You can thank a goat herder for that cup of steaming hot coffee you had this morning. In 850 AD, an Ethiopian goat herder is credited with discovering coffee after seeing some of his goats eat plants that gave them energy. He tried it, too. And, viola! Coffee was born.
Today, coffee companies galore saturate the marketplace – canned coffee, coffee beans, and specialized coffee makers. Gone are the days of the metal percolator that Grandma used. Today, we have espresso makers, one-cup Keurigs, etc. It seems you can’t go farther than a block without seeing a coffee shop.
How does a company corner its market of the coffee bean and its wonderment? In Kansas City, The Roasterie refuses to leave any leaf unturned in its pursuit of the best coffee available in the world. The company buys its coffee from 31 countries.
The Roasterie uses a DC3 as its logo. The plane, which is positioned above the company’s plant and café, symbolizes the company’s commitment to travel the world for the best coffee, Kansas City’s aviation history and the American Spirit.
I’m impressed with the style used for the company’s name. It has a very 1940s feel. Paired with the DC3, I felt like it looked a black-and-white movie. I half-expected Humphrey Bogart to climb out of the plane.
The Roasterie serves espresso bars, coffee houses, fine restaurants, hotels and high-end grocers. It also has retail accounts, office accounts and other coffee lovers around the world, according to its website. The Roasterie is the official coffee of the Major league Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City team.
The company is the brainchild of Danny O’Neill, who goes by the title of Bean Baron. O’Neill, a Denison, Iowa, native fell in love with coffee during a high school exchange program. He traveled to Costa Rico, where he helped pick coffee beans. The experience “ignited” his love for coffee.
He decided to venture off and start his own business in 1993, following a decade of sales and marketing work after college. The Iowa State and Rockhurst University grad started The Roasterie in the basement of his house in Kansas City. The roaster was in the basement. He bagged the product elsewhere at home.
O’Neill founded The Roasterie based on three basic premises: To find the best coffees in the world, to roast them the best way known to man, and get them to his customers as fast as humanly possible, according to the company website. In 2001 he was awarded “Super Taster” status on the Specialty Coffee Institute Sensory Aptitude Test.
O’Neill eventually moved the company out of his Brookside basement and to the factory near downtown Kansas City. The plant employs about 50 people, with about 10 of them committed to the production side.
The plant uses a large roaster, which requires at least 300 lbs. of beans for use.
However, for smaller orders, The Roasterie turns to “Baby.” The original roaster that O’Neill used at his house still is used to roast beans.
We took a free tour of the plant during a visit to Kansas City. The tour lasts about an hour and was very informative.
The trip to the production floor featured a look at green coffee beans. They are the best for coffee, according to our guide. They have an infinite shelf life, but are usually used within 4-5 years. Ideally, the beans will have a water density of 16-20 percent.
The Roasterie uses only Arabica beans, which are grown in higher elevations. They air roast the beans, similar to a popcorn machine, which sends hot air from the base of the roaster. Beans are typically roasted at about 680 degrees Fahrenheit. A light roast lasts 12-14 minutes. A dark roast – also known as Italian – lasts about 18 minutes.
Once the beans are roasted, they’re moved to the packaging area of the floor. The packaging process includes removing oxygen from the bag, to help extend the bean’s shelf life.
The Roasterie has three cafes and a coffee shop in the Metro area. The cafes are located in Leawood, Kansas, at the plant and Brookside. The coffee shop is located at the Hen House in Prairie Village, Kansas.
Lisa and I enjoyed a sugar-free vanilla latte and split an almond croissant (yum!) during our visit. The lattes were outstanding. The barista designed each of our drinks with a heart on top. That added a great touch.
Simeon Bricker – the quality control manager – AKA Professor Bean has finished in the top 2 of the US Latte Art Championships. He won the title in 2014, before finishing second this year.
The Roasterie’s factory location has an interesting appearance. The café and store has an airplane seat, where people can don a variety of hats and pose for pictures in front of the company logo.
The Roasterie, whether or not you’re a coffee drinker, is a fun place to check out in Kansas City.
For more information on The Roasterie, check out its website at www.theroasterie.com.