Last summer, we introduced you to Sam Brown and Chris Christen, the creative minds behind Coffee Wizards, an alchemical pop-up shop creating creative twists on mocktails and coffee and tea-based beverages.
In the past year, the two industry veterans have hosted numerous pop-ups, including an enchanting brunch-focused event earlier this month at Company Brewing, 735 E. Center St.,featuring mystical potions like the Hobbit Lunchbox featuring espresso, peanut butter, oat milk and strawberry pineapple "whip."
The pop-ups have served to introduce the public to their edgy, boundary-defying approach to the world of beverage. In the meantime, Brown and Christen have also been working to hone their vision for the future of the company, which ultimately includes a brick and mortar cafe.
Along the way they determined that part of that vision includes presenting their own unique take on coffee to the world.
"Hosting pop-ups has been our way of gaining community support for the business and introducing them to a new way of looking at coffee as a beverage," notes Brown. "But we want to differentiate ourselves. We want to be different in how we buy coffee, how we roast coffee and how we serve coffee."
To do so, the partners have launched a Kickstarter campaign to assist in the purchase of small-scale coffee roaster, a tool which will allow them to have even more control over the flavor profiles presented in each of their unique beverages.
Control + transparency = magic
"So often we’ve been working with others’ visions and their approaches to roasting certain coffees," says Brown. "But to really use coffee as an ingredient, you need to be able to control the flavor profile. Roasting our own coffee will allow us to hone in on the nuanced profiles we’re looking for."
Another goal at the forefront of Brown and Christen’s minds is transparency. Coffee is more than a story of a grower and the vision of a roaster. In today’s coffee world, commodity pricing (which is invariably low) tends to be the basis for specialty coffee negotiations. What that often means is that growers of specialty coffee sometimes aren't paid a fair price for their beans.
"Our model as a coffee roaster will be very different from most," Sam explains. "We want to focus on what makes the coffee special, and then make that very transparent to our customers. To do so, it’s really important to us to be able to highlight transparency throughout the coffee chain. We want customers to know what they’re paying for, and we want the farmers to be able to thrive off the money they make."
That level of transparency also allows the partners to share the intimate story – and value – of an individual coffee with the folks who enjoy their creations.
"We want to serve people really great coffee. But we also want to be transparent about the journey that coffee makes before it gets to their cup," adds Christen. "We might find a really great coffee that’s $8 a pound … and it might be something most larger roasters wouldn’t even consider. We want to be able to purchase that coffee and share it with our customers. But we also want them to understand why it costs what it does."
As for their choice in opting for a Kickstarter to launch their project, Christen says it’s about both visibility and buy-in.
"We could get a loan," says Christen. "But this is more about engaging an audience, creating awareness about what we’re doing, and really selling people on what we hope to achieve. Sam is really well connected in the coffee world, and I’ve lived all over. So it’s also our way of engaging with the world at large."
If all goes well, Brown and Christen hope to have their roaster up and running by early October, with their inaugural batch of coffee available by the end of 2019. In addition to being used to bring new enchanting flavors to future Coffee Wizardz pop-ups, their coffee is also expected to be available through a subscription program.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.