Each year, when the rains return to the Northwest, Portlanders hunker down, mug in hand, trying to stay dry while dreaming longingly about next year’s sunshine. To lessen the impact of the grayness, we medicate (er, indulge) ourselves with large quantities of coffee. Some people make their coffee at home, while others frequent their favorite café(s).
Fortunately, Portland’s variety of roasters and cafés is unsurpassed, meaning we never have to get bored drinking the same coffee over and over. In fact, we could probably drink a different coffee every day of the year without repeating ourselves.
That said, some people still want to try coffees from other cities or regions. For these coffee adventurers, the question is, where do you start looking? One place to begin your search would be the website of a new company called MistoBox. MistoBox is making it a little easier for you to sample coffees from around the country without ever leaving your city.
If you sign up with Misto Box, a “delightful” box arrives at your door at the beginning of every month, carrying four different samples of whole bean coffees from roasters around the country, from the Pacific Northwest (Portland’s Water Avenue Coffee is one) to as far away as Tennessee (for now—the company is continually adding more roasters to its lineup). The samples are small—1.5oz.-2oz., so you don’t have to worry about getting too much of a coffee that is not your favorite. If you especially enjoy one (or more) of the coffees inside the box, you can order a full-size bag of the beans from the MistoBox website. Customers earn points that can be redeemed for free coffee and other merchandise.
Samantha Meis and Connor Riley founded the company in January 2012 while they were finishing up their education at the University of Arizona. They created a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the company and once they reached their funding goal, took off like a caffeinated wildcat (pun-metaphor intended). I caught up with Samantha and asked her a few questions about the new venture (some answers have been edited for clarity).
Caffeinated PDX: Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got interested in coffee.
Samantha Meis: I’m originally from a small city in Iowa where, as you could have guessed it, we didn’t have many options for drinking fresh roasted coffee. Actually, we didn’t have any options. My interest in coffee didn’t really start until I left for college in Tucson, Arizona. As it goes, coffee started out as a necessity for me, pulling me through some long all-nighters. Soon, I was visiting a local roasters’ shops daily, experimenting with different brewing techniques, and learning about coffee quality and evaluation. It was then I started my never-ending hunt for the perfect cup and a true addiction ensued.
CPDX: Where did you come up with the idea for MistoBox?
SM: MistoBox actually started out as a school project. Connor and I were classmates at the University of Arizona. We graduated in May and couldn’t see ourselves doing anything other than launching MistoBox. We were so lucky to be able to combine two of our passions, coffee and business, and here we are today.
CPDX: Is this your (and Connor’s) full-time job?
SM: Oh yes, this is our full-time job—and then some! We love it, though. Like I said, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
CPDX: How do you choose your roasters?
SM: The process is highly selective, so our customers get the best beans. Every month, roasters across the country send us a selection of their coffees. Sometimes we find the roasters and sometimes they find us. We then cup each coffee and select the four roasters and the four coffees that we are going to feature that month. We tend to like a variety of flavor profiles in each box, so that is a determining factor. We like to deliver well-known superstar roasters but we also like to deliver roasters you may have never heard of before that make you stop and think. It’s all about the experience.
CPDX: How did you connect with Water Avenue Coffee?
SM: We have quite a few subscribers in the Portland area, and Water Avenue actually came from a customer recommendation. We asked them to submit some of their coffee, and we obviously loved it. We have a great relationship with Brandon [Smyth] at Water Avenue now. We exclusively feature some of their coffee that you can’t find on their website.
CPDX: If I am a roaster, why should I sign up for MistoBox?
SM: We work with our roasters to expand their reach to customers across the country. We are introducing their coffee to pre-qualified customers looking to try new coffees. When our MistoBox customers like a featured roast, they can head back to our online store to get the full-sized bag with free shipping. We are absorbing the shipping costs on our end for the benefit of the roaster and the customer. Because we sell the full bags on our site, we develop really amazing long-lasting relationships with our roasters.
CPDX: If I am a coffee drinker, why should I sign up?
SM: As you put it so well, all “coffee adventurers” sign up here! We are giving coffee drinkers a cost-effective way to try four new coffees from roasters in all corners of the country every month. It’s more than that though, because you are gaining a greater knowledge and appreciation for what truly great coffee is with each box. It’s a delightful experience that we deliver every month. Plus, getting free shipping on a full-sized bag of your favorite coffee adds a ton of value to your membership.
CPDX: How do you guarantee the freshness of your coffee?
SM: All coffee is roasted on the last Tuesday or Wednesday of the month, and it reaches us by Friday for our weekend packing frenzy. Then all MistoBoxes are sent out on the first Monday of every month, ensured with a shipping confirmation. You’ll receive your MistoBox 7-8 days after the beans were roasted. Freshness is our main concern when it comes to our logistical operations.
CPDX: Who is your target market?
SM: We have two main target markets. First, the coffee connoisseurs, those people that are obsessed with trying new coffees. We have a true appreciation for these people. Second, the foodie-type folks, people that are obsessed with quality consumables and learning more about them. We want to turn them into coffee connoisseurs. We offer free shipping on full-sized bags so these people that aren’t typically used to buying coffee online can learn how easy and rewarding it can be without the initial turn off of shipping costs. Plus, who doesn’t love free shipping?
CPDX: Who came up with the branding?
SM: Connor and I came up with the branding and have done all of the design work. We are no experts and it’s definitely not perfect, but we are happy with the results. We use the delightful filter here too. Does it look good, sound good, offer people a delightful experience? Ok, good. Website design has always been a hobby of mine, so it has come in handy for MistoBox.
CPDX: What is one thing that has surprised you since you started MistoBox?
SM: The range of people that sign up for MistoBox was really surprising, all walks of life brought together over a common love for coffee. It has been sooooo fulfilling developing relationships with our customers and getting to know them. That has definitely been the greatest and most awesome surprise ever!
CPDX: What mark do you want to leave on the coffee industry?
SM: We want to pay respect to those that came before us by always focusing on quality and freshness, but we want to rip down the barriers, shred the stereotypes, and make truly amazing coffee accessible to everyone.
CPDX: Thanks for your answers and good luck with your new business.