AJ Coffee Company was born from one man’s obsession with coffee. That man is me.
My name is Jason Haeger.
In 2005 I started working part time at a Starbucks kiosk. I took to coffee like a duck to water. I couldn’t get enough of the whole experience. I loved every facet of specialty coffee retail. I loved the challenge of striving for, and achieving, improvements in the end product. I loved serving customers and being able to brighten their day, even if just a little. I started asking questions and kept receiving illogical answers. What to do? Start doing my own homework.
Let me back up. I’ve been drinking black coffee since I was eight years old. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated with it. As a kid, it was for adults, which made it special in my mind. As I grew into pre-adolescence, I recognized a small but growing coffee house culture. This only fed my curiosity even more. As a teenager, I found myself wanting to visit coffee houses for the cultural aspect, and because I loved the idea of coffee. The desire to spend time in coffee houses grew even stronger when I went off to college. During one summer between semesters, I needed a job. This was the beginning of my career in coffee.
I am largely self-taught, but as anyone in the specialty coffee industry will tell you, no-one is truly self taught. I spent a lot of time and energy on the internet researching, studying, and experimenting with espresso. As a free-thinker, I always had new ideas and wasn’t afraid to question the norm. I started blogging about my coffee journey like so many others.
After working in a few independent retailers, I noticed how difficult it was to find a truly enjoyable cup of coffee. It dawned on me that I might be able to help do something to raise the quality standards around me. I started a training and consulting business. I may have been a tad arrogant to believe that I was expert enough at the time, but I have had nothing but positive feedback from every single student and client that I have had. I loved helping others to realize and excel in their specialty coffee dreams. My real desire, however, was to pursue my own dream.
I had already been roasting at home for a few years. Friends and family would buy coffee from me on occasion. Some, because they wanted to help support my coffee education, others because they thought my coffee was the best that they could find. A few of my training and consulting clients had asked if I roasted coffee. My heart lies solely behind the espresso bar serving customers and conveying the love and respect that I have for the coffee that they are about to enjoy. My motive is to get this passion oozing from more baristas, in more retailers, so that more people can understand and appreciate how ridiculously good coffee can not only improve the quality of their own experience, but how it can also change the world. Specialty coffee achieves this by increasing the quality of life for those who grow it and by increasing the awareness of social and environmental issues that tie us all together.
I have seen the influence that a roaster has. I have seen retailers perform fantastically with the support and influence of a great roasting company. I have also seen retailers lost and confused by a roaster who makes coffee seem intimidating and unapproachable. I have seen baristas who have a real passion for quality and the positive change that it breeds, and I have seen baristas who view their position as only a part time job. Starting a roasting business seemed to be the most effective way to have the greatest impact on accomplishing the things that I find extremely important in this business. The things that are very close to my heart.
AJ Coffee Company is a brand that I dreamed up years before we ever knew how it would materialize.
The logo on the left is the first version of the brand created years ago. The name is derived from my wife’s first initial and my first initial. As much as I love coffee and the power it has to positively change the world, family has always been more important to me. It made sense to me to name the business after the core unit that allows it to exist.
There were some things we were certain about. We knew that if we were going to roast, we had to practice what we preached concerning a few priorities. The coffee had to be ethically sourced. Fair Trade isn’t always so fair, and we strive to make sure that the farmers who grew our coffee were paid at least, but usually more, than the Fair Trade minimums. Quality can never be added to coffee on its way from the farm to the cup, and it only seems fair that the farmer should benefit as well. The coffee also must be artisan roasted. The coffee that we receive is very high quality. If the growers are able to do their job, we think it fair that we should do ours as well. The coffee also must be specialty grade. I believe in payment as a reward for a job well done, and if the coffee does not meet our standards for quality, it does not belong in your cup. Coffee is an affordable luxury, and if a difference of a few cents per cup makes an enormous difference in the quality of the experience, then those few cents are worth it and more.
We intend to stay true to our roots as this business blossoms into full maturity. However you found us, I appreciate your stopping by. Coffee is to be enjoyed. We hope you enjoy ours.