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Roast with the most


The metro-based Elemental Coffee brings a brewing passion to Oklahoma City.

Carol Cole-Frowe January 18th, 2011

It’s “big,” with tastes of blackberry and chocolate and an incredible mouthfeel. A fine wine, maybe? How about an aromatic Southern Ethiopian coffee from the highaltitude Sidama region and the Michicha village?

It’s “big,” with tastes of blackberry and chocolate and an incredible mouthfeel.

A fine wine, maybe? How about an aromatic Southern Ethiopian coffee from the highaltitude Sidama region and the Michicha village?

“I love coffee. It’s my love. It’s my passion,” said Chris Holliday of Elemental Coffee Roasters.

The small company has been roasting some excellent beans for the past two years out of a nondescript location on W. Main Street in Oklahoma City, but Holliday started roasting about a decade before that in his garage for himself and a few friends.

“I’d have about 600 pounds of green coffee beans out there,” he said. “So I did the most logical thing and that’s start roasting (professionally).”

Holliday and his friends weren’t satisfied with any of the local coffee roasting efforts, so it logically followed that he should start his own business, partnering with three of those friends: Stephen Michalik, Laura and Laurent Massenat.

Customers have responded and embraced the company’s efforts. Elemental Coffee, which can be found in several dozen cafes and restaurants in the Oklahoma City metro area, is growing steadily. The young company also sells to specialty grocery stores and off its website at elementalcoffeeroasters.com.

When you taste coffee that’s well-crafted, it’s one little ounce of love at a time.

—Chris Holliday

Holliday said he’s heard all kinds of negative things, like Oklahomans were too backward to appreciate his more sophisticated coffee products.

“I think people just constantly underestimate the nature of the people around here,” he said.

Elemental, which has five employees counting its owners, takes a different tactic to how they deal with the coffee.

They “cup,” or test, about 90 coffee bean samples for every one they accept.

“Cupping is a qualitative analysis,” Holliday said.

Elemental Coffee only works with coffees that score an 88 or above on a scale that goes up to 100.

“It’s the top 5 percent of coffee,” he said, adding that they are looking more for coffees that score in the 90s.

The way Elemental buys coffee beans means every batch is different, because they are all grown at different altitudes and different climates.

Most of the coffee beans Elemental uses are from Central and South America, Africa and Indonesia.

Elemental’s exponential growth means the company is already planning a move. Its operation will transition into a larger space at N.W. Eighth Street and Hudson Avenue, which will have a storefront open on a limited basis. That store will be called the Alley Bar, appropriately, because of its location.

The Alley Bar’s quiet opening will be from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. daily starting Friday. Elemental plans to turn the store into a full-service coffee bar starting April 1, when the move to the new location is complete. Holliday said they’ll hire about five more people when that happens.

Holliday said the coffee Elemental roasts and offers to the metro is all about love.

“When you taste coffee that’s wellcrafted with love and freshly prepared … it’s one little ounce of love at a time,” he said.

And, he gives credit to a coffee giant for the opportunity to do what he loves. Holliday said the coffee roasting industry owes a debt to the giant coffee retailer Starbucks.

“Starbucks did a service to the world of coffee,” he said. “They put in the groundwork (to establish coffee as a premium product).”

From the garage to a storefront, Elemental stands on its own now.

 
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