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Coffee shop perks up local grind

Senior Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 22:01


Frank Roskam | The Miami Student

Senior Eric Koggi makes an espresso drink at the Oxford Coffee Co., 21 Lynn Ave.

Miami University students and faculty who need that extra kick to settle into a new semester can wake up to a new coffee venue.

The Oxford Coffee Co., located on 21 Lynn Ave., opened its doors Dec. 20, 2012. The shop is partially owned and operated by Miami University professor Robert Thurston, a semi-retired professor of Russian history. As a professor in Miami University’s “Retire Re-hire” program, Thurston teaches several classes at Miami every spring semester.

His interest in coffee began when he received a coffee grinder as a gift in the late 1970s, but Thurston found passion in the study of coffee after becoming partially retired in 2004.

“I had previously studied Russian history, so after retiring I decided to begin studying coffee,” Thurston said. “After receiving a coffee grinder as a gift, it was the awakening of my own taste buds that encouraged me to study and write about coffee.”

Throughout his time as a professor at Miami, Thurston taught several classes on the history of coffee, as well as contributing to a number of coffee magazines and periodicals such as Specialty Coffee Retailer and Roast. Thurston is currently working on a book titled Coffee: A Handbook, which will consist of articles from numerous players in the coffee trade, such as farmers and roasters, and will cover basically everything there is to know about coffee, according to Thurston.

“In 2004, I began to seriously study coffee and travel to various coffee farms around the world,” Thurston said. “I’ve been to coffee farms in a lot of places around the world and talked to some of the best coffee farmers in the world.”

Thurston used this knowledge that he gained to expand his expertise and understand what it took to brew great coffee. His daughter, Lara, who helps run the coffee shop, said her father’s interest in coffee reached a peak when he began roasting his own coffee roughly five years ago.

“[My father] had a lot of interest and within the past year had decided to open the coffee shop,” Lara said. “So, some other partners got involved and then on Dec. 20 we finally opened our doors.”

According to Lara, who shares her father’s passion for coffee, the Oxford Coffee Co. sells a higherquality of coffee.

“We are the only shop in town that actually roasts its own beans,” Lara said. “We roast all of our beans in-house, which guarantees maximum freshness. So, while other places in town may order their beans already roasted and wait for them to be delivered, we roast our own beans and are able to use them the next day for our brewed coffee.”

The roasting process, which is done by employees of Oxford Coffee Co. in-store, is a very intensive process, according to Thurston.

“We have control over the quality of the coffee from the very beginning because we take great care in roasting the coffee,” Thurston said. “We buy green [fresh] coffee beans, we grind it and we roast it ourselves.”

The Oxford Coffee Co. roasts up to five pounds of beans at a time with its coffee roaster. Although the roasting process only takes about 15 minutes, it is by no means a simple task, according to Lara.

The roasting machine requires several people to operate at a time, and the roast of the beans is affected by everything from the amount of gas used to heat the beans to the balance of convective air circulating within the roaster. Next to the roaster lies a “Roast Profile” chart, which displays what various factors must be adjusted throughout the process to receive the desired darkness, strength, and taste of each batch of beans.

“We get the coffee beans from a distributor in South Bend, Ind., but they’re an importer that buys the beans green from everywhere from Hawaii to Columbia,” Thurston said. “Over my years studying coffee, I’ve met many different coffee farmers, so we’re hoping to eventually form direct trades with farmers in the future.”

The shop itself offers a unique, comfortable atmosphere that makes it stand out from other coffee shops, according to Thurston.

“Some of the artwork on our walls is from local artists who are displaying and selling their work here,” Lara Thurston said. “That includes me; the big self-portrait is mine. ”

In addition to the decorations and furniture, the shop also has decks of cards on every table, as well as various coffee and history magazines. Also adorning the store’s walls are various styles of coffee grinders, presses, kettles and makers for sale. If customers so desire, they can also play the lounge stereo with a choice of CDs consisting of Greatest Hits albums from Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, as well as The Beatles’ Revolver and Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

“The CDs are compliments of my dad,” Lara said with a laugh.

For those who wish to purchase Oxford Coffee Company’s home-roasted coffee, four different blends are available for sale in 2 ounce and 12 ounce bags at The Moon Co-op and the Uptown Farmers’ Market as well as in the store itself.

“In addition to selling our own coffee, we are now offering several flavors of cappuccinos, espressos and tea,” Thurston said. “Pretty soon here we’ll be selling our coffee online. So, we’ll be able to sell our coffee to anyone around the world.”

First-time customers and junior Miami University students Zach Gilbert and Adam Piccus shared Lara’s sentiment.

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