Roasting Columbus: Backroom Coffee Roasters

  • Photos by Jodi Miller
By Columbus Alive
From the February 23, 2012 edition

Chris Bishop lives in Lewis Center and takes many of his trips by bike.

His plunge into the coffee world was inspired equally by curiosity and necessity. If he wanted to enjoy great java in the suburbs, he figured, he’d have to make it himself.

“Where I live, I’m not going to the coffee shop,” he explained. “I bought all the best brewing equipment I could, but I was still kind of left short until I started home roasting.”

In two years or so, though, his home roasting outgrew his home.

“When I started looking at opening this Trek store on Lane Avenue, I was looking at how I could break up the building,” said Bishop, who owns three Trek bike shops in Central Ohio. “I just had this idea that I should roast coffee back here.”

Backroom Coffee Roasters was born, linking the global threads of beans and bikes. Many of Backroom’s raw materials are organic and fair trade, and about 90 percent of beans are delivered on a special cargo bike imported from Denmark.

“One of our approaches was, first and foremost, to create a brand that we could sell at grocery stores, so people could enjoy it at home,” he said. “That’s exactly where I felt like I was not getting good coffee.”

Mission accomplished.

Bishop roasts single-origin and limited-edition coffees but specializes in robust blends like The Horse and Biker Blend. His coffee now is stocked at places like Weiland’s Gourmet Market, The Hills Market and Huffman’s Market.

Business continues to grow, with Bishop and his small staff of family members roasting about 800 pounds during a good week. A new roaster is in training.

“Every week it’s a lot more,” he said. “We’re getting new accounts all over the place.”

Bikes remain Bishop’s main business, which allows him to experiment with new coffees and teach drinkers how beans go from field to forearm.

“There’s no point, I don’t feel, for me to just grow for growth’s sake,” Bishop said. “With this, I can make sure we do it right.”