Monday, May 14, 2018

Roaster of the Week: Zeke's Coffee in Baltimore

May 14, 2018
Zeke's Coffee Roasters opened in Baltimore in 2005. It's a family-owned, family-run business with three cafes now, (Baltimore, the "original", DC and Pittsburgh). The retail operation also services seven farmers markets every week! They have a growing wholesale segment, which today is even larger than the retail business in terms of volume.

Brett's selfie
Zeke's was the pioneer roaster in their market, ahead of the others in serving up fresh-roasted, great-tasting, specialty coffee in Baltimore, according to Brett Rhodes, Sales and Special Events Manager. They were sourcing quality coffee and paying attention to roast profiles and freshness before it became a "hot" thing to do in 2009. Brett says their roasters, Dennis Doxy and Nick Hedinger, are the center of their operation. Consumers have grown to appreciate the lighter roast that Zeke's offers, so Dennis and Nick must be sure their fans aren't disappointed.

With their first-mover advantage, Zeke's has built a strong brand identity in the market. They offer several blends with special names that have loyal customers like 1812 Espresso, Tell Tale Dark, Charm City and Armistead's Blend. Brett says people may not know it, but they taste the fact that Zeke's turns over their entire roasted inventory every week. They only sell fresh coffee.

"Another one of the keys to growth," says Brett, "is our customer service. We're small enough that customers feel like we're approachable. We have great employees who go the extra mile to help customers." Brett says they are rolling out new programs this year to help their customers have an even better experience with Zeke's: mobile-ordering for consumers and "blue cart" for the restaurant industry.

Brett is excited to bring the Rwanda Ejo Heza women-grown coffee, imported by Artisan Coffee Imports, into their offerings of high quality, single origin coffees. He expects customers in all three cafes to be intrigued by its newness, and then to come back for more of its fruity, citrus with chocolate and spicy notes. The story of the women this coffee benefits is a draw also. Especially in this month where we celebrate mothers, consumers want to pay tribute to the women farmers whose lives depend on a fair deal from the high-quality coffee they sell.
Women of Ejo Heza during a picking day at their community plot.
President of Ejo Heza, Therese, with importer, Ruth Ann