Magazine picks local business as top roaster
One would expect the finest roasters of coffee beans to be found in Seattle, Chicago or Portland, Ore. But one national expert says the best roaster of beans is right here in Topeka.
Ninety-five percent of PT’s beans come from small premium lots in countries like El Salvador and Panama, “helping PT’s establish a reputation as a source for some of the best limited-edition coffees available in the U.S.,” Roast Magazine said.
Jeff Taylor and Fred Polzin started the company in 1997. Today PT’s Coffee has 12 employees in its wholesale business in south Topeka and 17 in its coffee shop in Barrington Village.
Roast Magazine complimented PT’s for its Passport Coffees, which are typically more exclusive than the company’s lineup of single-origin coffees. The Passport Collection includes such award-winners as Panama’s Hacienda La Esmeralda and El Salvador’s Finca Kilimanjaro.
Perhaps the finest coffee at PT’s is Finca Los Planes in El Salvador, “a peaberry coffee that combines hits of the classic Central American cup with a deeper, fruitier taste, reminiscent of natural Ethiopians,” author Rivers Janssen wrote in Roast.
“This is a vindication,” Polzin said. “People in the industry knew we were doing it right. This is a great calling card for us.”
“I was blown away,” Taylor said of the award.
About a week before the application was due, Taylor pulled together the team and gave each an assignment while they still did their other jobs.
In three days, they compiled a huge book with more than 100 pages describing the history, mission and philosophy of PT’s Coffee and sent it overnight to Roast Magazine in Portland, Ore.
Forty roasters submitted applications for Roaster of the Year.
“This is not a large percentage of the coffee roasters in the world, but the quality of the competition was intense, both in the written applications and on the cupping table,” Roast publisher Connie Blumhardt wrote.
After its start in 1997, PT’s got deeper into the roasting business in 2000. The company roasted 225,000 pounds of coffee last year.
Polzin and Taylor do goal setting and strategic planning every year with the help of investor and mentor Jack Brier, but they also have to adapt to change, as PT’s started the year with the loss of a major customer representing 17 percent of sales.
Using mostly guerrilla marketing techniques, the company has added 25 percent new customers this year and has seen tremendous growth in its online sales. Sales in 2008 are likely to be even with sales in 2007.
Polzin said the company could have made money by compromising quality but didn’t do it because that isn’t their style or ethics.
The company’s core values include commitments to great service, superior quality, caring for others, being frugal, having integrity and being consistent and improving all the time.
“Be true to ourselves,” Taylor said. “We’re not going to compromise. Specialty coffee needs to be special. We don’t believe in buying coffee and saying it’s the best when it’s not.”
Michael Hooper can be reached at (785) 295-1293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.