Location: Topeka, Kan.
Founded: 1993; began roasting in 1997
Where to get it: PT’s cafes in Topeka; select coffee shops nationwide, especially in the Midwest and Upper Midwest, including Pound the Hill in Washington, D.C, and Greyhouse Coffee in Lafayette, Ind.; online at ptscoffee.com
Recommended: Panama Elida Estate Natural. It’s “always a favorite because it tastes like strawberries” and is best brewed in a Chemex or French press.
When PT's Coffee founder Jeff Taylor founded his coffee shop in Topeka, Kansas, in 1993, the idea of small-batch specialty coffee didn't really exist. "Back then I'd go out and I'd buy coffee from these guys, and I swear it all tasted the same," he explained. But even when Taylor started roasting the coffee himself in 1997, it wasn't good enough. He decided that he'd have to seek out the best coffee farmers himself, and he made his first trip to origin in 2001.
Today, PT's Coffee is a standard-bearer for the Direct Trade movement, cultivating numerous longstanding relationships with individual farmers and getting involved in their communities. PT's has done everything to help farming communities from handing out soccer jerseys to local kids, to, in one recent case, helping a farmer replace his production equipment after it was stolen by bandits.
With a focus primarily on light roasts and a history of bringing award-winning coffees to the States, PT's also earns its seat at the table with more well-known roasters in the country's coffee hubs, even winning Roast Magazine's Roaster of the Year award in 2009. "I'm not in San Francisco, I'm not in New York, I'm not in Chicago," Taylor notes. "I'm doing a lot of those things [and] then more [that] a lot of the other roasters are doing, and we have a lot of great coffees. I just happen to be located in a small market." That may not be the case for long, though: With a nationwide fanbase and a solid reputation, PT's is looking to expand in the near future.