The Brew Club

Local coffee purveyors aim to achieve the perfect roast

By Nick Rassi

»Coffea canephora and Coffea arabica thrive in exotic locales. These plants, which yield the coffee beans that fuel many Hoosiers’ mornings, hail from far-flung points in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and South America.

Though coffee-farming locales are far from the Midwest, that’s not to say Hoosiers don’t have a hand in the coffee trade. The beans, which come to the United States in an unroasted form, are being processed by a growing number of Indiana roasters, who are happy to satisfy the evolved palates and demand for artisan beans of today’s coffee consumers.

Selling their roasts and, often, their brews in accompanying cafes, Indiana-based roasters are making their marks in the coffee world by providing what is, truly, an elevated cup o’ joe.


Crownlinks Coffee & Tea

Working out of a trailer he designed and built himself, Wayne King roasts coffee solely to benefit Haiti, which he first visited during a mission trip in the 1980s. Struck by the island nation’s beauty and its poverty, he wanted to help; in 2000, when he wrapped up his career in financial planning, King built coffee roasting into his retirement plans.

And then he made the venture mobile.

“My wife and I are retired,” he says. “She wanted to enjoy travel, so I designed a portable roaster.” The trailer-roaster hybrid allows King to take his business on the road; the roaster spends six months of the year in Columbus and six months in Florida. He primarily sells through his website, where he offers individual bags of coffee and coffee subscriptions.

Benefits to Haiti are twofold: King typically buys his coffee beans from Haitian farmers, supporting the Caribbean agriculture. Since its inception, he has donated all the proceeds from Crownlinks Coffee to Haitian Christian radio station Radio 4VEH.

“I do what I do to see change in Haiti,” King says.


Bee Coffee Roasters
5510 Lafayette Road and 201 S. Capitol Ave., Suite 110,
both in Indianapolis,

When Andy Gilman met future business partner BJ Davis at an art gallery, Gilman was pursuing a career as an artist, and Davis was in the coffee business. She had managed a coffee network in Indianapolis and competed in the first few barista championships. Davis had recently purchased a coffee shop near Indy’s Eagle Creek Park, and she invited Gilman to work for her as a barista. A few months in and Gilman was obsessed with coffee.

He left for a brief foray at a roaster in Zionsville; he returned to Davis’ enterprises, with some savings, and invested in the roaster her partner had already set up. He and Davis formed Bee Coffee Roasters. The roasting work is done on the northwest side of Indianapolis at the original shop. The beans are sold there and at the company’s downtown coffee shop, where business is booming, thanks in no small part to the nearby convention center.


Hopscotch Coffee
235 W. Dodds St., No. 102, Bloomington,

Hopscotch Coffee is the only café and roastery in Bloomington. Since its opening in October, Jane Kupersmith has headed up the roasting.

“Our coffee is really smooth,” she says. “We roast in a way that removes bitterness. We take the time to sort the beans and pay attention to the process.”

Along with making sure the roast is remarkable, Kupersmith focuses much of her energy into finding fair-trade beans. She searches for ethical sources of coffee, including farming groups that prioritize women’s rights and environmental issues. One blend from Sumatra is sourced from a women’s cooperative farm; proceeds from sales go back into local education. “It has an all-female supply chain,” Kupersmith says, something almost unheard of in the industry.

Attached to the roaster is the café, run by Kupersmith’s business partner, Jeff Grant. Although the café is not in downtown Bloomington, it receives a significant portion of pedestrian traffic from the commuters from the surrounding neighborhoods. “The physical space is really beautiful,” Kupersmith says. “One of our benches is reclaimed subfloor from a 110-year-old building.”


Rex Roasting Co.
900 Wabash Ave., Terre Haute,

The origins of Rex Roasting Co. date to 1879, when Terre Haute-based baking ingredient manufacturer Clabber Girl Corp., a branch of Hulman & Co., began selling roasted coffee. Sold under the name Arex, Hulman’s coffee was packaged with a crown logo and proclaimed to be “fit for a king.”

The company stopped selling coffee in 1968, until Hulman president, Gary Morris, decided to transform the first floor of the Clabber Girl office space into a coffee roastery, resurrecting its historic brand in 2009. The name was tweaked to Rex Roasting Co.; the crown graces the company’s packaging once again.

Chris Weber roasts for Rex Roasting Co., creating new blends, and has grown the company’s bean profile to include coffee sources from Central America, South America and Africa. The roaster’s walls have large windows where patrons to the adjacent Clabber Girl Bake Shop can watch Weber as he processes the beans. Rex Coffee is sold at a number of restaurants in and around Terre Haute; the beans can be purchased on-site, online or in a number of Indiana Marsh grocery stores and Whole Foods locations.


Tinker Coffee Co.
212 E. 16th St., Indianapolis.

During his travels for work, Jeff Johnson would pop into coffee shops; he then brought these coffees back to his family. His brother-in-law, Stephen Hall, also fell under the spell of the exotic beans, and at the beginning of 2014 and after plenty of research, they began roasting the type of coffee they wanted to drink, Hall explains.

After brewing a batch of their own beans and tweaking aspects of the roasting process, they sent the fruits of their labor to their friends for honest feedback. As they learned and grew as roasters, they began using software to track and plot temperatures and pressures.

In November they opened Tinker Coffee Co. in Indianapolis. Since then, it has grown month by month. Johnson and Hall began offering tasting classes shortly after opening; this gave them the opportunity to share their knowledge and passion for coffee with others. “Once you’ve experienced the differences, you want to explore this new world,” Hall says.


The Abbey Coffee Co.
1500 S. Western Ave., Marion,

Chris DeMarse worked in the campus coffee shop during his time at Indiana Wesleyan University but saw his job mostly as a social experience; he didn’t really like coffee.

Now, he has seen the way coffee can change the world.

After graduating with a degree in ministry, he joined a local church not far from his university. To round out his post-college income, he worked with a roasting company. “It was at a time where there was a push for sustainable trading and transparency of trade,” DeMarse says. “I fell in love with the missional aspect of coffee.” He visited farms in Costa Rica, Panama and Ethiopia to see the way the coffee farmers worked diligently with their hands to pick and sort the beans. He saw the way ethical trading was changing the lives of people around the world. “It’s not charity,” he says. “It’s just not taking advantage of them.”

In 2012, DeMarse founded The Abbey Coffee Co., in Marion. He wanted to roast and sell coffee that told a story; in the coffee shop that accompanies the roaster, he has provided a space for community connections.