Two former Washington State University students with a shared passion decided to quit their full-time jobs and pursue their dream of bringing craft coffee to the Palouse.
Owners Kyle O’Malley and Grant Schoenlein launched Kamiak Coffee Co. in Moscow on Oct. 2 with the goal of bringing Moscow and Pullman specialty-grade coffee sourced from around the world.
“This was the answer to what you want to do with your life if you could have it your way,” O’Malley said.
Kamiak Coffee Co. products are currently sold at Cafe Artista, the Moscow Food Co-op, Birch and Barley, Dissmore’s and Three Forks Bikes and Brews. The coffee is roasted to order in small batches and shipped that day so the buyer receives it fresh. Similar to craft beer, craft coffee is seeing a rise in popularity that O’Malley and Schoenlein are trying to imitate on the Palouse. The two roast and brew the coffee themselves, which they source from Africa, South America and even the Denali.
The former college roommates decided they wanted to prove their business could succeed in a small community like Moscow rather than take their business elsewhere. They hope other graduates will follow in their footsteps.
“We wanted to prove to other students that, yes, you can stay here on the Palouse,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley used to work for College Hill Custom Threads in Pullman, and while he said it was one of the best experiences he has had, he wanted to pursue a dream he believed in. Schoenlein quit his property management job to do the same. Both have been drinking coffee since they were teenagers, and they decided to turn their love for the drink into a career.
Diving into the coffee industry also means diving into where it comes from. O’Malley and Schoenlein said they carefully select coffee beans from around the world based not only on flavor, but to support the agricultural workers who produce it.
Among them are producers in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Colombia. O’Malley said they want to support the producers’ livelihoods and will pay four to six times the price to assist the farmers.
They also try to find producers with unique backgrounds. For example, they buy coffee from Colombia that is completely produced by women, which is rare in the male-dominated industry, O’Malley said.
“We try to find coffee that has a story behind it,” O’Malley said.
The owners are trying to share those stories with coffee drinkers on the Palouse. They hope to use their business as a vehicle for educating the public about specialty-grade coffee, where it comes from and what it tastes like. With tasting events and a planned education space in the loft of the 630 N. Almon St. building they are using, they want to convince casual drinkers that coffee is a complex drink with many potential flavors other than the dark, bitter taste people are used to.
“While it’s a challenge,” O’Malley said, “it’s also a huge opportunity.”
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to email@example.com.