BEYOND THE BOOTH: Black Sails Coffee
When you visit NeighborGood Market in West Sac, there is one thing you can always count on: The intoxicating smell of coffee. But it's not just any coffee. This is Black Sails Coffee. The award winning, one-man operation has become a staple at our West Sac market. Even those who don’t consider themselves “coffee people” have found his beans and brews to be irresistible.
So hoist the anchor and raise the black because it's time to sail Beyond The Booth at NeighborGood Market!
Meet The Captain
When you visit Black Sails, you can always look forward to friendly conversation from owner and coffee master Sean McCullough as he lovingly prepares your morning pour-over. The self-proclaimed “coffee pirate” is dedicated to brewing the best cup of coffee for his customers every week. But we've been wondering... where did this coffee master get his start?
While working for places like Starbucks and Naked Lounge, Sean’s love of learning and coffee set him on his path.
“I just took every opportunity I could to learn. Whatever chance I have to learn something, I like to take it.”
The classes and certification process at Starbucks opened up the doors that led to becoming a Coffee Master. “As a coffee master, you go more in depth about coffee. Learn how the plants grow, learn about the different growing regions, you can taste all the different coffees they have. You go through a couple different certification processes.”
Then, working at Naked Lounge is where he got the opportunity to become an apprentice coffee roaster. “I learned the art of coffee roasting through that for two years. Eventually, I became a head roaster at a coffee shop in Rocklin and then I started winning some awards.”
After realizing his talent, Sean said he had to ask himself, “Why am I winning awards for somebody else when I could do that for myself. So I started the business after that.”
The Black Flag Is Raised
In November of 2019, Black Sails was born. “I started in my kitchen with really small coffee roasters that looked like toaster ovens.” With a global pandemic hitting just after the beginning of his business, Sean relied solely on E-commerce to grow his business. With only an online presence, he had to get clever with how to expand.
On a whim, Sean decided to send a couple bags of beans to pro-skater Tony Hawk. Not expecting anything to come from it, he was surprised when he received a message on Instagram from Hawk asking him where he could get more. “He actually tried it which blew me away.” Soon enough, Hawk started posting about Black Sails on his Instagram and Facebook which both had millions of followers.
“That was a big boost to my business and a super cool moment because I’ve loved Tony Hawk my whole life. I still geek out over it.”
Buried Treasure Awaits Ye
With that momentum going, and having won awards for companies in the past, it was time to start winning them for himself. “There was a roasting tournament in Australia in 2020. You know, I’m just in my kitchen on a little toaster oven basically but I sent my coffee to Australia for this tournament.” Sean was up against sixteen other countries that are known for their coffee. Countries including Taiwan, the Philippines, and New Zealand. Many of the competitors were operating on a much larger scale and are very well known in their respective countries. “I was the only representative from America and I ended up winning a bronze medal against all these other countries. It was exciting for me because I was operating on a very very very small machine and relatively unknown.”
To add to his growing list of Awards, Sean recently took home two bronze medals in the Golden Bean North America, the world’s largest coffee roasting competition. In this tournament, Sean went up against hundreds of competing coffee roasters across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Want to try an award winning beverage? You're in luck! Check out his Pillage Espresso and Ethiopia Bombe Natural.
The Nicest Pirate You'll Ever Meet
Even after exceptional growth and publicity, Sean remains humble and loves being part of the NeighborGood community. He has gained many repeat customers and enjoys talking with them as he preps their coffee. “It’s really cool, especially having started during the pandemic and not having those customer interactions, being able to have a consistent market where I’m seeing the same kind of neighborhood people and building that rapport and being able to blow their minds with my product and have them think about it all week. For me that’s such a cool feeling because it makes me feel like they appreciate it.”
As opposed to Midtown being a larger market, Sean appreciates the small community that NeighborGood is creating. “Everyone is super thankful that something is going on in their community and we’re here. They thank me for being here…I love that kind of community vibe.”
Sean continues to work as a one-man operation and appreciates every customer he has gained from his experience. “For me, I roast my coffee with you in mind.” Black Sails is a perfect example of what it means to be part of NeighborGood where community is our core.
“Your money goes to a [much] better cause I feel like, and it stretches a lot further because I take that money and I’m spending it within the community. Especially right now with the recession looming and everything, it just makes the whole community better.”
You can learn more about Sean and Black Sails Coffee at his website or by visiting him every Saturday at NeighborGood Market: West Sac from 8am to 1pm at 400 Ballpark Drive. Just follow the smell of incredible coffee!