Oct 22, 2010

5 Questions with Danny O'Neill - "Bean Baron" The Roasterie

And you thought your coffee consumption was out of control...

Three? Four? A half-dozen coffees in a day? That's child's play... compared to Danny O'Neill, owner, founder, "Bean Baron" of Kansas City's arguably best known coffee company - The Roasterie.

Coffee may not be a food, per se, but it's used in cooking frequently, goes well with food as a beverage, fuels many of our nations finest chefs and is most certainly an essential part of restaurant culture. The Roasterie knows and embraces this correlation with food so well, one can find Roasterie blends individually customized for Kansas City's favorite restaurants at their neighborhood grocery store.

So it's fitting that my next game of five questions is with The Bean Baron. And if you're thinking to yourself, "Man, I bet that guy drinks a lot of coffee," my friend, you have no idea. But read on to find out...

Who is "The Bean Baron" - at work and in life, generally?
I always start with fun…life is fun, should be fun…I’m all about fun. I’m very high energy and love performance and excellence in all things. I love being with my family, my friends, my staff, our customers…and they are all really in one big pot. I’m driven…to have fun, to do my best…I love and am intensely passionate about coffee, espresso, entrepreneurship, giving back, helping others, Roasterie Coffee ice cream, chocolate, anything with an internal combustion motorJ.

Average weekday morning. You wake up. I assume you drink some sort of coffee drink. What is it and how do you prepare it or where is it prepared for you?
I don’t like to be more than a few meters from a commercial espresso machine! So we have them everywhere…at home in Brookside, at our farm outside Excelsior Springs, in our Airstream Mobile Coffee Unit, in our offices…everywhere. I love espresso and normally go straight from bed to the La Marzocco in our kitchen…and I usually pull anywhere from 6 to 9 double shots…then go to the shower. I may stop at the Café and when I do, I always get a double macchiato. At the office I’ll usually have either French Press or whatever Amanda has brewed. The boys will usually be cupping so I jump in whenever I can. After around 3:00 or 4:00 I switch to decaf…but have had at least 20 + cups of regular by then so it’s time. Over the years, there has been such dramatic improvement in the decaf processes that you really have to have a discerning palate now to tell the difference.

What does the average coffee drinker not know about coffee that he/should?
Perhaps the work that went into getting it in their hands. We spend all year sourcing…and the farmers growing, the best coffee that we can find on the planet. Those beans have likely gone through nine sets of human fingers, taken one tree a whole year just to produce 1 to 1.5 pounds of coffee; and nearly five years for that tree to produce it’s first full crop! So, an intense amount of work goes into those beans…but they don’t need to sweat all that…’cause that’s what we do!

Now there are two Roasterie Cafe's in Kansas City. What are the company's plans for expansion considering cafes, facilities and distribution?
We spent five years studying the local market before we decided on the 2nd Café. We want each one to play a major role in their local community…we’re not interested in the “drive-by” locations. We want to be a part of our neighborhood, wherever we are. So, it’s likely we’ll continue to be very methodical in our future Café expansion plans.
We continue to build locally, regionally and nationally in terms of sales and distribution. But we really focus here in the Midwest and that’s where most of our growth continues to be, except online…which we’re really pleased with and it’s really spread across the country.

What's your best or favorite coffee-related travel memory? 
Being lost in Ethiopia at night when a roadblock came down and ‘rebels’ got on the bus with AK47’s to steal and/or kidnap. When our guides told them we were just poor coffee buyers, they let us go. It was very fun and exciting.

Clearly, this is a man living a caffeinated lifestyle. A true KC original and an interesting subject for 5 questions. Hope you enjoyed!

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