Most coffee drinkers have been aware of Impero for the past two years, following the opening of their Short North cafe. But master roaster and business partner Matt Sontag has nearly a decade of roasting experience under his belt. Impero roasts their coffee blends off site in a Grove City facility, which is closer to their second cafe at 3041 Turnberry Drive, which they opened just under a year ago.
Impero’s roasting knowledge will be on full display at the upcoming North Market Coffee Roast, which takes place on Saturday, March 31st. We spoke with Matt recently to get the scoop on the history of their roasting business, and to find out more about how the coffee culture is changing in Columbus:
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the history of your business?
A: We have two shops, one in the Short North, one in Grove City. We have been in the roasting business for nine years, which we wholesale to restaurants, churches and businesses. We started out because we loved coffee, and it was hard to find good coffee around the area.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the sourcing of your coffee beans or coffee products?
A: We buy green coffee from several different sources. We try to find the best coffee, while maintaining fair practices with coffee farmers. We have a direct trade coffee from El Salvador, as well as several Fair Trade certified coffees, and also a Cup Of Excellence award winning coffee from Rwanda.
Q: Where do you get the other products that you offer in your cafes, such as your baked goods?
A: We try to source most of our food products locally. We utilize other bakeries and restaurants around Columbus for most of our food items. We also use Snowville Creamery for milk. We try to keep most of our products fair trade and organic if possible.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about how your baristas are trained for drink preparation?
A: Most of our baristas have four to five years of experience, and have a true love for coffee and their job. They are good at latte art, proper drink preparation, and the fundamentals behind the business.
Q: What do your baristas do to help educate customers on coffee culture, technique and sourcing?
A: We try to explain — when time is available — what the drinks are and how they should be made. Many people still think a Macciatto is a 20-ounce drink with caramel sauce smothered on top. Further more, we try to educate the consumers on the difference between independent “fresh roasted” coffee houses and the chain cafes. There are a lot of aspects to the coffee trade that most people are misinformed of, and we try to explain the differences to them.
Q: Do you think that has helped to improve the coffee culture in Columbus in the past five to ten years?
A: Five to ten years ago there was a very small handful of roasters in the Columbus area. Now, they are popping up all over the place. Having more exposure to good coffee can definitely help the coffee scene. Our only complaint is that a lot of small roasters spend too much time “competing amongst themselves” instead of working together for the common good. We all have an area in which we can add to the coffee scene in Columbus, and working together can definitely raise the level of consumer awareness in the area. We should be competing against the large commercial places that miseducate the consumers instead of competing against each other. All too often that causes people to steer away from good coffee instead of seek it out.
Q: Lastly, what we can expect from Impero at the North Market Coffee Roast on March 31st?
A: Impero will be featuring a Rwanda Cup Of Excellence coffee, as well as a Fair Trade, Organic Ethiopian Sidamo. These are two of the top coffees that we have, and will show the differences between these different coffees.
More information can be found online at www.imperocoffee.com.