Mullins wanted his new business name to fuse his two passions together. He decided on Note Perfect Coffee.

“Here’s the tie-in,” says Mullins, “the beans go through physical changes as they roast, so it’s almost like building a composition. You’re watching, hearing and smelling the beans, and you’re listening to the audible cues, like cracks and popping, as the beans expand. It builds up like a crescendo in a composition. It’s very exciting!”

“There’s a symbiotic, intuitive thing that happens if you’re paying attention and you’re open to it,” he continues. “It’s very similar to composing – the way the guitar vibrations begin to send overtones and harmonics to build a piece. It’s a really beautiful thing, paying attention to all the nuances. I think that’s what makes my coffee special.”

From house to market

After three years of roasting for friends and perfecting his brew, Mullins landed his first gig – completely by accident.

“One day, I went to Gossett’s Nursery in South Salem for flowers,” says Mullins. “I didn’t know they had a farmers market; I just wanted to get some flowers.”

While at Gossetts, Mullins spoke to Will Molneux, their nursery and farmers market manager, and commented that they had a bar with wine and craft beer but no coffee. 

“I told him they needed some good coffee here.”

Molneux invited Mullins to join the farmers market and Note Perfect Coffee became their sole coffee vendor during the summer of 2021. It took off from there.

“I’ve never had my own business before, so I am slowly building it on a local level,” he says. “It’s a wonderful feeling when people come to the market and regulars become friends.” 

Several of these customers-turned-friends now text him their orders whenever they’re running low. He then roasts their beans and drops them off at their home.

“You find out what people want,” he explains. “That’s one of the things that really helped me grow my business – I always learn something. There’s something really special about that.”

A coffee break(through)

Shortly after his summer 2021 success selling at Gossetts, Mullins was approached in the spring of 2022 to sell his bagged beans to Hilltop Hanover Farm in Yorktown. It was there that he got his next big break.

“I was selling my bagged coffee at Hilltop Hanover Farm and one of their clients loved my coffee,” he recalls. “She was associated with Caramoor and brought my coffee to their team, and they loved it.”

Caramoor served his coffee at their gala last year and also presented it to attendees in personal-sized bags. Caramoor then started selling Note Perfect Coffee at their concession stands, and it became the house coffee in 2022.

Mullins credits his dedication to high standards and stringent trial and error to achieve his preferred combination of beans and roast.

“I mainly buy beans from Ethiopia, Brazil and Guatemala,” Mullins explains. “They have to be fair trade, that’s first. I believe very strongly in that. I also named my company Note Perfect Coffee because I strive for it to be a great cup of coffee with every note being excellent.”

Being a coffee person

If you’re wondering, Mullins prefers his three daily cups of coffee to be made via the pour-over Chemex method that first inspired him to explore the world of coffee.

“When you’re testing your roast, one drinks it black,” he explains. ”You’re evaluating its flavors, the mouthfeel and the notes it gives because you don’t want anything to interfere with its character.

You need a clear sense of its personality. But people should drink it anyway it pleases them. There are no rules.” 

Having grown to supply several outlets, Mullins began roasting his beans in Peekskill at Ryze Coffee Collective in the summer of 2022.

On the back burner

Mullins’ next goal is to have his coffee served in more cafes and bagged beans in local stores.

This year, he also plans to make and post videos about the process of coffee making, featuring his music in the background.

“So really bringing the whole thing together, where the music and the coffee live together,” says Mullins. 

He is hoping that someday an opportunity will present itself to partner up and open a local cafe with live music featuring the talent of local musicians and artists. Of course, Note Perfect Coffee will be served.

Have your cup and drink it too

Though Mullins would love his coffee to be the cup of choice for all locals, there’s one person near and dear to him that simply can’t be tempted.

“My wife hates coffee,” he exclaims. “She has never tasted my coffee. Every morning, I make her a pot of loose-leaf tea. She gets a nice cup of high-quality tea, and she enjoys it every day. Taking pleasure in these small rituals is what life is about.”

This article was published in the May/June 2023 print edition of Katonah Connect.

Cathy Deutsch
+ posts

Cathy Deutsch is a resident of South Salem and a former local shopkeeper in Katonah and Mount Kisco. She previously wrote a restaurant column for The Country Shopper and is currently a contributor to several local publications. Additionally, Cathy’s personal essays have been published on noted on-line platforms including Dorothy Parker’s Ashes. “Writing has always been my passion, and I’m very excited to be writing for Connect to Northern Westchester,'' she says.