West Michigan has welcomed a new coffee roaster home from Chicago. Littlefoot Coffee Roasters roasting facility and retail shop has taken up residency in Grandville. About a decade ago, co-owner and director, Alex Burbo, launched his career in coffee — packing beans for Chicago’s Intelligentsia coffee roasters. Most likely highly caffeinated, he jumped at the chance to get into the roasting department. There, he found his calling. Two years after achieving the title of head roaster, Chicago’s Metric Coffee brought Burbo into their blend to develop signature roasts and flavor profiles. Don’t ask him about the process until you’ve had your coffee. His response combines geography, mechanics, and barista terminology honed through the lens (or shall we say filter) of sheer artistic genius.
“When you think about all the different places that grow coffee, each region has its own character as well as each coffee within the region. It becomes a craft,” Burbo says. “When you hone-in and start to taste the coffee, you determine how you can best roast that coffee to highlight the flavors.”
While Littlefoot Coffee Roasters hopes to acquire customers among West Michigan’s coffee shops, restaurants, and retailers, they also sell coffee by the bag to their own retail customers. In addition, plans are brewing to host educational roasting tours as early as October.
“That’s what we want to do in our space – teach people that there’s a whole other side to coffee,” says co-owner Rosie Quasarano. “I have talked to a lot of daily drinkers who have never seen the roasting process or tasted coffees from a certain region. We want to be able to educate and make everyone feel comfortable with quality coffee.”
An online retail subscription service home-delivers a bag or two of Littlefoot coffee directly from the roaster. Other short-term goals include a coffee lab where customers can taste new brews and an in-store coffee shop.
As customers get to know the coffees, they’ll also become familiar with the farmers who grow it. Burbo and Quasarano take pride in the direct relationships they have built with the world’s coffee farmers — and plan on building more in the future.
“We pay well above fair trade prices for everything in our line-up. We are very aware of what is used to grow our coffee and can trace it back to its source,” Burbo says. “We order from all over the world through a few different importers and we have direct relationships in Peru, Costa Rica, and New Guinea. We’re looking to open it up over the next year and find new partners.”
Located at 3047 Broadway Ave. SW in Grandville, Littlefoot Coffee Roasters’ retail space is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Burbo concludes, “Anyone can turn beans brown. But when you’re trying to get down to the nuance of the origins, the regions, the flavors, each coffee needs a subtle touch. It takes a lot of time and a lot of years.”
Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Littlefoot Coffee Roasters