Smart looking coffee: Blueprint Coffee Roasters
Our present guest roaster at Wormhole is Blueprint Coffee. And just from scoping their retail bags one can get a sense that this St. Louis based roaster has a strong aesthetic, which is something we can appreciate at Wormhole. One feels that the shapes that appear as their logos are related to those of Pluto’s divine shapes of which all material are merely shadows of…or something like that nonsense they preach in “Intro to Philosophy.”
Blueprints Coffee is something to philosophize over, no doubt. It’s more than looks, however. In the few weeks that their coffee has been riding our brew bar, our barista’s have teased out some tasty subtleties and lots of heady sweetness. Blueprint co-owner and co-founder Mike Marquard agreed to answer a few questions to further elaborate on the nuances of our current guest roaster.
WH: How did Blueprint arrive at its overall aesthetic?
MM: The look of Blueprint came from our general philosophy of coffee service. A blueprint is an intellectual rendering of a structure. So, we wanted to build an intellectually smart cafe – from look to flow. This means we put function over form. We created an open, well-lit space that is as much the baristas as the customers. Our bar is very approachable with hardly anything on the counter and no menu upon which to stare. We hope every transaction starts with a conversation about what each customer wants – whether it is something very specific or something we arrive to with the guest.
WH: When you and your collaborators started Blueprint, was there any set goal in mind for what the company would ultimately become or anything you aspired to do that would distinguish yourself from companies you were associated with in the past?
MM: Our goal at Blueprint is to be sustainable. We want to be a vibrant feature of St. Louis and to be able to support our lives and families. This will take some growing, but we’re trying to be very open to all possibilities and avoid doing what comes naturally from past work. We see our point-of-difference as our ability to focus only on select, seasonal coffees. We don’t need to buy very many right now, so we can be picky and continue to sharpen our skills at roasting, brewing, and training while we grow into that company we had in mind from the start. As we grow, we look to select wholesale partners that embrace us for this focus. We have a tremendous amount of passion and practical skill that we can share, but only with those who want to tap into it.
WH: In an earlier correspondence, you mentioned that you used to operate a multi-roaster program in St. Louis. Does that past job have any influence in how you operate within your current position?
MM: I did used to manage Half & Half. That opportunity had three tremendous benefits to my job today. First, I learned that I was able to run a business. This level of confidence was critical for my ability to start Blueprint. Second, I was able to really dig into the roaster-retailer relationship. I worked with a number of very talented companies and was able to see what worked well from a retailers standpoint. Third, I created an epic wholesale customer for Blueprint. Half & Half continues to be our biggest wholesale customer, and we love helping them select their coffees (both ours and their guest roasters) and put together a dynamic monthly menu.
WH: On the Blueprint blog you have special section for discussing the music that you play at the shop. Was there any impetus behind that?
MM: A number of the partners at Blueprint are involved with music – whether it’s playing in local bands, supporting the live music scene, collecting vinyl, serving espresso to the best jazz artists in the world, etc… We have a very eclectic mix of music in the shop, so this sort of gives customers an insight into why they’re not hearing the same 100 songs from the satellite station.
WH: Presently at Wormhole were featuring your two Colombians, Victor Molano and Narino Select, as well as your Sulawesi Toarco Jaya AA. How do you guys go about choosing your selection?
MM: We select coffees based first on quality (must be above 84 point average score among the partners). Second, we look for coffees to fit into three price categories that we try to continually maintain for both retail and wholesale customer comfort. Third, we look to offer diverse flavor profiles at all times – we use a lot of colors to convey this message. At most times we will offer a coffee with a brown strip (to represent caramelization and deeper sweetness), a yellow strip (to signify brightess/tartness), or a red strip (to represent lush juiciness) on the bottom of the bag. We were very particular in our first year of buying coffees from cooperatives or producers that offered a chance toward future relationship. We are just starting to travel to origin and hope to foster these relationships, but we currently rely on the support of our importers to do most of that start-up work.
We’ll be featuring Blueprint till the end of May. Come and have some!