Upper Cup Coffee Thrives in Olde Towne East

Walker Evans Walker Evans Upper Cup Coffee Thrives in Olde Towne East
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Upper Cup Coffee opened their doors at 79 Parsons Avenue in October of 2011 and have quickly become a staple business for this stretch of Olde Towne East. In addition to serving as a neighborhood cafe, Upper Cup also roasts and wholesales their coffees, providing a larger business model that expands beyond the single shop.

We spoke recently with Upper Cup owner Micael Habte to find more about the shop for our ongoing Coffee Week series.

Q: First, can you tell us a bit about your background as it relates to coffee?

A: My family is from Eritrea in northeast Africa. Eritrea was a part of Ethiopia until it became recognized as an independent nation in 1993. As you may know, coffee was discovered in Ethiopia so coffee has always been an integral part of our culture. Drinking coffee in my household wasn’t a casual procedure that took place as my parents were preparing for the day. Drinking coffee was a ceremony that could take up to two hours to complete. My mother didn’t buy Maxwell House and we didn’t own a coffee maker. When my mother drank coffee she started with green coffee beans that were roasted over an open fire, she then ground the coffee by hand and boiled it in a clay pot. This was a normal activity that took place in our household every single day. I actually found it quite annoying because the scent of coffee accompanied me to school and you can imagine how embarrassing that might be for a sixth grader.

Needless to say, I was kind of excited to go to college and get my own place that didn’t smell like roasted coffee. Ironically, I ended up rooming with Henry Dean of Boston Stoker in Dayton. Henry and his family are one of the biggest roasters in Dayton and I thought “here we go again”. But it was Henry who made me realize how lucrative the coffee industry is. On a visit to the Boston Stoker warehouse in Vandalia, I realized that they were doing what my mother did just on a larger scale and people were actually paying money for it. I saw the writing on the wall and realized it was meant to be.

Q: You’ve been operating Upper Cup for around two and a half years now… how has it gone so far, and what has the customer/community reception been like?

A: Like any new venture, it was tough in the beginning. We definitely experienced some growing pains but ultimately it was worth it. I feel like we are now a staple in Olde Towne East. In a day, so many people stop by and I’m happy to be a part of their daily routine.

Q: Is your business more of a roastery or more of a coffee shop? Or somewhat balanced between the two?

A: We originally opened in 2010 as a wholesale roasting operation. In September 2011 we moved to Olde Towne East as a retail shop and we had to put the wholesale operation on the back burner. Over past two years we’ve managed to find a balance between being a roaster and coffee shop.

Q: What drew you to open the retail shop in OTE?

A: We researched a couple of areas around the city and I found Olde Towne charming. When you’re walking down the street, neighbors talk to each other and everyone has a lot of pride for their neighborhood. I knew this would be a great place to grow Upper Cup.

Q: What do you think of the “coffee culture” in Columbus as a whole?

A: When we started, there were only a handful of roasters around the city. In the time since the number has more than doubled. It’s exciting to watch because it means the demand for artisan coffee is growing.

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From February 3rd to February 9th, Columbus Underground is celebrating Coffee Week 2014! Throughout the week, we’ll be taking a look at various coffee shops, roasters, brands, businesses and the people that contribute to this rapidly growing local movement.

Coffee Week 2014 is presented by our friends Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, providing handcrafted coffee to Columbus, OH since 1991. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter for more information.

Coffee Week supporting sponsorship by Stauf’s Coffee Roasters.

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