Local hopes to get a ‘kickstart’ on coffee roasterWritten by Matt Liasse | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lance Roper fell in love with coffee, like many people, at Starbucks.
He would visit a friend who worked at the former location in Fallen Timbers. One day, Roper’s friend let him flip through a user manual.
“I probably wasn’t allowed to read [it],” Roper said.
He found it interesting that different continents produce different flavors of coffee. Soon after, he bought a French press and started making coffee regularly.
“I became known as the coffee guy after that,” Roper said.
For two years, Roper has roasted his own beans with his company, Actual Coffee. With a goal of bringing ethically-sourced coffee to Toledo, Roper roasts beans at home to sell. Roper means to benefit the coffee company and the farmers growing the beans.
“When we care about the coffee that we roast, we can get way better tasting coffee as well,” Roper said. “It’s mutually beneficial for everyone.
“In our area, it’s my belief that we really have poor coffee quality, generally speaking,” Roper said. “The majority of the people around here don’t know what they’re missing out on and as a result … they’re drinking coffee that isn’t as good. But they have to drink it because they have to wake up.”
His beans are available at actualcoffee.com. He also sells bags at The Flying Joe in Perrysburg’s Levis Commons and Bleak House Coffee on Madison Avenue for $8-$9.
“Right now, I’m paying for coffee to be imported and shipped to me,” Roper said. “I’m paying for that service from a company [in San Francisco] that I trust ethically. But, I do have to pay for that, and it makes it more expensive.”
But because of demand, he would like to take the next step with his business. He would like to own his own coffee shop one day, but for now is hoping to purchase the San Franciscan SF-6, an American-made coffee roaster that costs $15,000.
“I’m not huge on all-American stuff,” Roper said. “I’m not going to buy a Chevy over a BMW because it’s American. I don’t think that necessarily communicates quality. But in the case of this roaster, it absolutely does.”
The bigger roaster will allow Roper to roast mass quantities of beans so he can start selling it to more people.
“Right now, not many people know they can buy coffee from me and I keep it that way only because I couldn’t produce it,” Roper said. “There are a lot of restaurants and coffee shops that want to buy my coffee because they’ve had it and they love it but my capacity in the roaster that I have now just won’t allow that.”
Roper said expanding his business will also allow him to bring different flavors of coffee to the area.
“It’ll make the coffee taste better too, honestly,” Roper said. “The roaster that I have now is really small. It’s not really the most useful machine.”
In order to purchase the new roaster, Roper took to the funding platform Kickstarter.com. The site explains Roper’s story and what the money will be going toward.
“I’m a young guy,” Roper said. “It’s difficult to get funding for me. I’m not quite the profile that a bank wants to lend to. So Kickstarter is one of my few options, actually.”
Roper said this is a chance for the people of Toledo to help their community grow.
“I care about the city,” Roper said. “I want to give back to the city.”
Roper said he has been watching the Kickstarter pledges obsessively. The campaign lasts until 8:58 a.m. March 3. If the goal is not reached, Roper doesn’t get any money.
There are also gifts included in the pledges people can make: For those who pledge $5, Roper will send a handwritten postcard, $15 gets an Actual Coffee mug, $25 is a pound of Actual Coffee beans and pledging $30 gets an Actual Coffee T-shirt. Pledgers can give more, if they wish.
As of Feb. 25, Roper has been pledged $10,002 of the needed $15,000. To make a pledge, visit this Kickstarter page.