There’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh-ground coffee. That rich, powerful aroma of the beans, preparing the palate for the enticing flavor of that first sip, sets up the taste buds for an experience only coffee enthusiasts will understand.
No doubt, the pre-ground stuff readily available on grocery store shelves is a staple of most morning routines. But the true coffee aficionado knows the perfect cup of joe comes from expert roasting and grinding.
The folks at Oklahoma City’s Leap Coffee Roasters have a passion for what they do. Located in a light-industrial warehouse district at 44 NE 51, its owners Eric and Kari Starkey sell their freshly roasted specialty coffees to restaurants and cafes throughout OKC and beyond.
Kari created the Yippee Yi Yo Cafe back in the early ’90s, which was one of Oklahoma City’s best-loved coffee shops of the day. The dark, strong brew was a favorite of customer Eric, and it helped him ask Kari out on a date.
“Eric was an accountant by day, and an actor in Shakespeare in the Park by night,” Kari recalls. “We fell in love and have been passionately involved with coffee – and theater – ever since.”
The name “Leap” came from the previous owner, Kari explained. “We bought Leap Coffee Roasters from Gary Hargrave in March of 2016 – he originally founded the roastery with his best friend, Lee Morrison. We talked about the purchase for months before buying, and when the stars finally aligned it was, coincidentally, Leap Day of Leap Year 2016. Loving the coincidence, we decided to keep the name. We also like the verb.”
Kari said they treat coffee in all of its processes, from the origin of the harvested bean to the roasting and brewing process, with the same reverence as fine wine and craft beer.
“We wanted in on this business with this product that we love,” she says. “After having a baby 10 years ago, working day jobs and pursuing our performing arts endeavors in the evenings, we reevaluated our lives and decided to try this.”
Back in the ’70s, Kari’s dad Wayne Hirst was in the wine business, and brought California wines and imported beer such as Moosehead and Fosters to Oklahoma City.
“He so loved the life he lived because he loved his products, the vintners, the makers, the brewers, the countries they came from,” she smiles. “And he shared that passion with his customers here. And so we thought, how cool would that be if we could do that with coffee?”
The Starkeys say one of the things of which they are most proud is their exclusive “Artist Series” blends of coffees.
“This program we set up is a collaboration with local individual artists to create a unique coffee blend,” Kari explains. “A portion of the sale of every bag of their individual blend goes directly to the artist to help them continue to create. Our intention is to encourage a culture of support for local artists within the business community. We feature two artists annually, with an open warehouse party/art opening/concert/performance to introduce the artist, the art and the coffee.
“It is very important for us to help individual artists continue to create art that moves us. We wish every business would help artists and the arts in some sustainable way to benefit our community and culture.”
Leap Coffee Roasters opens its warehouse for walk-in customers to buy retail bags each Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. You can find it at select stores including Native Roots Market in Deep Deuce, Full Circle Bookstore’s Garden Café, the Red Cup, in Norman at Paisley Café and Waving Wheat, Iron Tree in El Reno, Daily Grind in Stillwater, Bean and Berry in Shawnee and The Cup in Weatherford. It’s also available for sale online at LeapCoffeeRoasters.com.