Ethnic coffees come to dining halls

Chad Rakers, roaster at Columbia Street Roastery in Champaign, roasts a batch of beans Tuesday afternoon. New blends are coming to campus. Erica Magda

By Lauren Laws

Traveling to the forests of Ethiopia and the islands of Indonesia will become much easier soon – at least for a tongue.

In November, Dining Services, in cooperation with Columbia Street Roastery, will introduce three new coffees to the University residence dining halls.

“We wanted to have a variety of coffee offered on a specialty basis that reflects the diversity of our student population,” said Dawn Aubrey, senior assistant director of dining services.

The three coffees are Rwanda Ingoboka Co-op, from Africa, Sumatra Mandheling, from Indonesia, and Nicaragua Segovia, from central America.

“They kind of encompass coffee in general,” said Chad Rakers, roaster at Columbia Street Roastery.

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    “You can sometimes go too far (with specialty coffees). It’s better to start with a base and then branch off into different and more complex localized coffees.”

    Each coffee has a unique taste. African blends have fruit notes or berry tastes, Indonesian blends have more earthy tastes, and central American blends should be more sharp and acidic, said Mark Herriott, owner of Columbia Street Roastery.

    “The idea is to give you three additional coffees with characteristics,” Herriott said.

    Columbia Street Roastery is the University’s provider of coffee.

    One of its creations, the Illini Blend, is made specifically for the school. Talks of introducing the new coffees first began last May.

    “I requested that we have coffee from countries that we had a student population from, that they are fair trade and that they are organic,” Aubrey said.

    Herriott was more than happy to comply.

    “It’s a mutual thing,” Herriott said. “This is a time to experience things in life, so why not do coffee?”

    The dining halls will not receive all three at once, though.

    Each hall will showcase one of the coffees for a couple of weeks before rotating into another one.

    At the end of the semester, Columbia Street Roastery will bring in three new blends of coffee to replace the ones from this semester.

    Besides introducing new coffee, Columbia Street Roastery is also installing digital photo frames into every dining hall to showcase the new blends.

    “We try to make the coffee come alive,” Herriott said. “It’s all about info and bringing the people who make the coffee to the UI campus.”

    The digital photo frames will display information about the coffee, the country it comes from and show the people who grow and harvest it. The photos come from Herriott’s trips from visiting the farmers he buys from.

    Having different types of coffee in the dining halls has some students intrigued.

    “I would actually really like it,” said Diana Mazuera, sophomore in Business. “Most don’t know that there are different flavors, like from Africa. It brings diversity.”

    Melissa Sorrells, freshman in ACES, also looks forward to the new coffee.

    “The coffee here is really strong,” she said. “(This) will benefit students since it will bring variety and everyone likes to have an option.”

    Herriott said he enjoys working with the University because it gives him the ability to share varieties of coffee and pass on his knowledge to others.

    “It’s about people and having some fun,” he said. “Why not experience new things?”