Consider this readers, of the 100 plus mobile vendors in Columbus, none of them do coffee. A few set up lame coffee in a pot to serve for special occasions but not on a daily or weekly basis. There is a coffee trike on the way but not out on the streets yet. The missing link in mobile vending is coffee. Almost every morning or evening event I have been to (herding mobile vendors) has been missing one product that 100’s of people were looking for: coffee. It could have been bad coffee and people would have bought gallons of it. But, imagine if you will, what if someone took good coffee to the masses? Hemisphere Coffee Roasters have been at it for a week now and I wish them well and I think they are going to do well in there spot (and any other location they can find to set up a serve).
Posted below is an interview with Hans who owns and runs the trailer with his wife Joelle.
A little history first… My wife’s parent’s founded Hemisphere Coffee Roasters ten years ago after learning about the plight of a coffee farmer in Nicaragua. Paul Kurtz, my father-in-law, traveled to Nicaragua often because of his position at a Christian Missions agency. He began importing small lots of coffee and selling the roasted beans as a hobby. As the business grew, Diego Chavarria, the coffee farmer in Nicaragua, advised him that to really make a difference, he needed to buy a whole container (37,500 lbs) of coffee. Paul found investors and imported that first container in 2007. Since then, we have imported seven containers, with more in the works. These purchases have allowed Diego to employ workers full-time, make improvements to the farm, support local churches and pay off his loans to the bank and own his farm outright. In return, this Direct-Trade relationship insures quality coffee. We travel to Nicaragua frequently, see the coffee that is being prepared for us and spend time getting to know Diego and his family, soaking up their incomparable hospitality. This is better than Fair Trade, because we know the exact farmer our coffee comes from, what he is getting paid and what processes he is using to cultivate the beans. He shares with us his financial needs, we provide micro-loans and financing, and are granted premium coffee in return. Since meeting Diego, we have connected with other companies and non-profits who are doing the same thing we are, helping a specific farm. We offer six to eleven Direct-Trade coffees (depending on availability) and showcase these at the HCR Trailer. HCR supplies businesses, cafes, restaurants, churches, markets and gift shops.
My wife Joelle and I got involved in the company about 4 years ago. My wife does a lot of book work, customer relations, and filling and shipping orders. I roast most of the coffee, and work on flavor profiling, following trends in the coffee world, and really anything that needs done around the shop. Our Roastery is located in Mechanicsburg, Ohio about 25 miles Northwest of Columbus. We live in and love Columbus and have been dreaming for years about how to mesh our coffee life in Mechanicsburg and our home life in Columbus. Plus, we love coffee! The more I research, read, and learn about coffee, the more I fall in love with this versatile commodity. I had been working part-time for HCR and part-time for a remodeling company, but found myself dreaming about coffee; Perfecting a roast, sampling new Direct-Trade offerings, getting my latte art down pat. In August, I quit my remodeling job and went full-time with HCR. This trailer allows us to bring Direct-Trade coffees to Columbus, something we are passionate about! I still roast in Mechanicsburg, and those demands can vary week to week. The trailer allows flexibility in schedule and location. We had a great reception at the Ohio Food Truck and Cart Festival a few weeks ago and have several other festivals slated. The trailer also allows us to test out locations without the upfront costs of rent and utilities. It’s a low-risk way to start a business, even though it feels like a high-risk to quit my steady job and support my wife an daughter in this way.
Where did you’re passion and knowledge come from?
I think I first fell in love with people. I loved the coffee shop atmosphere and wondered what was behind it. I learned about HCR while in college, and became curious about the roasting aspect. I grew up in rural Ontario, CA (4 hours from a Wal Mart!), and spent my high school years in small town Kalona, IA. I moved to Columbus after Paul offered to take me under his wing. I got in way over my head, marrying his daughter, but this is good. I learned to roast and read anything I could get my hands on about coffee. I’ve attended events, workshops, and meetings about how to offer quality coffee with compassion in mind, how to help farmers without being a charity. This is at the heart of HCR. Coffee is very subjective it’s up to each individual to decide if they like it or not! But there are industry standards and we strive to be at the cutting edge of those standards. Whether it’s Direct-Trade brokerage, pour-over techniques, or fourth-wave espresso blends. I’ve traveled to Nicaragua and Costa Rica to see coffee at it’s roots. It’s easy to fall in love with coffee once you’ve seen how it’s grown, harvested, processed, and how it affects the individual farmer. We want to do this Direct-Trade coffee justice and treat it with the respect it deserves!
What types of jobs and food service training did you have before opening the HCR trailer?
I’ve worked in the food service industry and my wife was a manager at a coffee shop for a few years. HCR has a small cafe we both work at. We’ve gotten a good sense of what people are looking for and always strive to make them happy. You can have the best coffee in the world, sourced form the most sustainable farm, but if no one likes it, who cares! We want to please people and offer education. I remember thinking, “what’s this latte thing?” We want to present the best latte possible, and don’t look down on people just getting in to coffee. There’s something for everyone in the coffee world, and it’s an exciting industry to be apart of.
What are your plans for additional food or baked goods?
We would love to offer more food options. My wife makes granola bars that will make you swoon. We also have vegan, gluten-free hot cereals form Earnest Eats that will fill you up. We are just getting started and trying to feel out the needs of our customers, but we’d love to partner with local food businesses. Expanding our menu is a work in progress.
Anything else you want people to know about HCR and the trailer?
We’ve learned of the hospitable benefits of coffee, a beverage that brings people together. We are just one small trailer, but we’re backed by our company that is excellent in providing coffee to businesses and organizations. If you need coffee, let us know! We have competitive pricing and you can know that your purchase is benefiting coffee farmers around the globe.