In this interview series, I’m talking with 2016 United States Barista Champion, Lemuel Butler and 2017 United States Barista Champion, Kyle Ramage!
Emmeline: You both come from amazing coffee backgrounds. Can you please tell me a bit more about them and yourself?
Lemuel : I got into coffee later than the average coffee professional. I did not get into coffee until my mid 30’s and didn’t start drinking coffee until I started working in a café. I was working for a mom and pop café and it wasn’t that long before I got into barista competitions. The competitions are really what kept me working in coffee and it was a driving force for me to continue my education. I spent about four years working in the café, and then started bagging beans in production at CounterCulture Coffee, leading to customer support. It was really important to me to stay plugged in with coffee as I feel coffee is a connecting force between people.
"It was really important to me to stay plugged in with coffee as I feel coffee is a connecting force between people."
E.W.: Tell me more about how the two of you met and decided to partner up.
L.B.: Working in customer support at Counter Culture, I conducted a lot of consulting. When Mahlkonig USA was hiring, I thought Kyle was a perfect fit. During the United States Barista Championships, we were hanging out in the practice area, and I know Kyle is the type of guy who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. I had him taste my competition espresso and after winning, Counter Culture allowed me to bring a coach to Dublin, Ireland for Worlds. I thought he was the perfect person to be my coach. After that, Kyle decided to compete the following year and have me be his coach. After I won the United States States Barista Competition in 2016, I’ve always talked about opening my own cafe. When Kyle won in 2017, the opportunity of opening Black & White Coffee Roasters kind of fell into our laps and the rest was history!
E.W.: Can you tell me more about how the name Black & White Coffee Roasters was created?
L.B.: Our ideas began to blend together. I’ve always wanted a shop with all white equipment; white espresso machine, white grinders, a really nice clean look. Kyle wanted a shop that was murdered out black, (haha). That whole idea started to morph into black and white being very simple, and that’s what we wanted to do with specialty coffee because specialty can get very elitist, forgetting about the average coffee drinker. We wanted to make it more black and white, simple. The whole idea of coffee is bringing people together, and we strive to do just that.
"...Specialty can get very elitist, forgetting about the average coffee drinker. We wanted to make it more black and white, simple. The whole idea of coffee is bringing people together, and we strive to do just that."
E.W.: People are absolutely stoked about Black & White Coffee Roasters. I know I am! From both of your coffee experiences and absolutely stunning results at the US Barista Championships, tell me more about how you incorporate that into your company.
Kyle: Absolutely, the way we make coffee at competition, for some baristas, it’s like you learn how to make coffee by the way of competition, you don’t already make it that way. We try to incorporate as much from that style of making coffee in our cafes. We train every barista to prepare coffee as clean, consistent, and repeatable as possible as you would see in competition. We’re also big on fostering baristas to grow in coffee through competition.
Huge thanks to Lemuel and Kyle for your time! I am super excited to be tasting more of your coffees and be sure to check them out here.
Until Next Time,