Bent Tree Coffee gaining popularity across campus


A container of coffee beans at Bent Tree Coffee on Jan 31, 2012. Bent Tree Coffee has just begun selling their coffee around campus. Photo by Casey Lawver.

Rabab Al-Sharif

Roasters’ small batch artisan coffee is the first food item manufactured in Kent by a local business to be sold on campus shelves, not because its creators are Kent State alumni, but because it is a great product, Kent State dining services officials said.

“It’s fantastic that it’s a local coffee.” said Dennis Bean, assistant director of dining services. “It’s fantastic that it’s from Kent State alumni. You know we’re very pleased in those areas­­ — but that aside, when we first sat down and did the tasting in the fall, I’ll come out and say it, it’s one of the best coffees I’ve ever had.”

Bent Tree owners Ryan Brannon and Mike Mistur were excited that the university officials responded so well to their product.

“They weren’t doing us a favor.” Brannon said. “They picked us up because they thought we had an amazing product.”

Since its debut into campus stores this semester, university convenience stores have sold 13 cases, or about 108 individual eight-ounce bags of Bent Tree coffee, Bean said. The coffee is sold at Eastway, Prentice and Tri-Towers for $7.99 a bag.

Brannon said they weren’t worried if students would pay that much for coffee.

“We know we’re making great coffee, and we thought that the price point was pretty reasonable in comparison to the other prices in the student stores,” Brannon said.

The university wanted to give the brand a good marketing position, Bean said, and collaborated with owners Ryan Brannon and Mike Mistur to create the Black Squirrel Blend specifically for Kent State.

“Even if students came across it as a novelty to try it, once they had it, we knew they’d be hooked,” Bean said.

What sets their coffee apart, Brannon said, is that they start with high-quality arabica beans. All the coffee sold through the university is organic fair-trade. Brannon and Mistur roast the beans in their store located on Water Street.

“It makes a world of difference. Our coffee is fresh, roasted here in Kent very shortly before it was taken to the university,” Brannon said.

Any other brands that the university sells could have been roasted months before halfway across the world, and coffee loses quality as time passes, he said.

“They call it dead coffee,” Brannon said. “Coffee that just gets shipped around the country and sits around forever doesn’t have nearly the same flavor.”

The team said they take time to see how the beans like to be roasted, trying a couple of different ways and tasting them before coming up with the right blend. They sell coffee by the pound and cup out of their store as well as wholesale to coffee shops, restaurants and now Kent State.

Aleckz McElroy, a student manager at Eastway Market, said after three weeks of selling, Eastway has ordered 16 cases of Bent Tree Coffee. So far the Black Squirrel Blend is the most popular.

McElroy was able to sample the coffee when Mistur and Brannon sampled coffee to students in Eastway in January and thought it was fantastic.

“Our Jazzman’s coffee is good,” McElroy said. “There was just something different about that stuff.”

During their visit, Brannon said they received a lot of positive feedback from students. One Eastway employee even told him that they couldn’t keep the coffee on the shelves.

“We got to meet students and talk to them, and everyone was saying that they loved the coffee,” Brannon said. “A lot people had already tried it, and those who hadn’t tried it really liked it.”

Originally, Brannon and Mistur had hoped to get brewed coffee sold by the cup on campus, but the university suggested they start selling the bags and go from there.

Most agreements to sell brewed coffee on campus are based on a year and because Bent Tree came in late fall, they are looking to sell brewed coffee for next year. Both Bean and Bent Tree owners said that this was a strong possibility.

“There are a lot of coffee drinkers on campus, and there are a lot of potential places to sell it on campus beside the convenience centers,” Mistur said. “This is a great first step.”

Not only is it good business sense for the university to partner with local businesses, but it’s good community sense as well, said Bean.

“Although we’re Kent State University, Kent is the first word,” Bean said. “We make a very strong effort to work with the local community.”

Contact Rabab Al-Sharif at [email protected].