As you plan your trip to U.S. CoffeeChamps, check out this movie to see how the Kansas City coffee community started and grew.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
As we get closer to the United States Coffee Championships in Kansas City, Mo., we turn our attention to the KC community, coffee scene, and the folks who built it. We’ll be spending this entire week talking to folks who made the Kansas City coffee scene what it is, and providing insights and stories that go beyond the competition. Starting today up until the end of the competition, we’ll be dedicating our coverage to the City of Fountains, kicking off with how its coffee community began.
We reached out to a lot of folks in anticipation of the 2019 United States Coffee Championships, asking them about places to see, folks to talk to, and generally just to speak about their coffee community. Although many folks provided us with a number of different insights, almost all of them recommended we watch this movie about the Kansas City coffee culture.
The short movie, which clocks in at about 17 minutes, was made by students at Wichita State University, and details the history and evolution of the Kansas City coffee scene. “The baseline for coffee here is pretty good,” says Holly Bastin, coffee consultant and competition coach. “I think everyone here is going at it with the right intentions.” Along with Holly, a number of business owners and coffee pros, including 2013 World Barista Champion Pete Licata, Leah Shinkle, Austin Averill, Katie Evanson, Marty Roe, Aaron Duckworth, and Phillip Hall provide talking-head commentary about the KC coffee world.
Almost immediately, before we actually meet any of the main coffee players, folks are asked to talk about what makes their coffee community special. “We looked at the craft brewing industry … and all these breweries are collaborating and giving props to each other and not hiding their secrets. We kinda looked at that and thought, ‘We wish coffee culture could be like that,’” shares Mike Schroeder of Oddly Correct. “With very little input, it’s kinda evolved into that.”
“One of the awesome things about Kansas City is that nobody is really f**king up,” says Ian Davis of Blip Roasters. “You could come up with a list of 30 roasters and 20 cafés who are all putting out good quality product.”
Ian isn’t the only one to tout the community-focused aspects of KC’s coffee scene. “Kansas City is pretty tight-knit. Lots of people are big fans of coffee and the community that we’ve kinda created here,” says Mark Crow of Oddly Correct. “A lot of people bounce from shop to shop to shop—in terms of customers. And even people in the industry go around and get coffee from their friends.”
Most of the folks in the movie point to Broadway Coffee as the first real café in Kansas City. “Every single batch of coffee is interesting and different,” says Jon Cates, founder of Broadway Coffee, who started in the industry in 1992. Folks then point to a pivotal moment—a Starbucks opened up right down the street from Broadway. But quickly, Jon distinguished the coffee at Broadway and pushed the boundaries of what folks knew about coffee at that point in the late ’90s. “Is Seattle going to define what coffee is in Kansas City, or are we going to step up?”
Eventually, the Starbucks closed down; Jon notes, “It was the first Starbucks in the U.S. to close.” However, folks like Aaron Duckworth, Leah Shinkle, and Mike Schroeder point to Starbucks as their first foray into specialty coffee, noting that the way Starbucks asked baristas to pair coffees with pastries allowed them to open up their palates to new flavors.
Throughout the movie, you see folks from all over the community comment on how tight-knit everyone is. New shop openings are celebrated and welcomed, and competition is viewed as friendly and a way to push yourself more than to beat others.
If you’re curious to learn more, we highly encourage you check out this short film, and we can’t wait to see you all in one of KC’s amazing coffee shops next week!