If you ever find yourself looking for low-budget, and awesome, things to do in Kansas City, consider heading over for a free tour of the The Roasterie, a local coffee company that operates cafes, distributes to businesses and restaurants, as well as sells coffee for your home. We saw online that they offer hour long tours of their roasting facility, located right in Kansas City, and decided to give it a try. Being a former barista myself, I was excited for this opportunity!
We arrived at The Roasterie early to make use of the wifi in their on-site cafe, and were greeted by a giant airplane on the roof of the building. We were later told that the plane was still amazingly fully operational and representative of the unique air-roasting technique they use to roast their coffee beans.
While working, I ordered a white chocolate, macadamia nut iced latte, which was delicious and not overly sweet, and did not need to be as their espresso had a very bright and sweet quality to it, despite my even ordering it in decaf (yes, even being a former barista, I am pretty caffeine intolerant). Later, during the tour, we would find that their decaf tasted so wonderful because they decaffeinate their beans simply by soaking them in hot water (the leftover caffeine is how they get green coffee bean extract), rather than using ethyl acetate to do so, which is the most common process for most of the decaf coffee we drink and which also strips the beans of a lot of their flavor. There can be arguments for both methods, but I can vouch that theirs was definitely better than average tasting!
We also noticed that they offered some nitro brews, which sounded delectable, but unfortunately did not venture to try any. John did, however, order an iced coffee, which was also very tasty.
We had reserved our spots for the tour online, which was recommended, but being a weekday and not overly crowded, it did not seem necessary. Our tour guide, Gage, was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and made for a very enjoyable experience!
The Roasterie was started by Danny O’Neill in 1993 as a small venture out of his basement. He initially used a coffee roasting machine that would be worth approximately $2500 in today’s dollars and sealed the bags of beans with an iron. It really drove home the fact that you do not need a lot to start out if you have a great concept and are passionate and hardworking enough to make your dream a success. The company was founded on the concept of air-roasting coffee, with a process that looks like popping corn and roasts the beans with very hot air, as opposed to the traditional method of roasting beans in vats by contact with heated metal. It also focuses on obtaining its beans directly from the farmers, with no middle man – I would say that is fair trade!
On the tour, we got to see the coffee roasting machinery they use today, which varies greatly in size so that they can evenly roast varying amounts of coffee dependent on the size of the order. Yes, their coffee is only roasted as it is ordered so that they can offer the freshest product possible, which I think is fantastic customer service.
We got a little background on how their different roasts, blends and flavored coffees are prepared and the differences between each one. We also learned that an average coffee tree only produces approximately 1.5 pounds of coffee fruits annually, which means that the average American consumes an average of four trees worth of crop per year! Pretty amazing.
We additionally learned about the preparation process for the beans. While they may be stored in a temperature controlled facility for up to two years, once they get to The Roasterie, they are only there for an average of three to four weeks before hitting the roaster and your coffee cup almost immediately after.
To conclude the tour, Gage offered up a tasting for all who were interested of their Viennese Blend, a light roast that was just as they describe it on their website – full-bodied, sweet, clean and refreshing with a light acidity. Despite typically liking darker roasts, I found this very tasty, being delightfully surprised to find a full-bodied, low acidity light roast. During the tasting and throughout the tour, Gage was extremely open to answering any questions about The Roasterie and about coffee in general. Given how knowledgeable he was on every question thrown at him, you could tell that the employees there are passionate about what they do!
Overall, I would highly recommend this experience as there is even more to learn than I have explained here and they seem like a great company to support. We will definitely be ordering their products soon!