What was it that the Bard, Bill Shakespeare, once wrote? “A roaster by any other name is still a roaster”? I know it goes something like that, anyway. Contrarily, Hubert H. Humphrey retorted, “In real life, unlike in Shakespeare, the sweetness of the rose depends upon the name it bears. Things are not only what they are. They are, in very important respects, what they seem to be.”
I also disagree with Shakespeare—I think coming up with a powerful, effective name for your business is a critically important measure. The name of your business (if it’s a successful business) will forever be your business identity and is often the very first interaction that customers will have with your business, so you can’t just slap any old label on it! I mean, you can’t just call it Bob’s Coffee Roasting Company Incorporated (motto: “Hi! I’m Bob! This is my coffee roaster!”).
However, as most entrepreneurs will agree, whether you’re thinking about starting up a band, a restaurant, or a coffee roasting company, one of the most difficult preliminary steps is coming up with a name—an identity.
Often are the times I’ve considered starting up a rock and roll band or even my own coffee operation, but I rarely get past the naming part. (How many Grammy awards have I missed out on just because I couldn’t think of something more clever than Drew Moody and the Hipsters…?)
Some business owners who managed to come up with really great identities for their roasting operations weighed in on the subject of their companies’ names and shared their stories here at the Table:
“The search for the Madcap name was a team effort. When I left the shop I had previously co-owned I had three of my baristas from there come to work for me and help me with the start of Madcap. One of my former employees, Laura Feldman, found the word madcap in the thesaurus and the word was added to our list. We tended to keep gravitating towards the word for a lot of reasons. It just had a really nice ring to it and the definition seemed to fit our personalities and in a way our approach to what we were doing. Dictionary.com defines madcap as being an adjective that means ‘wildly or heedlessly impulsive; reckless; rash: a madcap scheme.’ You could say that the start of Madcap Coffee itself was a madcap scheme. Where we opened, how we were buying coffee, the experience we wanted to create were all risks that we didn’t want to compromise. Our passion for coffee definitely tends to be a little madcap but it makes it all the more rewarding.
“Also, the word madcap is not commonly used in the U.S. Which also made the word really attractive to me. I really wanted a word that we could define ourselves and make it our own. My hope is that the work we do as a company makes the word Madcap synonymous with the concepts of relationships, quality and passion in relation to coffee. And, well, who doesn’t like to be a little madcap?” ~ Trevor Corlett, Owner
“Stumptown is a nickname for Portland, Oregon, derived from when early settlers first arrived in the area. As they chopped down trees to settle, they left stumps all around town.
“Our headquarters are in Portland, Oregon so the owner named the company Stumptown Coffee Roasters.
“While we’re at it, I’ll give you the history of the name Hair Bender Blend, which we use for espresso in our cafes. The previous occupant of our first café on Division Street in Portland was a hair salon called ‘Hair Bender’. Our espresso blend was named after that salon.”
“Dark Matter is a theory which we thought represented us at Star Lounge as a cosmic enterprise. We wanted to be the glue that developed our neighborhood in a way that Chicago wasn’t being developed (for example, Wicker Park, Lakeview, and eventually Logan Square). The city development crushed those neighborhoods. We wanted to be the business that brought together the Ukranians, Italians, Puerto Ricans, and artists that have been a part of the neighborhood waaaaaaaaaaaaay prior to Wicker Park’s spill over.
“We wanted to/have done this without taking credit, being behind the scenes, and just as the theory is, never proven, always disputed, but very science meets philosophy. Kind of exactly how we make coffee.” ~ Jesse Diaz, Owner
“The word dogwood represents a species of 30-50 different trees and shrubs, some of which are native to Minnesota. One striking characteristic of many Dogwood shrubs are the deep red colored twigs that are left behind in the winter when the plant has shed it’s leaves. As Minnesotans, finding beauty in something in the dead of winter is something we know how to appreciate. This deep red wood color is reminiscent of the first drops of espresso pulling from a perfect shot. The way the shrub changes also reflects the way espresso can change through the seasons: beautiful in different ways, but always resilient and lively.
“When it came time to think of a name for the new company, we went through several names, always coming back to Dogwood. The name really represents the journey we have been on over the past few years and the basis of the goals of our company.” ~ Stephanie Ratanas, Director of Coffee
“More than often, I also have a horrible time trying to pick a name, hence my unfortunately named cafe in Michigan. When Tristan and I began the process of choosing a name for our new cafe, Gaslight came up almost instantly, as a reference to the roaster and a nod to a classic aesthetic that we’re both big fans of. Honestly, we were very lucky that the name hadn’t been taken by another coffee company already. Of course, there’s a ton restaurants named Gaslight, and the old Gaslight Cafe in NYC, but what are ya gonna do?
“It should be mentioned that we almost named it ‘Stay in School.’ As in, if you don’t, you’ll be making lattes for life.” – Zak Rye
“I wish I could come up with some amazing hidden meaning, but it was just my attempt at trying to be funny with the play on words Has Been. I wanted people not to view us as ‘Ye Olde Coffee Company,’ and I thought poking a bit of fun at ourselves might be a good start.” ~ Stephen Leighton, Managing Director
“The story about how we named Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters is not particularly interesting. Like most names, it’s: It was one of many we came up with, we focused on “Wrecking Ball,” we liked it, others liked it, some others didn’t like it. The End.
“If I had any advice, it’s this: A brand name will become attached to your brand like a coating of paint on a car. You can spend a ton of energy getting the paint color right, but once you get going, it usually* sort of becomes invisible. It’s just your car, and you’re going to be looking at it from the inside most of the time anyway. To others (customers, the public, etc.), nobody just looks at the paint color. They look at it, and it’s your car. Either it’s appealing or it isn’t. So trying to find a perfect name is like trying to find the perfect paint color. There’s no such thing.
“*Obviously, there are loud names like there are loud colors. ‘Bad Ass Coffee,’ ‘Java Junction,’ and ‘Third Rail Coffee’ are like neon-orange, flat-beige, and metallic silver respectively.” ~ Nicholas Cho, Brewing, Barista training, and Retail Specialist.
“Well, we wanted to make use (via inversion, kinda like Maverick’s really great move) of our existing shop’s banner, but moreover, we wanted a name to adequately project the fact that while we want to always take coffee very, very seriously, we don’t take ourselves nearly as seriously. It’s coffee. We’re gonna procure the great greens, roast ’em by way of extreme ability and focus, and we just want to enjoy ourselves, and all of you lovely people. Chi-city inter-shop camaraderie & cooperation, #FTW!” ~ Travis Schaffner, Owner
“DO = Dominic.
MA = Marco.
Our two boys.
The logo of the Kerouac-looking guy is a picture of my dad in the 1950’s, without Neal Cassidy.”
“If you walk into our space, the company’s namesake is pretty obvious. Look up, and you’ll find a high, curved roofline supported by bow & truss beams. I think being in Chicago, having an architecturally-themed name is a nice touch. I figured it was a classy cool name that we enjoyed saying, and it stuck. We’ve recently taken it further, calling our espresso blend ‘Foundation.'” ~ Phil Tadros & Todd Burbo, Owners
“The original owners, Andy and Nanelle Newbom, came up with the name Barefoot when they envisioned the most relaxing way to roast and enjoy one’s coffee would be to do it barefoot. The concept derived from the mindset one would have when roasting small batch, high quality coffees in a truly relaxed and laid back atmosphere, as opposed to some type of faceless corporation where they run around in work boots throwing entire bags into the gaping maw of some mammoth sized roaster.” ~ David Johnson
“Heart was named with a few things kept in mind: 1. simplicity 2. dedication 3. love for coffee It is hard to briefly describe this, but I can truly say that when Heart was nominated for the name, it felt very natural and right.” ~ Rebekah Yli-Luoma
“Good question! Every shop name usually has something tied to it and in our case, Backporch Coffee Roasters means a lot. I started getting into coffee when a friend was away for a term in college. I knew I’d be bored while they were away, so I began roasting green coffee beans. Coffee puts off a strong, delicious scent and this scent is too strong to do inside a college house without bugging any room mates. As you can guess, this led me to the outdoors on our backporch.
“I used to sit out there, rain or shine, and roast coffee for friends, family and even college professors. Friends would cruise by as they could smell me roasting from down the street and our backporch became a little hangout. “I couldn’t not use the name as I furthered myself from hobby to career. Customers like it and it means something. It honors my quiet little homegrown business background and its fun to see where it has all has gone.” ~ Dave Beach, Owner
“Coming up with a name was a pretty time-consuming endeavor for us, too. I brainstormed hundreds of names, many of which were already in use. In one case, I had even done some work on a logo, but if it’s in use somewhere, even if the name hasn’t been properly trademarked, you’re as like to end up in court as an SCAA panel.
“Ultimately, we arrived at Bluebeard Coffee Roasters. Bluebeard had a few things going for it: Bluebeard was my kitty cat growing up, chiefly. It is also a French folk tale of dubious morality. And most folks think about piracy when they hear the name, a la Blackbeard and Redbeard. So, ultimately, the name invokes curiosity. The question is asked daily at our roastery and cafe.
“What’s more, the name is alliterative and has the hard consonants that people who study these kinds of things say will stick in your head. Also, it’s not Swill, which my wife hated and old folks always perceive in the pejoritive. I liked the name Swill a lot, so it’s now our over-arching LLC. We swill lots of coffee at Bluebeard. “Catch up on the folk tale, if you’re interested. Like lots of stories with oral histories, it gets retold many ways. Choose your own ending.” ~ Kevin McGlockin, Owner
“To us, a good craftsperson works tirelessly to perfect and deliver excellence. The best creations are the ones that are made by hand, and at Sightglass, coffee is our hands-on craft. On our vintage coffee roaster, the sightglass is the viewing window that exposes the complex and delicate process of coffee being roasted inside the drum. Similarly, we aim to operate with complete transparency and traceability from the hand that picks the coffee cherry to the hand that serves the cup.
“Because coffee is a seasonal fruit, we source it from origin in tiny, freshly harvested lots. We practice small production methods which allow us to scrutinize and perfect our processes. Attaining a perfect roast is a sensory craft; it’s an intuition, a smell, a sound, a slight change in color—it’s about deep attention to detail, and it comes through in every cup.
“We believe that knowing the story behind your coffee—where it was grown, how it was processed, and who handled it along the way—is a powerful link from the cup to the wider world.” – Jerad and Justin Morrison
“In the late 1600s, the Turkish army swept across much of Eastern and Central Europe, arriving at Vienna in 1683. Besieged and desperate, the Viennese needed an emissary who could pass through Turkish lines to get a message to the nearby Polish troops. Franz George Kolshitsky, who spoke Turkish and Arabic, took on the assignment disguised in a Turkish uniform.
“After many perilous close calls, Kolshitsky completed his valiant deed, returning to give the Viennese the news of the Poles’ imminent rescue of their city. On September 13, the Turks were repelled from Vienna, leaving everything they brought: camels, tents, honey, and strange bags of beans which were thought to be camel feed. Kolshitsky, having lived in the Arab world for several years, knew these were bags of coffee.
“Using the money bestowed on him by the mayor of Vienna for his heroic deed, Kolshitsky bought the Turks’ coffee, opened Central Europe’s first coffee house (The Blue Bottle), and brought coffee to a grateful Vienna.’
“Intrigue! Coffee! Camels! In case you couldn’t tell, we’re a bit wrapped up in coffee’s traditions and its overall story. We feel like our name honors the past in a way.” – Byard Duncan
“The name Highwire came out of a discussion of the kinds of coffees we like best: balanced between body and origin character. We talked about what a difficult line that is to walk. Then AC/DC’s “Livewire” came on the iPod…” – Rich Avella
“Our name, Coava, was inspired by Englishman William Biddulph, who traveled to Turkey in the 1600s and discovered that ‘coava’ was a term for unroasted coffee, a word previously unknown in the Western world. Raw coffee is at the heart of what we do. We strive to create beautiful roast profiles based on the inherent qualities of each unroasted coffee. That’s why we only roast single origins, focusing on quality, intensity and balance in the cup.
“As a result, Coava is known for roasting some of the highest scoring coffees in the world, a craft we humbly practice in our roastery in Portland, Oregon.” – Matt Higgins
“Coffee is a natural tonic for the mind. It increases the ability to think clearly, improves alertness and concentration, enhances memory and reasoning power, stimulates energy and boosts motivation. It also has positive effects on motor skills, endurance, and reaction time. It brightens conversation.
“Anodyne is an independent, local coffee company devoted to lifting the spirits and improving the brain power of our community. We donate Anodyne Coffee every year to many Milwaukee charities and purchase certified Fair Trade beans. Our beans are of the highest quality. Anodyne Coffee is the recognized cure-all for tired minds.”
“Someone once told Joshua Millman that he didn’t have a passion for coffee, and that was what fueled him to open his own coffee roastery, named Passion House. Passion House Coffee Roasters was born on the same day as his daughter, Bayla, adding even more significance and drive to his engine.” – courtesy of Roast Magazine (Christopher Schooley)
“As you may already know, we rebranded our roasting operation a year ago to Ceremony Coffee Roasters from Caffe Pronto Coffee Roastery. Choosing a new name and idea for a 9-year-old company was extremely difficult. But we knew we had evolved beyond Pronto and were determined to dovetail our brand with our philosophy, our craft.
“My team and I brainstormed names and arm wrestled for several months. The concept of ‘ceremony’ was strong from the beginning and began to solidify after my head roaster Andy and I separately visited Ethiopia, to adopt a son and work with farmers, respectively. While there, we each took part in traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies that left lasting impressions.
“During our rebranding deliberations, Andy also won the first US Brewers Cup, and his presentation and big win ultimately pushed us towards a name that would convey how incredibly special coffee can be. Eventually the word became a name; Ceremony emerged spot-on as the most representative of our every day approach to thoughtful sourcing, roasting and preparation of gorgeous coffee.” – Vincent Iatesta
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