Hemisphere Coffee Roasters Grows Through Coffee Cart Business
Hemisphere Coffee Roasters has been in business in Central Ohio for a decade, though you may have only heard of them more recently. This Mechanicsburg-based roasting and wholesale business launched a coffee trailer in Clintonville last month and has been serving up customers on a stretch of Indianola that was previously a coffee-free zone.
We spoke recently with Roast Master Hans Hochstedler and his wife and communications guru Joelle to find out more about the roasting business and how the new cart is brining new awareness to their mission.
Q: First, can you tell us a bit about the history of Hemisphere Coffee Roasters?
A: My wife’s parents founded Hemisphere Coffee Roasters 10 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. Paul began importing small lots of coffee and selling the roasted beans as a hobby. As the business grew, Diego Chavarria, the farmer in Nicaragua, advised him that to really make a difference, he needed to buy a whole container (37,500 pounds) 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 6 to 11 Direct-Trade coffees (depending on availability) and showcase these at the HCR Trailer. Hemisphere supplies businesses, cafes, restaurants, churches, markets, and gift shops.
My wife Joelle and I got involved in the company about four 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.
Q: From your website it sounds like the majority of your business has been through wholesale to other retail outlets. What attracted you to want to open a coffee cart?
A: Our Roastery is located in Mechanicsburg, Ohio, about 25 miles North West 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. 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 Hemisphere 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.
So, in August, I quit my remodeling job and went full time with Hemisphere. 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, so the trailer allows flexibility in schedule and location. We can also test out locations without the upfront costs of a storefront 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.
Q: So what drew you to the location in Clintonville for the cart?
A: We looked for a high-traffic area in Clintonville, specifically on Indianola Ave., because there were no espresso-based drink options on this busy street. This spot has plenty of parking and is easily accessible to cars, and within walking distance of many homes. Plus the folks at Beechwold Barber Shop and Clintonville Beauty Salon have been so generous and great to work with. We also live nearby, which is really convenient.
Q: How has the cart been received so far by customers?
A: We’ve been open for a month and have had such a warm reception! We feel so grateful for the response from the community. I’m getting to know peoples’ names and remember their drink. It’s validating to see repeat customers. All our coffees are Direct-Trade, and we do pour-overs for all brewed coffee, though we are going to offer French Press soon for people in a hurry. The favorites so far are our Ethiopia Yirgacheffe for a light roast, and Papua New Guinea for a dark roast. We’re seeing more and more people buy 12 ounce bags of beans to brew at home. We sell a lot of mochas and chai now that it’s fall, and my wife makes these great granola bars that go really quickly.
Q:Are there any upcoming events at the cart that our readers should know about?
A: We will be a vendor at The Speakmon Memorial regatta, a rowing competition at Griggs Reservoir on October 13th. We have a few weddings and corporate events in the works, and would love to pick up more events like this.
Q:How late into the winter season will you be operating the cart?
A: The plan it be open through the winter. I’m working on winterizing the trailer, and getting a patio heater so people don’t freeze as they wait for their coffee.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: We use our twitter and facebook page to update people on our hours and locations. We’ve also 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.
More information can be found online at www.hemispherecoffeeroasters.com.