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Posted on Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 5:10 a.m.

A2eatwrite: Local Love Fridays - Return to your senses with Roos Roast Free Speech Coffee

By Jennifer Shikes Haines

Shikes Haines - Lobster Butter Love
"Return to your senses."

That's what John Roos tells students in his coffee roasting classes. John Roos loves his coffee. You can see, smell and taste the love in every cup.

John would like everyone to really get down and dirty with their coffee - smell it, run their fingers through it, look at the different textures of the beans. Coffee should be a sensual experience, and he takes the moniker of "Free Speech" coffee seriously.

In John Roos's eyes, coffee may have created the Industrial Revolution, and it certainly helped The Age of Enlightenment along.

Shikes Haines - John Roos at his stall at the Farmers Market
"Before coffee, everyone drank grog. Coffee houses allowed people to really start playing with ideas."

The other ideas behind "Free Speech" Coffee? Homage to his Ann Arbor, hippie-background upbringing and to the fact that people talk more when they have coffee in their system.

John's odyssey into the coffee business has taken him through careers and side trips as a professional chef, artist, poet and, more recently, Subaru salesman. The Subarus led him, more fully, to the coffee. He arrived back in Ann Arbor in 2002 needing a break from restaurants, but he was still obsessed with coffee: an obsession that began with a 1990 perfect cup of coffee at "Grandma's Coffee House" in Maui.

Shikes Haines - Brian Barch at the Roos Roast stall
The Subaru job was more of a challenge/joke to himself, but he enjoyed it, and began giving his home-roasted brews to folks who bought cars. Soon customers were coming in for the coffee, rather than the cars, and John decided he could take this full time. John's business now has grown to the point where he's hired Brian Barch as a coffee intern and has a variety of part-time helpers, as well.

The other factor in John's business is community involvement; John loves communing with faithful customers, he learns everyone's preferences, and he helps out with a variety of local events, including tons of school fundraisers, the upcoming Hollerfest, the Ann Arbor Film Festival and Growing Hope. An initial idea was coffee delivery by bike, but as his customer base has grown exponentially, this has become less practical.

Shikes Haines - Roos Roast coffee bags
The artistry and love from John Roos is evident in every Roos Roast bag: John's art is on each and every bag, his love of words is clear from his use of batch names such as Lobster Butter Love or Rich French Neighbor, and every batch is roast-dated so you know exactly how fresh your coffee will be. The most important proof of his love of coffee is in every, addicting, delicious cup.

I know.

I'm an addict.

To learn more about Roos Roast Free Speech Coffee visit John, Brian and the crew at the Farmers Market any Wednesday or Saturday (and Saturdays throughout the year), or go here.

Roos Roast is also served or available at area businesses as diverse as Eve, the Restaurant, the People's Food Co-op, the Chelsea Gallery and Main Street Motors. For a full list, please go here. For those who don't live in the area, you can still order RoosRoast here.

Photos (from top): Bag of Lobster Butter Love coffee, John Roos joking with a customer at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market Stall, Brian Barch greeting customers at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, coffee display at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market.

Each Friday, I will be highlighting a small, local, food business.


I'm Jennifer Haines and my blog is a2eatwrite. Please let me know about any small area food businesses by contacting me at: Jenshaines at gmail dot com.


Jennifer Shikes Haines

Sun, Aug 23, 2009 : 7:11 a.m.

Solomon - I like Zingerman's coffee, too, and am pretty much a lover of all things Zingerman's - Roos Roast, however, is really my favorite, especially as John now has picked up on my tastes (dark but not syrupy) and keeps hooking me up with exactly the "right stuff". Jon - I really get that from John on every level.

Jon Saalberg

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 12:16 p.m.

As a life-long (since kindergarten) friend of John's, I can attest to his enthusiasm and zeal for everything he does. And his coffee is no exception. Give it a try. You will be hooked.

Solomon James

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 6:11 a.m.

I love Roos Roast coffee. As a lover of everything Zingerman's, I was slow to hop on the Roos bandwagon, but I'm there now. My wife kept telling me about this great local coffee that was hard to get (this was before Roos' farmers market occupation). The story of the passion he had was intriguing. When I finally tasted it, the actual flavor behind the cup blew me away. Congratulations to him.