Chow Town

Kansas City’s coffee community competitive, but tight-knit

Updated: 2013-07-03T21:00:22Z

Cities like Seattle and Portland are known for their coffee culture, but they’ve got nothin’ on Kansas City when it comes to coffee community.

Three of the region’s best roasters started here two decades ago. Since then, Broadway Café and Roasting Co. and PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. have earned national recognition for their coffees, while The Roasterie’s upped the coffee ante across the metro.

And plenty of smaller roasters, local coffee shops and baristas have since filled in the gaps.

Are they competitive? Sure. But they’re also some of the most collegial coffee folks you’ll meet anywhere, and that was clearly on display during last weekend’s JamJam2.

A Curly’s Q BBQ truck blocked off About the Coffee’s parking lot where face-painted kids roamed freely. Grown-ups relaxed in lawn chairs and listened to music performed by a handful of coffee types, among them Eddie Delahunt of the recently closed Café &, barista Sadie Colwell, Emily McIntyre (beverage industry writer), Jeff Stottle of Foo’s Fabulous Frozen Custard in Leawood, barista Brent Lee and Oddly Correct’s Gregory Kolsto and Mike Schroeder.

Baristas from Oddly Correct, Benetti’s Coffee Experience and Parisi Artisan Coffee worked the “4th Bar,” pulling espresso shots, making pour-overs and serving affogato, that sublime Italian creation of vanilla ice cream doused with espresso.

Thing is, gatherings like this aren’t unusual, says Tooti Roe of About the Coffee, the retail arm of coffee service company Service Call.

“They just really like each other and enjoy spending time together,” Roe says of Kansas City’s coffee pros.

Parisi in June hosted a Cup Taster’s Competition, with six flights of three cups of coffee each — contestants had to identify the odd cup in each grouping.

A watch party saw Parisi’s Pete Licata capture the World Barista Championship title.

Baristas have strutted their stuff at latte art throwdowns at Crossroads Coffeehouse and Quay Coffee, and have road trips to similar events at Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis and PT’s café in Topeka.

Along the way, participants have raised money for the staff of JJ’s Restaurant, Finca Santa Maria — a Colombian coffee farm PT’s buys from that was recently raided by bandits — and others.

Events are low-key and usually promoted via social media, like on Facebook’s Cowtown Throwdowns and KansasCityCoffeeCalendar pages. There’s no attitude, just a true sense of trying to grow, improve and share, Roe says.

“It just seems that everyone is trying to encourage and support each other and help others along the way,” she says. “It’s very nice to see.”

Anne Brockhoff is an award-winning spirits writer who writes a monthly column for The Star’s Food section, as well as food features. She blogs at food_drink_ life.wordpress.com .

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