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Meet Lionheart, an Oregon Multiroaster That’s Fighting for the Little Guys

Lionheart beaverton

Lionheart Coffee. Photo by J. Peter Roth for Daily Coffee News.

About a half-hour drive from the center of specialty coffee retail mecca Portland, Ore., Lionheart Coffee Company has opened its doors in Beaverton.

Based in an area of town better known for shopping malls, large corporate brand names and other markers of suburbia, Lionheart is a small, conscientious multi-roaster with a unique business plan. Each month, the shop will feature one roaster’s ethically sourced coffees. However, Lionheart’s ethical approach does not begin and end with wholesale sourcing.

The four owners of Lionheart — Ben and Lauren Reese, and Kaisa and Ryan Butcher —also promise to give back to their local community in three significant ways: money, space, and time. Specifically, they will be donating five percent of the proceeds from their loyalty programs, offering meeting space inside the shop at no charge, and volunteering time to one of four nonprofits: Willamette West Habitat for Humanity, the Oregon Food Bank, Mercy Corps, and Water1st International.

Lionheart Coffee

Inside Lionheart Coffee. Photo by J. Peter Roth for Daily Coffee News.

“I had known that I’d wanted to open a coffee shop probably for the last four or five years,” says Kaisa Butcher, Lionheart’s executive director. “It was after I had returned from doing human rights work in India. I really wanted to do something that was community focused. And I feel like good coffee brings people together.”

The monthly featured coffees may be brewed as espresso or in any of four preferred manual methods: Chemex, Aeropress, French press, or Hario V60. In addition to the monthly featured roaster, selections from Caravan Coffee (Newberg, Ore.) will be available at all times.

The first featured roaster, Water Avenue Coffee (Portland), is offering two different coffees — El Salvador Finca el Manzano is sourced directly, and Rwanda Abakundakawa, coming from an all-female co-op with a story all its own is sourced through importer Sustainable Harvest.

Lionheart Coffee

Lionheart Coffee guest roasters. Photo by J. Peter Roth for Daily Coffee News.

Lionheart’s own origin story begins in February, 2014, at Operations Director Ben Reese’s home. Reese recalls he and his wife, Lauren, having dinner with Butcher and her husband, Ryan. Reese introduced his friends to the siphon brewing method using some coffees he’d just home-roasted. That simple event proved to be enough inspiration for the four to begin envisioning a shop of their own, and the timing was right personally and professionally for them to consider taking such a leap. Says Ben Reese, “We wanted to re-create that experience.”

Moving forward was easy. Picking a name wasn’t.

“We were having a hard time coming up with a name,” Kaisa Butcher says. “One day Lauren was looking at my wrist, and I have Lionheart written there. I got this after coming back from my year in India, where I worked with survivors of human trafficking. I was really inspired by their strength and the social workers’ strength. It was very humbling. I got it tattooed because I wanted to remember to be a Lionheart and stand up for the little guys.”

Lionheart Coffee

The Lionheart Coffee tatto. Photo by J. Peter Roth for Daily Coffee News.

Ben and Kaisa both say that at first, they thought their business model was brand new, even innovative. But now they more accurately define what they’re doing as “extending” the positive trend of ethically sourced and produced coffees.

Lionheart’s 1,200 square-foot café sits in somewhat new territory for specialty coffee. Aside from several Starbucks stores, the only specialty shops nearby are Dapper & Wise, and Insomnia (D&W’s storefront outlets), which are each between 15-30 minutes away. Dapper & Wise, by the way, is slated to be Lionheart’s featured roaster in August.

Setting up shop in such relatively unbroken coffee ground was not accidental. On one level, Beaverton is home. Kaisa and Ben both grew up there. first meeting years ago while working at Starbucks, where they both helped run what was basically a store without a manager. The other reason, they say, is that Beaverton is more than ready for new specialty coffee experiences.

Says Kaisa, “We want to be able to offer the same coffee experience that you would find in downtown Portland, over here on our side of town.”

Lionheart Coffee

Lionheart Coffee. Photo by J. Peter Roth for Daily Coffee News.

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