The challenge for green coffee buyers has always been to try and capture a coffee moment right at the source. But inevitably, as they stand thousands of miles from home on a coffee farm, they are the ones who can’t help but change.
“In Panama, I realized the depth of the coffee industry,” Nick Robertson says of the trip he took two years ago with Benetti’s Coffee Experience owner Ben Helt. “I realized that I didn’t have to be a café owner or a barista to make a living.”
Robertson, 26, had been working as a barista since he was 17 years old, and, at the time, was serving as a roaster and barista for Benetti’s in Raytown.
“I knew I wanted coffee as a career,” Robertson says. “But in Panama, we realized that we needed to grow the wholesale side to really make an impact on the origin side.”
In January of this year, Robertson purchased the wholesale business from Benetti’s and launched Messenger Coffee with head roaster Kiersten Perry and operations manager Matt Matsch (who is also an owner of the Black Dog Coffeehouse and Ibis Bakery). The trio has a roasting facility in western Shawnee and they store their green coffee in Overland Park.
“Messenger stands for the idea that we are part of the process and that there are so many steps that happen at origin. The coffee is good or bad before it gets to us, we’re just bringing it along,” Robertson, who is the green coffee buyer and quality control manager for Messenger.
Their coffee is currently available at Homer’s, Black Dog Coffeehouse, Filling Station and Alchemy Coffee. Robertson notes that he and Perry have worked to make the espresso blend “bright and complex,” so it can work as a stand-alone shot or as a milk-based drink. In their current coffee lineup, he has two favorites. Agustino Forrest is a Huila from Columbia, and Lake Kivu is made with beans from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We bought [Agustino Forrest] when it was really fresh and there was strong acidity. As it has set in the past month, there’s this juiciness that has developed. It’s a clean, but full-bodied Colombian,” Robertson says. “Coffee from the Congo has never really made me sit up and take notice, but it’s really good this year. It reminded me of a slightly earthy Kenya. It’s vibrant, earthy and citrusy.”
Over the course of this year, Messenger will move toward direct farm sourcing and Robertson hopes to add a public roasting facility. On Saturdays, they’re selling whole bean and cups of coffee at the Overland Park Farmers’ Market.
“With coffee you’re able to create such a unique identity that you’re nobody’s competition. It’s like Town Topic and BRGR, you just have different things to offer,” Robertson says.[Robertson and Messenger’s coffee will be on hand for the KC Caffeine Crawl’s After Crawl Brunch held this Sunday from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Black Dog Coffeehouse]