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Coffee is for Lovers: A Spotlight on Water Street Coffee Roaster

Gwyn Duesbery

Coffee is for Lovers: A Spotlight on Water Street Coffee Roaster

Water Street Coffee Roaster combines your local barista with a growing coffee trading business. But they don’t stop there; Water Street has been supplying Grove’s rich coffees and decadent teas for years. Based out of Kalamazoo, MI, Water Street has been roasting Rwandan coffee beans to perfection and sourcing the best teas for the people of West Michigan. Each sip is a reminder of the care that went into growing and sourcing the beans, to roasting them and sending them over to Grove. Their attention and detail to coffee and teas have established Water Street as a quality, local coffee roaster. Keep reading for expert tips on how to make the perfect cup of joe!

Get to know Water Street Coffee Roaster from their Marketing Director, Katie Hurst. 

What are the beginnings of Water Street Coffee Roaster?

Our original café opened in 1993 on the corner of Kalamazoo Ave. and Water St. in Kalamazoo, MI. Since then, Water Street Coffee Joint has expanded to four café locations, a kitchen that serves all of our locations, plus our busy Catering Department, Water Street Coffee Roaster in 2001, and a rapidly growing wholesale business.

What made you decide to open a coffee roasting company and shops?

I was interested in the coffee scene but more than that, I wanted to bring the different facets of Kalamazoo’s community together—college students, artists, professionals, families, and other business owners. Coffee proved to be an amazing avenue for creating community as well as the perfect opportunity to create a quality, local product that our customers and we could be proud of.

What components create the perfect cup of coffee?

1. Always start with freshly roasted and quality coffee beans. Locally roasted is best! 
2. Always use cold filtered water and heat to between 198 and 205 degrees. 
3. Ratio is important! We suggest 2 tablespoons of coffee beans for every 6 ounces of water being used. 
4. And finally, proper brewing technique! Depending on the brewing method you use, time and coffee grind are essential to the perfect cup! 

We also offer a full run down of Home Brew Basics on our website

How has Water Street Coffee Roaster kept its core values while still moving forward as a business?

We look to improve our local community by providing services that are not offered elsewhere; by bringing together diverse groups of people; by treating each individual with enthusiasm, flexibility and respect; and by giving back to the community as we are able. When you know your customers and community, moving forward in business and brand is a wonderful result. 

Do outside forces influence or shape your business? 

Absolutely. Outside forces are a great opportunity for education and growth. We regularly attend trade shows and industry conferences, stay up to date on industry publications, visit other coffee houses local and abroad, and of course use feedback from our best resource—our customers!

What is the most pressing concern to Water Street Coffee Roaster as a business in the greater coffee industry? As a business in West Michigan?

There are many great coffee roasters in Michigan. For us, it is a matter of finding where we fit and serving our customers and community to the best of our ability.

How do you tie local community coffee shops to the greater coffee trading industry?

We are responsible for letting our suppliers know what our customers are looking for and at the same time responsible for letting our customers know how our farmers and importers are doing. One great example of how we do this is through our Fresh Crop program. Fresh Crop is a rotating limited supply of truly unique coffees that we select and offer in acknowledgment of farmers who are truly going the extra mile to cultivate an amazing and delicious bean! In coordination with each coffee, we also offer education through our website and in the shops so that customers really know what they are getting! 

What do you as coffee makers love about what you do?

At Water Street Coffee, we just love coffee… We love its subtleties; its complexities. We appreciate it raw or roasted. Hot or iced. Blended or single origin. We like dressing it up and we especially like letting it speak for itself.

What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you have ever experienced through your work with Water Street Coffee Roaster?

Our Master Roaster, Seth Chapman, shared one of his favorite experiences from roasting over the years: “A few particular coffees that I have experienced in my time here have stood out from the others. Of the hundreds of coffees I've had, I distinctly remember a Bali Blue Moon tasting just like blueberries, and a Colombia Tolima Florestales having a strong fragrance of tomato soup. I know from experience that detecting cup qualities and assigning them adjectives can be a challenging thing to do, but these characteristics were so prominent, so strong, that even an inexperienced cupper would be able to identify them instantly.”

In what ways does Water Street Coffee Roaster continue to grow?

Over the years, we’ve adopted some of the third-wave trends. We offer a single-origin espresso, we continue to increase the kind of slow pours we offer. Several years back we made some sweeping changes to our equipment and extraction procedures for espresso. We are continually expanding our presence throughout the region from restaurants and cafés to grocery stores and are always looking for new ways in which to give back and be an integral part of Kalamazoo, West Michigan, and our industry. 

What roles do environmental conservation and ethics play within your company?

We are extremely conscious… about quality and traceability. We strive for transparency and fairness in our coffee transactions to ensure everyone in the chain is treated fairly from the growers to the customer. Sometimes it’s a big endeavor like purchasing an estate coffee directly from a grower, other times it is smaller (though no less important) like giving away our burlap coffee bags for re-purposing or encouraging the use of travel mugs with our customers. 

Bringing responsibly sourced food to West Michigan has always been a core belief of Grove and Essence Restaurant Group, what does it mean to you to be an integral part of that?

Grove and Essence Restaurant Group are exactly the kind of companies that we look to partner with because of the interesting, quality and ethical business you provide. With the delicious food, great service, sustainability, and value that is given back to your community, Water Street is just proud to be part of the mix!

Water Street’s ethical and delicious approach to making coffee is not only a reflection of their everyday choices but a long-term commitment to the Kalamazoo community and beyond. We are proud to say that this local partnership has fueled our team and our customers for years. Come on into Grove, Bistro Bella Vita, and The Green Well to try a steaming hot mug of coffee, tea, or both!

Contact Water Street Coffee Roaster by phone (269) 488-7178, their website, or at one of their shops in Kalamazoo and Portage, MI.