Its origins are a bit mysterious. However, one legend has it that a goat herder named Kaldi stumbled upon it in the forests of the Ethiopian plateau. It turns out his goats found renewed energy after eating some strange berries. Those berries would eventually become the foundation for the drink dubbed “mud”, “brew”, ”rocket fuel” and even “jitter juice”. As its discovery moved through different parts of the world, humanity found a better way to wake up and greet the morning.
And whatever clever name those throughout history have used to describe this natural elixir of energy and taste, this wonderment of nature, widely known as coffee, has found its way into almost every culture on the planet. And why wouldn’t it? After all, led or unled, this elixir of seduction has the taste to charm our pallets and persuades us to purchase 10.4 million tons of it each year. One might even say that it’s the medicine of the ages.
This seemingly endless desire for this rich, robust taste grows with coffee shops springing up everywhere and every new generation discovering the various captivating flavors. And this leads some of those discoverers of flavor to push even further than the specialty coffee single cups or mainstream bagged commercial coffees packed on grocery shelves.
These connoisseurs of coffee chase the bean, much the same way a craft beer brewer seeks out the perfect hops and grain to produce the best tasting ale, lager, or stout. An Oklahoma resident and Osage tribal member, Ryan Armstrong, is one such person chasing the flavor. In his search, he has found the newest medicine of the age. And it is called precisely that in the Osage language, Ma^kasape (the name of his company), meaning “black medicine.”
Ironically and by his admission, Armstrong admits that his first experience with coffee was less than enjoyable, although memorable for sure.
“I didn’t even really enjoy coffee growing up. Coffee was synonymous with Folgers and just something my grandpa drank. Coffee was a black mud-like substance, and I thought it was gross,” Armstrong said. But while in college, he began to tolerate it due to its energy-boosting effects and a little bit of fitting in with his peers.
Since that’s what his friends were doing, he admits it had to have an excessive amount of sugar and cream to make it tolerable. And then something happened, something that would change his life. He had his first taste of coffee made from a French press. It was black, bold, beautiful, and unlike anything he had ever had. From that moment forward, he would no longer tolerate watered-down coffee.
“I remember that moment. It was like a life-defining moment. It was the moment I had a really good cup of coffee,” Armstrong said. He was 19 years of age, and his senses had been awakened. Good coffee had become a priority. Even with costs above the mainstream grocery store brands, he would spend the money. However, in 2018, married and with expenses tight, he was no longer able to enjoy the “good stuff” with the frequency and quantity he wanted.
Refusing to give up the black elixir he loves, he sought another way; brewing from home. And even though his first batch burned on the home whirly pot contraption he had purchased, it still tasted better than anything mainstream he had experienced. Fortunately, the next batch was better and the next even better. With his technique and the tastes he was producing, he knew he had a product that would sell. Ma^kasape) Roasting Company was born soon after.
An initial hobby of roasting and grinding coffee beans for his enjoyment had become a growing business. Armstrong says he is not campaigning to reach mega business status. He does, however, seem to share the same commitment as the founders of other companies such as Pepsi Cola and Bama Pies, which both were also born out of humble beginnings and a desire to create the best product possible. And like those early customers of Pepsi Cola and Bama Pies who began purchasing what they thought to be a superior product at the time, modern consumers are following suit and placing orders for Armstrong’sArmstrong’s coffee.
In May of last year, he received his business license and officially became the Ma^kasape Roasting Company. A commercial roaster purchase that can roast 7.5 pounds of beans at one time and other needed items soon followed.
“Business has been great. I have roasted and sold approximately 1200 pounds of coffee in just under one year, if I had to guess. I will probably hit 1400 pounds by my one-year anniversary,” Armstrong said. He currently supplies coffee to one coffee shop and has online ordering for individuals.
Those orders can be picked up at two different locations, Bird Creek Nutrition in Pawhuska or Dripz & Dreamz Coffee and Ice Cream in Cleveland, at no cost. He also ships out to customers but adds shipping costs for those orders. He currently has 50 regular customers and the coffee shop purchases from him. He says it is quite an accomplishment considering he has only been officially in business for less than one year and is doing it alone and working a full-time job to boot.
And the best part is that he keeps his coffee at much more reasonable prices than other specialty roasting companies, which sell a 12-ounce bag from $14-25. Ma^kasape keeps it $9-12. He keeps his prices the same as one would purchase a conventional grade quality from a grocery store.
To put it into perspective, cost and quality-wise, a comparison would be Armstrong’s coffee vs. traditional coffee of grade being the equivalent of Budweiser or Miller Lite to a specialty craft beer from a local brewery. So, keeping his prices low allows customers to get higher quality at the same price they are used to paying for the conventional grade. He hopes to continue this competitive pricing as the company grows by keeping to his small business principles.
It’s inspiring to see the spirit of commerce still brewing in Oklahoma through the efforts of those like Armstrong; he has joined with those people throughout history who added a bit of flavor to life through their love of the Earth and appreciation of the value it can produce.
Armstrong is continuing the traditions of all those in search of what is better with his versions of Earth’s flavorful bounty brewed right here in the Native lands of this state. He allows us to experience a dose of this local “black medicine,” which may not cure all our ails but will surely perk us up no matter how we are feeling.
The company offers K-Cups and various sizes of bagged coffee for purchase and roasted beans for those who wish to grind their own.
Below are some descriptions of some of the coffees offered by Armstrong.
Latin American Blend
The Latin American Blend is suitable for folks looking for “classic” coffee flavors. Classic is not to be misunderstood with that cheap burnt and bitter stuff that needs cream and sugar, but that rich, subtle chocolatey, nutty, earthy, semi-sweet, and smooth cup you had at that lovely coffee shop. It won’t be overly citrusy or fruity and will generally have a medium body.
The blend will generally consist of Brazilian and Columbian beans and some Central American Origins such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
Ethiopian coffees are often some of my favorite coffees, rightly so since it is the motherland of coffee. If you’ve never tried an Ethiopian, you are in for a treat. You often get flavors that might be described as more “exotic” as the classic flavors are eclipsed by floral, spicy, and fruity subtle sweetness. The current offering has a strong blueberry flavor with mild floral sweetness.
This blend is a Sugarcane Process Decaf that stays away from the chemicals used by sizeable commercial Coffee Companies. A rich, mildly sweet coffee that one cannot tell is a decaf.
I had never tried a coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo until it was fresh from my roaster. I was in for a pleasant surprise. It has a medium body with flavor notes of green tea and honey with floral sweetness. It is now one of my favorite origins. Generally, people try this and are reluctant to try anything else.