Coffee Talk: Seek Out Beans from These Four Columbus-Based, Small-Batch Roasters

Our notables include a trailer run by a former Tanzanian missionary, an expanding shop run by college friends, and two married couples. Also, don’t miss our suggested egg sandwich accompaniments.

Nicholas Dekker
Black Kahawa Coffee founder Douglas Buckley roasts and serves coffee from a mobile trailer.

Columbus coffee is a booming business, with more and more shops opening across the city annually. But not every coffee purveyor features its own storefront: These four expert roasters can be found at local markets, supplying restaurants and cafés, or selling and delivering their beans around Columbus.

Black Kahawa Coffee

Douglas Buckley started Black Kahawa Coffee after spending more than a decade with his family as a missionary in Tanzania. While there, the Columbus native had the opportunity to work with Tanzanian women, teaching them how to roast and sell coffee on the international market. These efforts led to the opening of a coffee shop in Dar es Salaam, on the Indian Ocean coast. When Buckley moved back to the U.S. in 2019, he continued roasting and launched his own business, thinking of how he could highlight coffee’s East African origins.

Black Kahawa Coffee founder Douglas Buckley holds a batch of unroasted coffee beans.

“There’s a bit of irony that I wanted to create a company that celebrated coffee’s origin story in a way that’s accessible to everyone, all while we’re seeing a lot of Black and brown people who are not represented in the coffee industry,” Buckley says.

Buckley focuses on East African coffees, typically serving a trio of light, medium and dark roasts created by blending coffees from countries like Ethiopia and Tanzania. Even from Central Ohio, he still works to provide opportunities for coffee growers back in Africa, often working through Crimson Cup to import beans from single estates.

He also roasts and serves coffee from a mobile trailer, where he sells hot coffee as well as a popular nitro cold brew flavored with his Zanzibar spice syrup. This spring, Buckley hopes to have the Black Kahawa Coffee trailer popping up regularly in Downtown Columbus. 

Jennings Java Artisan Coffee Roasters

Daniel Jennings and A.J. Kazmierczak began roasting coffee as students at Muskingum University in the fall of 2016, eventually making their way to Columbus to set up roasting, retail and delivery operations. Jennings Java Artisan Coffee Roasters features a variety of single-origin roasts as well as house blends and collaborations, like the Cannon Powder brewed for the CBJ Artillery team or Golden’s Espresso, named for their mentor and former professor at Muskingum. Customers can visit their unassuming retail shop in the Brewery District or get their beans delivered by bike if they live nearby. To find the coffee duo, guests walk around to the back of the South Front Street warehouse where Jennings and Kazmierczak roast coffee, boil water for pour overs and stock fridges with cold brew and canned lattes. But very soon the roaster will get an upgrade: The co-founders recently announced that Jennings Java will open its first retail shop in Merion Village, in the former digs of Bake Me Happy. 

Coffee from Central Ohio small-batch roasters (from left):  Jennings Java Artisan Coffee Roasters, Royal Flamingo Coffee, Ramble Coffee and Black Kahawa Coffee

Ramble Coffee

At Ramble Coffee, Sara and John Hartley are doing anything but ambling along. The pair has been active, traveling and roasting coffee since 2016, starting first at their Worthington home before moving into Global Gallery Coffee Shop in 2019. Their roasts are available at the Clintonville shop, on local grocery store shelves like Weiland’s Market or the Hills Market, plus local businesses like Bake Me Happy, Pattycake Bakery, SOW Plated and Watershed Kitchen & Bar. Their tent and teardrop trailer are staples of the Worthington Farmers Market, where they sell whole beans, hot coffee and cold brew. True to their business’ name, the Hartleys share a love of exploration and adventure. In past years they’ve rambled across the country with their kids using the trailer, and they’ve even traveled the world to explore different coffee-growing regions in Latin America and Africa. The result is expertly roasted coffees from around the globe, like Ramble’s Mexico Chiapas and Nicaragua Madriz. 

Royal Flamingo Coffee

Drawing its name from the regally dressed flamingo whose portrait hangs in the home of founders Bryan Brzozowski and Beth Stallings (a Columbus Monthly contributor), Royal Flamingo Coffee nods to Brzozowski’s lifelong obsession with the bird, as well as his origins near Parma, Ohio, where the plastic lawn flamingo is a mascot of sorts. The colorful bird signifies a micro-roaster that takes a true delight in single-origin coffees and is determined not to take itself too seriously. The evidence is in Royal Flamingo’s playful branding, engaging social media presence and an interesting roster of coffees that highlights novel processing methods and flavors. You might find a rich and chocolatey Guatemala Finca Siquem or a Colombian roast processed with peach pulp and wine yeast; you can taste multiple roasts with the Coffee Nerd Sampler, too. Royal Flamingo pops up at various markets around the city, such as the German Village Farmers Market. More coffee shops have begun carrying their beans, as well. Look for Royal Flamingo at Third Way Café, Bake Me Happy and Grandview Grind. 

Coffee Pairing: Two Breakfast Sandwiches to Try

Don’t feel like cooking? Here are two of our favorite eggy handhelds to carry home.

Freedom a la Cart Café123 E. Spring St., Downtown, 614-992-3252

Although the baked goods are tempting at Freedom’s adorable Downtown café, we recommend the breakfast burrito ($9)—a perfectly sized wrap with a nice egg-to-chorizo-to-home fries ratio. Melted provolone ties it all together, along with a fresh tomatillo salsa that’s more sweet than spicy. Plus, you’ll feel good about the café’s cause, which is to support survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation.

Big Apple Breakfast Co.895 High St., Worthington, 614-888-7979

We love a good pop-up. Owner Brian Iarocci’s New York-inspired breakfast stop, Big Apple Breakfast Co., takes over Pizza Primo in Worthington on weekday mornings from 7 to 11 a.m. You’ll want to order the bodega-style sandwich ($6.95), featuring your choice of bacon, ham or sausage with American cheese and a gooey egg on a kaiser roll. Give it the SPK treatment, too—that’s salt, pepper and ketchup. A side of hash browns is just $1.95. If you are ordering coffee, it comes in one of those NYC-style, blue and white Greek coffee cups. 

Erin Edwards

This story is from the April 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.