The Short North is already a good place to find coffee, between Cup O Joe, Travonna and Impero, and soon another option will be added to the mix. One Line Coffee is a new roastery in Heath, Ohio with a focus on fresh products and sustainable practices.
We spoke recently with One Line co-Founder Dave Forman to talk about the new Short North store and to find out what they’ll be previewing at the upcoming North Market Coffee Roast next weekend.
Q: One Line Coffee is a relatively new roaster, but you have a longer history with coffee, correct?
A: We started in on the retail scene in Granville about nine years ago as River Road Coffeehouse. We’re a father and son business, and have operated as 50/50 partners since the beginning. About five and a half years ago, we opened a second location in Newark. Upon some serious introspection, we decided to start roasting coffee in 2009, and developed the One Line Coffee brand. In 2010, we opened a roasting facility in Heath. As of January 1, 2012, we’ve broken One Line Coffee off of River Road Coffeehouse and made it its own business, in preparation of the opening of a new concept store at 745 North High Street in the Short North.
Q: So it sounds like you’re involved in all aspects of the coffee business?
A: One Line Coffee is first and foremost focused on roasting and sourcing. We will be doing a little retail at 745 North High, but we will focus primarily on wholesale. Our storefront is designed to be a lot of different things, from retail coffee bar to cupping lab, training facility to what we’re calling a wholesale “portal”. The idea is to bring potential customers in to show them what our coffees are capable of being. This means helping our wholesale customers learn how to brew coffee for their customers, and helping our retail customers learn how to brew at home. Above all, we want to show people what coffee can taste like.
Q: Where does One Line source its beans?
A: When we initially started roasting, we wanted to make sure that our sourcing practices were as important to us as our roasting practices. We strive to source ethical, sustainable coffee, and try to educate our consumers about the coffees they’re drinking. To achieve this, we source primarily single farm or small coop microlots, along with a few fair trade coffees. We do not blend our coffees outside of espresso, but choose instead to give credit to the farmer or farmers that grew our coffees. Each one of our retail and wholesale bags has a vast amount of information printed on it, often including the farm, farmer, altitude, processing method, varietals, region, and detailed tasting notes. Our practices stem from the fact that we believe a farmer has vastly more influence on the flavor of a consumer’s coffee than we do. We just want to make sure credit is given where credit is due.
In addition to focusing on single farm and small co-op coffees, we also strive serve only seasonal selections. We try to make sure that when we buy a coffee, it’s gone in no more than eight months. It just tastes better that way. Most people in the industry say green coffee stays fresh for 15 months, but we don’t think so. Even our espresso blend changes every few months as coffees go in and out of season.
Above and beyond these practices, we also strive to travel to origin as often as we can, visiting farms and meeting the people who grow our coffee. We just recently completed a trip to El Salvador, where we were able to meet many of the workers and farmers of several coffees we’ll be serving in a couple months. We were able to talk about and verify cultivation techniques, picking practices, working conditions, wages, and other things. We’re excited about some of the things we’ll be able to do, such as a planned coffee series this year involving several members of a small coop near La Palma, El Salvador, called ACPROA. We’re going to run about 5 different coffees consecutively to allow our customers to taste how even coffees grown within a couple miles of each other can taste vastly different depending on varietals, cultivation techniques, and processing techniques. It should be pretty cool.
Our next trip will hopefully be later in the year to Brazil. For the countries we cannot visit, we work extremely closely with our importers to verify that the coffees we buy are grown sustainably and ethically. We work to buy coffees from farms that our importers have visited, from farmers our importers have met. At the end of the day, it all comes back to sustainability.
Q: Does that mission for sustainability carry over into the other products and services you use in the process?
A: Yes, our desire for sustainability extends to the other products we use. At our store on High Street, our paper products will be manufactured by Ecoproducts, a green producer out of Boulder. Our milk will be sourced from a local producer, though we haven’t made up our minds yet as to which one. The only flavoring we’ll carry (chocolate) will be a single origin, hopefully single farm/coop, and may rotate. Even the hot water tower we’ll be buying is made with over 95% recyclable materials. We give a lot of thought to the products we carry, everything from our coffee to the stir sticks on the counter.
Q: What are you doing to get your baristas trained for the new Short North location?
A: Initially, our staff will undergo a significant amount of education, focusing on coffee cultivation, processing, sourcing, roasting, and preparation. After the education phase, our staff will begin practical training on our pourover bar, in addition to our other single serve techniques. They will work under supervision until we decide they’re ready to work on their own. At this point, we’ll decide whether they’ll be trained on our espresso machine. If they’re ready, we’ll pair them with an experienced barista to mentor them through the learning process. After working through the basics (which could take some time), they’ll work under supervision until ready to work on their own.
Another huge facet of our training involves customer service and education. Education is a focus of our company, but not everyone wants to know whether a coffee is a bourbon or pacamara. We realize this. We train our employees to understand this too. We hope to be able to identify the customers who are just looking for a great cup of coffee, and those who may want to learn a little bit more.
Q: What do you think about “coffee culture” in Columbus right now?
A: I am amazed at how the coffee culture has started to explode in Columbus within the past year. Everyone seems to be stepping up their game, and it’s all for the benefit of the consumer. From Brioso to Impero to Mission to Luck Brothers to Upper Cup, it seems like there are some pretty awesome things on the horizon for Columbus. In some ways, we’ve been lagging behind other cities our size the last few years in terms of our coffee culture, but I feel we’re about to take a massive leap ahead. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that Columbus could be a Midwest leader for coffee culture in the next few years.
Q: Lastly, what we can expect when visiting you at the North Market Coffee Roast next weekend?
A: A fantastic cup of coffee! We’ll be pouring two new coffees we just got in. I believe we’ll be serving them both. To mimic our Short North store, we’ll be brewing via Hario V60. In addition, we’ll be talking a lot about these coffees, and other new coffees that are coming up on our offering list.
For more information, visit www.onelinecoffee.com.
Photography by Jennifer René. Jennifer grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, and recently relocated to Columbus. She found her love for photography at a very young age by insistently capturing every detail of her life and those around her with her camera. Jennifer is a lifestyle photojournalist, who carefully crafts each image with the use of light, color, gesture, and composition to communicate a story. More of her work can be found at BeyondSnapshots.net.