A Chicagoland startup roastery called Angora Coffee has opened its doors to the public, sharing a passion for high-quality, single-origin coffees and offering tightly packaged fresh bags to-go.
In the north Chicago suburb of Morton Grove, Angora Founder and Roaster Ugur Karatas is welcoming anyone to join in the coffee conversation, soliciting feedback through free cupping and tasting sessions.
“It’s completely free, anybody can join and taste our coffee because it’s not a coffee tasting specifically for the public, we are just cupping the coffees that we roast,” Karatas recently told DCN. “Anybody can come in and cup the coffees with us. We connect with the community that way and we really pay attention to what kind of coffees they like. Then we add some experimental processing coffees, and really try to get their opinion on those.”
Karatas has been roasting on a 10-kilo Toper and an Arc 800 sample roaster in the approximately 3,000-square-foot facility since July. Apart from the 1,000-square-foot production floor, the location includes green coffee storage, a retail area and a quality control lab equipped with a Victoria Arduino E1 Prima espresso machine, a Mahlkönig EK43 grinder and a Fetco batch brewer.
While the warmth of the roastery’s welcome is real, the plants inside the industrial facility are not.
“I love plants. I wanted to add lots of plants to our space, but the current space doesn’t get much sunlight,” said Karatas. “So we fix that with artificial plants. We added a Turkish rug, which pays homage to my heritage, and built a cozy lounge to chill.”
Karatas immigrated to the United States from Turkey for school in 2015 at the age of 19, studying English in Boston and then attending college in Chicago. After college, he launched Angora Coffee as a small coffee shop inside a Chicago hotel.
The shop presented modern North American-style specialty coffee with a focus on high-quality, single-origin coffees. There was also a Turkish coffee offering that departed from tradition.
“In my country, the taste of Turkish coffee is associated with one simple taste, let’s say it’s mostly Brazil and Colombia low-acidity chocolatey coffee,” said Karatas. “When we first opened our downtown coffee shop, we offered different types of single-origins as Turkish coffee, and people were so surprised.”
Unfortunately, the hotel went bankrupt four months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the coffee shop closed. Karatas then pivoted to roasting, receiving SCA-certified training before outfitting the Morton Grove roastery.
Angora now offers eight product categories, representing different regions and fresh-crop seasons.
Coffees under the headings of Lux and Terra are light-roasted African coffees, one big on fruit notes and one distinctly floral; Solaris and Altai are medium-roasted South American coffees; Orion and Apex are more fully-developed roasts that do best as espresso.
At least one coffee from Indonesia or elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region will fall under a category called Fortis, and the eighth category is called the Mirus Collection, which is composed of exceptionally high quality, often featuring experimental post-harvest processing.
“I really enjoy fruity coffees, and I want to highlight anytime I find something of real good quality,” said Karatas. “We add it to the newest collection, which changes every year.”
Mirus beans are packaged in tall rectangular boxes while all others are bagged in a simple, clean white and recyclable bag. Earlier this month, Angora’s roastery was inspected for organic certification, which is the latest step towards Karatas’ goal of achieving B Corp certification by 2025.
The minimalist packaging and bag design convey both precision and transparency, concepts that the company has also highlighted through published reports on costs and margins. A QR code on the back of each bag leads customers to the website for detailed information.
“[Transparency] builds trust in the eyes of our customers — an unbreakable one,” said Karatas. “We are a small coffee roaster now. Therefore our transparency and environmental initiatives are small. But small steps are what we need to be a good example for others, and most importantly other immigrant-founded roasters out there.”
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Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.