By Brian Garrido
Utopian Coffee Co. co-founder Brendon Maxwell was born and raised in Fort Wayne, but his work takes him around the world. Since 2006, through online retail and wholesale channels, Utopian Coffee has been roasting and delivering extraordinary coffee throughout the U.S., and the company works hard to drive impactful change within coffee growing regions.
What made you get into the coffee roastery business?
My cousin Patrick and I grew up together and had always talked about starting a business with one another. He came back to Ft. Wayne after college, learning how to roast coffee, and I was backpacking internationally and fell in love with the developing world, traveling through countries where coffee was grown. In 2004, I was living in Northern California during my last university year and had the idea to start selling coffee online. We focused efforts on sustainably sourcing coffee while building relationships with global coffee producers. It’s been a really fun and meaningful journey.
Do you have favorite coffees you look forward to this time of year?
This time of year signals the arrival of my favorite coffee, which comes from Ethiopia. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel there a couple of times and there is something incredible about the coffee that is produced there. Largely credited as “the birthplace of coffee,” Ethiopia has some of the most complex and enjoyable flavors.
Any advice for home baristas who want to up their game?
Great question! The best advice I can probably give is to invest in a high-quality burr grinder (grind consistency is key!) and to ensure that you have a coffee brewer that holds stable temperature (meaning that it has a quality boiler). And if you’re using a manual process like pour-over, keep practicing! Even the pros don’t nail it every time.
How would you describe your coffee philosophy?
My coffee philosophy is about people. Without great people, great coffee isn’t achievable and doesn’t really matter. It begins with the people at coffee origin, where it’s grown. These producers are some of the hardest workers I’ve ever met and should be highlighted and honored accordingly. And then there’s our Utopian team who cares deeply for the product and process, ensuring that we’re roasting the coffee in an intentional way to best bring about its unique characteristics and highlight the culinary aspects of the beverage. Lastly the consumer, who should be experiencing a meaningful interaction with the product if done correctly.
If you could choose a favorite place in Indiana to visit, where would that be and what would you eat?
Indiana has so many great places, and I suffer from FOMO so it’s difficult for me to choose one of anything. With that said, I would go to Brown County (for the rolling hills) to experience an outdoor dinner catered by the most talented chefs from throughout the state (and we have many!) who would be making their favorite dish using local ingredients.