During his first year as a professor, a student named Mark introduced Tracy McKenzie to specialty roasted coffee—specifically, the savory notes of blueberry in a cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. This first sip launched a quest to pursue that very same flavor.

As professors do, Tracy began to research roasting methods. One afternoon he gathered his colleagues in the alleyway separating two university buildings to “yuk it up,” as Tracy says, between classes. They stood cradling fresh mugs of pour-over Yirgacheffe beneath the billow of smoke rising from the roaster as coffee beans crackled in the drum. Then and there Back Alley Roasters began.

Tracy works with his wife, Beth, to bring coffee from Back Alley Roasters to your table. With roots in farming communities in rural Kansas and Pennsylvania, they value the skillful and hard-working ethos of the coffee process from cherry to bean to cup.