Toledo coffee aids Food for ThoughtWritten by Matt Liasse | | email@example.com
Toledoan Lance Roper comes up with his best ideas when he drinks coffee.
“Coffee has the ability to be a catalyst for creativity,” he said. “My idea to start a coffee roasting company happened over a cup of coffee.”
For two years, Roper has roasted coffee beans with his company, Actual Coffee. His goal is to bring ethically sourced coffee to Toledo, benefiting both the company and the farmers growing the beans.
“A lot of the corporate giants don’t want people to know that really poor people grow our coffee. They want to shield that because it doesn’t make you feel good,” Roper said. “One of the things I’m trying to work against is that. I’m going to show everyone where my coffee comes from, who grows it and I’m going to be really proud of it because they’re getting sometimes quadruple what fair trade would pay and we’re working together to make the coffee industry more sustainable as a whole.”
In February, Roper started a Kickstarter campaign to buy a roaster to process mass quantities of coffee beans.
On March 3, he met his goal of $15,000; he said it was an emotional roller coaster.
“It’s a nightmare,” he said. “Kickstarter’s amazing … but the amount that people pledge changes so much. You get a spike in the beginning, nothing in the middle and then a spike near the end. It just messes with your head the entire time.”
Roper said he didn’t have a plan for if he didn’t get enough funds for the roaster.
“That was such a crazy time in my life,” he said. “I had just gotten engaged, my brother was getting married … life was really busy.”
Roper said he was also in full-time training for his job in tech support at Apple at the time.
Roper watched his campaign end while he was filling the role of best man at his brother’s wedding. The Kickstarter app on his iPhone would notify him whenever someone would pledge. He said he couldn’t celebrate the victory properly because of the wedding.
“It was more about celebrating my brother’s wedding. … I was trying to do a speech last minute,” he said.
With the funds, Roper purchased a used roaster the size of a refrigerator from outside of Phoenix, Ariz. It is now in a storefront on Superior Street, a few doors down from where he lives in Rossford. It’s “way better” than the home roaster he was using before, he said.
“The coffee that I roast now taste so much better,” Roper said. “It’s much more of a manual process, but the results are incredible.”
With the roaster, Roper can roast seven pounds of beans every 15 minutes.
“I have to be careful: I can roast way more coffee than what I can sell,” Roper said.
Roper has increased sales online at actualcoffee.com. He started a subscription service, where customers can have coffee delivered to them every other week for $25 (for one pound) or $35 (for two pounds).
Roper is looking for more wholesale partners. He said he wants to cooperatively work with clients to make the coffee they serve the best it can be. He currently sells bags at The Flying Joe in Perrysburg’s Levis Commons for $8-$9.
Roper recently began a partnership with Toledo’s Food For Thought. He said he and Food for Thought’s Chief Thought Officer Sam Melden “go way back.”
“Food For Thought and Actual Coffee have similar values and similar missions,” Roper said. “Food For Thought is a social justice system that brings food to the hungry people of Toledo. Actual Coffee kind of does the same thing but on a global perspective.”
Roper said he is also passionate about benefiting the people of his hometown.
“If someone buys a bag of Food For Thought coffee, Food For Thought can turn that into 20 or more pounds of food. That one bag has a lot of impact,” Roper said.
He said he’s been thinking about what a coffee shop would do to an area that isn’t innovated.
“When someone sits inside a coffee shop and has a delicious cup of coffee, what kinds of ideas do they have, what do they later go out and do with that idea?” he said. “It opens up brainwaves that you otherwise wouldn’t have. I don’t know the science behind that; it’s more than just caffeine.”
For more information, contact Roper at firstname.lastname@example.org.