By Whitney Vickers
FAIRBORN — The Miami Valley is in the midst of a coffee revolution, according to Audria Ali-Maki, roaster and co-owner of Reza’s Roast in Fairborn.
“We are a specialty-grade coffee roaster,” she said. “So we’re bringing a concept to the area that probably isn’t here yet — and that is you have your neighborhood roaster who has really good, really fresh coffee.”
During the early-fall months of 2015, Ali-Maki and her husband opened Reza’s Roast, located at 611 Fairfield Yellow Springs Road, which offers light, medium, dark and espresso roast of in-house roasted coffee, varying flavors of tea as well as a delivery and subscription service for the product.
Between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays each week, Ali-Maki offers tours of the roastery, which is a former sandpaper factory, and tells the story behind the coffee to offer a clear understanding of the process she engages in to bring the product to life.
It is not a coffee shop, as it is zoned as an industrial area. Instead, individuals are invited to take a tour, pick up a free sample or buy the coffee within the space. Through the website, www.rezasroast.com, customers are able to sign up for delivery or its subscription service.
Ali-Maki is targetting Fairborn, Beavercreek and Xenia neighborhoods. Although she could describe who her farmers are, she is aiming to raise enough funds to purchase a plane ticket to visit her coffee-bean farmers in the flesh. All of Reza’s Roast coffee is organic and Ali-Maki said she is in the process of receiving certification for such.
“That’s the first reason you want to buy our coffee over whatever else you get — you know that when you bought that coffee, the person that grew it was treated well,” she said. “The second reason is because you know it’s very, very fresh. K-Cup coffee is a year old and a lot of what you see at the grocery store is three-to-four months old. Our coffee, we try to stay under six weeks.”
Her first step in the process is sampling beans before she purchases them, including visually scanning them for defects caused by insects, fertilization or drought issues. If she sees more than a certain amount of defected beans within a sample, she feels that her customers would not be receiving the best coffee possible, which would lead her to select a different bean.
“Even though we’re doing the right thing, we’re still making sure we’re buying the best quality that we can,” Ali-Maki said. “You can tell the story of what’s happening at the farm by the defects in the coffee bean.”
During the roasting process, the outer skin of the bean falls off. As the beans cook, she can observe them change from a shade of white, to blonde to a dark color through a window on the roaster, which is a Loring and is the only one available in the area, according to Ali-Maki. She can also pull some beans out of the machine as it roasts to check the scent as it will shift from a smell resembling wet grass, to baked bread to vinegar as the process moves along. The Loring additionally allows Ali-Maki to save roast specifications onto the machine, which allows for consistent flavor.
After it roasts, it must off-gas for 24 to 48 hours, otherwise the packaging, which is conducted in-house, would explode and give a bitter taste to the coffee.
“I’d be happy if we’re the roaster for our local towns,” Ali-Maki said. “If everyone comes to us to get their coffee.”
As Ali-Maki worked toward her degree in business at the University of Dayton, she took up a job at a local coffee shop and found that she had a niche for the market. Upon graduating, she worked at a bank until she married and had children — but eventually she found herself missing the coffee business.
“My dad is also a big coffee guy, so we went out to Seattle to the Speacialty Coffee Association Show and it blew my mind,” she said. “Being the researcher I am, I dived into it — read everything I can, took another trip to Seattle to see all the roasters and coffee shops … researched as much as we could and brought back some [really good information].”
Some additional products offered within the roastery, such as the teas and jams, are made by women and Ali-Maki said the construction projects as Reza’s Roast was initially beginning were handled by women-owned companies. She keeps her family involved in the affair, as Reza is one of her son’s middle name, the co-owner couple partakes in coffee-based activities together and the space includes a play room for her children as she preferred not putting them in daycare.
As the business grows, she hopes to offer space for yoga classes and art galleries during the weekends. The business is also in the process of developing its own decaf coffee as well. In April, the space will house a photography gallery “Flora, Fauna and Ice” by Jean Ali with the reception taking place 6-9 p.m. Saturday, April 2.