This piece first ran on KCPT’s Flatland.*
Bo Nelson always envisioned Thou Mayest (419 E 18th Street) as a place where entrepreneurs could get together to hash out the details of their next project. But what Nelson didn’t anticipate when the coffee shop opened 11 months ago in the Crossroads was just how often those meetings would be about his own projects.
“It’s kind of like little kids running around and building forts,” Nelson, who co-owns Thou Mayest with Bill Holzhueter, says. “It was, ‘hey man, do you want to come over?’ This was about them bringing their best and us bringing our best and coming together.”
Nelson is sitting in one of the few open chairs in Thou Mayest on a recent Thursday afternoon, his hands wrapped around a Mason jar filled with coffee. Beneath the leaves of a large potted plant, he outlines the latest project for his shop: The Kansas City Collaboration Series.
“We have a Kansas City style for barbecue. And we’re getting ready to have one for whiskey. Why can’t we have one for roasting? Kansas City is so unique and different,” Nelson says.
The collaboration series, which will launch in bags and be available as a pour-over coffee this Friday, is unique in that it involves another coffee roaster in town. Blip Coffee Roasters is a micro-roaster in the West Bottoms that Ian Davis launched earlier this year.
“One of the best things about Kansas City is the people who live here,” Davis says. “I’m passionate about my craft, my family and the city of Kansas City. The team at Thou Mayest holds those same values and I’m excited to be doing this collaboration with them.”
Davis and Nelson have gotten to know each other over shared cups of coffee and cupping sessions – where shops will taste and score several varieties of beans to decide what they will purchase to roast. Nelson has also shared the fruits of earlier collaborations with Davis.
Thou Mayest and Dark Horse Distillery combined on a Barrel Series – beans aged in rye whiskey barrels – this spring and Thou Mayest’s coffee is used by Lanmou Chocolates for truffles and chocolate bars.
“Coffee shops have different philosophies, different spaces and different roasts,” Nelson says. “We’re like chefs in that we all have our own way of doing things. This is about getting outside our own boxes.”
Collaboration No. 1 is a blend of two coffees – a Guatemalan from Blip and Kenyan from Thou Mayest. The coffees were roasted separately this Wednesday and each bag – printed by Survival Letterpress – features a 50/50 blend. [Summer House Films has a short video on the collaboration process]
“It’s super rich, floral and fruity with a dark chocolate finish,” Davis says of the coffee from the Cooperative Lake Atitlan farm.
“It’s a great bean, dense and juicy. It’s really syrupy and heavy. There’s tangerine and it’s really buttery, it kind of smacks on the top of your mouth,” Nelson says of the Kenyan coffee from the Muiri Estate farm. “Then you have this chocolate-y, classic Guatemala that’s kind of nutty and they place off each other nicely.”
For his part, Nelson is hopeful that this is the start of a series of collaborations with different roasting operations in Kansas City.
“I want to see Kansas City come together to really promote coffee culture as a whole,” Nelson says. “I want to people outside KC to see what’s going on and say, ‘what are they doing? Why are they so progressive?’”
*KCPT’s Hale Center for Journalism serves as a center for local multimedia journalism and collaboration with PBS, NPR and regional news sources. The Center houses Flatland, an open-source, digital forum producing stories and conversations about things that matter in Kansas City.[Images via Thou Mayest]