Thursday, June 4, 2009

Local Love Fridays: "Return to Your Senses" - RoosRoast Free Speech Coffee

"Make your own version of things." This was John Roos trying to sum up the philosophy of University of Michigan's School of Art and Design, but it might as well have been John Roos speaking about himself.

This is why I wanted to feature John Roos of RoosRoast Free Speech Coffee in my debut piece of Local Love Fridays.

Each Friday, I will be highlighting another local business.

Why am I doing this? Well, for a few reasons:

a. I think if we lose our creative diversity and each location looks the same due to corporate globalization, then we will have a very sad, same world.

b. I live in Michigan. We have a GREAT state with a lot to offer. I want to share that with everyone non-Michigan.

c. I want to share all our great products with Michiganders. I want all of us living here to patronize our local Michigan businesses. I want us to help each other pull out of this economic hole we've been in. I want us to realize that there is life beyond automobiles.

I'd love it if other bloggers, Michigan and otherwise, posted their own versions of "local love" and we can learn from each other just how many wonderful, creative, brave, small-business owners are out there - everywhere. Feel free to grab the button and join right in!

Okay... so enough about the feature. On to our featured business:

Photo Credit: ©2009 Stephen Kinnard photography

"Return to your senses."

That's what John Roos tells students in his coffee roasting classes. John Roos loves his coffee. You can see, smell and taste the love in every cup. (There's literally love in every cup as John's chief taster is his wife, Kath, whom John says has a "simply amazing palate" and John, with 20 years as a professional chef, should know amazing palates). You can see it in his commitment to only use Fair Trade beans.

John would like everyone to really get down and dirty with their coffee - smell it, run their fingers through it, look at the different textures of the beans. Coffee should be a sensual experience, and he takes the monikker of "Free Speech" coffee seriously.

In John Roos's eyes, coffee may just have created the Industrial Revolution and certainly helped The Age of Enlightenment along. "Before coffee, everyone drank grog. Coffee houses allowed people to really start playing with ideas." He went on to discuss his other ideas behind "Free Speech" coffee: homage to his Ann Arbor hippie-background upbringing and to the fact that people talk more when they have coffee.

John's odyssey to the coffee business has taken him through careers and side trips as a professional chef, artist, poet, and more recently, as a Subaru salesman. The Subarus led him, more fully, to the coffee. He arrived back in Ann Arbor in 2002 needing a break from restaurants, but obsessed with coffee: an obsession that began with a perfect cup of coffee at "Grandma's House" in Maui in 1990. The Subaru job was more of a challenge/joke to himself, but he enjoyed it, and began giving his home-roasted brews to folks who bought cars. Soon folks were coming in for coffee, rather than the cars, and John decided he could take this full time.

Here he is in used car salesman regalia at the Farmers Market this past Saturday (John is the one in the middle):

The artistry and love from John Roos is in every RoosRoast bag: John's art is on each and every bag, his love of words is clear from his use of batch names such as Lobster Butter Love or Rich French Neighbor, and the proof of his love of coffee is in every, addicting, delicious cup.

I know.

I'm an addict.

At the moment, I'm particularly addicted to a batch of Fair Trade (like all of John's coffee) Rwandan beans roasted on May 29th.

To learn more about RoosRoast Free Speech Coffee go here.

For those lucky enough to live in our area, you can find RoosRoast Free Speech Coffee and John at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market on Saturdays, and you can find the coffee sold at the People's Food Co-op (it's sold in Cafe Verde, next to the pastry case), Sparrow Meat Market, The Produce Station and at the 777 Building in the 777's Cafe (where they brew it). For those who don't live in the area, you can still order RoosRoast here.

Stephen Kinnard is a local photographer whose portfolio work can be found here, and whose photo of the day can be found here. I am greatly indebted to him for the use of his wonderful photo today.


Luisa Perkins said...

I love the idea of Local Love! I'm not a coffee drinker, but I respect and admire an artisan when I meet him or her!

Sun Runner said...

I'm fortunate to work at 789 Eisenhower, next to the 777 Building, and can buy Roos Roast whenever I need it! My house is never without a container of Roos Roast.

Jen said...

Luisa, I'd so love it if you participated occasionally - I already love your posts about local food, etc., where you live.

Sun Runner - thanks so much for stopping by. And I'm glad you're able to keep up your Roos habit. I go to the Farmers Market for mine.

Anonymous said...

Another great thing (in addition to great coffee) is what John describes as the "Deep Local Experience." Although it's not always immediately apparent on the surface, these local, independent businesses support one another. It's an amazing series of connections and interdependencies.

RoosRoast/John is also at the Wednesday Farmer's Market.


Jen said...

Thanks, Brian, for the clarification about Wednesdays - I couldn't remember whether he was there on Wednesdays or not, as I've just started going back there on Wednesdays. Thanks, too, for stopping by. And actually, there's so much more about John I could have covered - I may also feature him on a What's Cooking Wednesday. And yes, his commitment to local work is yet another reason I chose him for the debut piece.

Mariposa said...

Great idea Jen! And I will do this for Cebu next week.

I love coffee and can't live without and I just declared that in my haiku today...LOL

And now I'm so wanting to taste RoosRoast!

anno said...

Having enjoyed the wonderful coffee served at your house, I can vouch for the excellence of the Roos Experience. I'll be sure to look for him on our next visit to the Farmer's Market; with that jacket and those sunglasses, not sure how I managed to miss him last week. Thanks for a wonderful post, and a brilliant idea for your new series!

Jen said...

Oh, Mariposa, I'd love to hear about the small businesses of Cebu. Your Cebu posts are always so wonderful!

Anno - he wanders, too, during market days now that Brian is working for him (Brian is the other guy in the photo). The jacket and glasses are definitely not his usual attire, though. He's generally set up in the center area.

Roos said...

Jen thank you for taking the time and enegry to speak about what I do!
Great work. I'm remain your humble roaster!

Jen said...

Hi John - so happy I could help spread the word. Had a great cup of Rwanda this morning!

Jasmine said...

supporting local is soo important!

Brittany | the Home Ground said...

Great post, Jen! I have to try their coffee. I go to the a2 market every Saturday, but get so much coffee from work I can't really justify buying more. But, I'll drink up what I have really quick so I can get some of his!

Jen said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jasmine - I so agree!

Brittany - you'd love John's coffee. I'd definitely give it a try. I think you'd enjoy John's art, too - go check out his site!

Jackie said...

Beautiful photo of the coffee. What f-stop did you use?

Jen said...

Jackie - You'll need to ask Stephen Kinnard - he's the photographer. I gave him credit on the blog, and you can click on his link Stephen Kinnard photography and contact him to ask. He's a brilliant photographer - you should check out his other work. He posts a picture of the day each day on the link towards the bottom of my post.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Local is great! A wonderful post! That coffee sounds cool...

Thanks for passing by!



Oh said...

very cool idea and bravo for doing it. I might give it a whirl (do I stick to doing anything?) since I often write about local businesses for various magazines. Thanks for sharing and for keeping an eye on things overall...inspiring!

Jen said...

Rosa - the pleasure was mine. And the coffee IS cool.

Oh - I'd love it if you joined - especially if this is a topic you already cover!

glamah16 said...

What a great idea for your blog. Thanks, this was intersting.

Jen said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Glamah. You should play, too - there are so many fabulous possibilities in Chicago!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I so agree with you. What a great idea!