Dane of City League Coffee Roasters has always been about people. Even before he got into the coffee industry, he was most focused on his family and his community in Sunset Park. Coffee might seem like just a drink to most people. But for Dane, coffee is much more personal; it is a passion that connects the farmers, the roasters, and the consumer. His philosophy around coffee is deeply embedded into City League’s business practices, which I personally find very unique, even for a micro-roaster. Oh, and the coffee is extremely aromatic, complex, and smooth.
Two years ago, Dane and his wife Lindsay started City League in their home. Dane is not only the co-owner and co-founder, he is also the primary roaster of coffee beans, order mailer, web designer, and social media manager. He is additionally responsible for keeping in contact with coffee farmers, and he adds personalized notes in the orders he sends out. I remember him saying “let me know if I’m talking too much, there’s a lot to say,” when we spoke on the phone a few weeks ago. But I appreciate that Dane was rather chatty that Saturday morning because there are a lot of interesting details on what makes City League such a great business.
First and foremost, Dane takes coffee seriously. (No, it’s not in the snooty “I know better than you” way.) He’s almost entirely self taught when it comes to roasting and sourcing coffee, and he also designed the company website and learned business practices on his own. City League frequently has new coffee blends—I got the Pink Gesha and Mexico Las Cotorras which were the newest at the time. Dane explained that Pink Gesha was from a small lot of beans where there wasn’t too much to harvest, but the farmer was able to put a few varieties together and create a bright, interesting blend.
These coffees are ones that are completely unique, thanks to Dane seeking out smaller coffee farms. But they also offer the Bodega Blackout, a classic dark roast that reminds you of the cup you get from your favorite bodega, at all times. While this blend also uses beans from multiple small-holder farms, it is a consistent blend that City League always carries to fill the demand for a good everyday brew.
Which leads to the second detail: they focus on the farms and farmers when selecting and purchasing their coffee stock. City League buys beans from farmers for pay above what is considered fair trade and Dane says he tries to be transparent with the pricing of the coffee because of how it’s sourced. He believes that proper compensation is important and often seeks out coffee farmers with micro lots or very small amounts of coffee that cannot be sold to larger coffee companies. He makes an effort to be open with both coffee farmers and consumers, whether transparency is around pricing or sourcing or processing, and often tries to include information about farmers or coffee processing facilities.
Third, City League believes in the importance of people and their stories. For Dane, this means keeping in mind two things that mattered most when starting the business: his family and the community in Sunset Park. Dane says one of the greatest things about running his own coffee business is the amount of time he gets to spend with his wife and two kids. He hopes that the business will allow his young children an opportunity to develop their own interests, whether those interests end up being web design or product development or bookkeeping.
But another one of his big goals was to contribute to the community of Sunset Park. Formerly a worker at a Sunset Park nonprofit organization, Dane has been steeped in the community for many years. Because of this, City League directly and constantly invests a percentage of their profit into the people of their local community by donating to organizations in the area. This is something Dane says he feels passionately about and will keep up in order to make an impact in a place that positively impacted him and his family.
“For me, coffee is such a personal thing and built around story and conversation. It’s a commodity but also the centerpiece to everything, the farmers, the roasters…we wanted to give the personal touch to people, whether it’s in a note in their box or personally delivering the coffee.” This is a quote from my conversation with Dane that stuck with me. It’s also the quote that I think best frames City League’s philosophy and consideration from farmer to consumer.
As a recent customer, I can say that you can experience this philosophy when you buy and drink the coffee from City League. Both the personal touch in the form of a postcard in my order and the information about where and how the coffee is sourced show a great amount of thoughtfulness and care from Dane and the company. And the coffee itself is really delightful—the two blends I ordered were drastically different, but both incredible in aroma and flavor. This is coffee that doesn’t need any milk or sugar, just your favorite coffee mug. I loved the fruity and refreshing qualities of the Pink Gesha, but I think the sweet and chocolatey notes from the Mexico Las Cotorras blend were just as wonderful, even though I’m not usually a fan of medium or dark roasts.
Whether you’re an avid coffee drinker or someone who likes to explore unique blends, City League Coffee Roasters is a business you want to support. You can get their coffees by the bag and choose from the ever-changing lineup of different blends. They also have a coffee subscription service that is customizable based on your tastes and sends you a sample product from a new small business each month. This collaboration between City League and other businesses have included items such as single-origin honey, coconut wax candles, and wallets made of old baseball gloves. So if you’re in the market for some good coffee, as most of us usually are, go get a bag (or three because they have so many interesting varieties) from this fantastic micro-roaster.
Check out City League Coffee Roasters at @cityleaguecoffee
Learn more and buy their coffee at cityleaguecoffee.com