Find them online and buy their coffee at storylinecoffeeroasters.com!
|Tyler Ellison is a deputy sheriff in Buena Vista, Colorado. He and his wife Amber also own and run Storyline Coffee Roasters out of a tiny home they call the Shop. They ship their coffee in refillable jars, putting the idea of returning for a second–or third, or fourth–order directly into their customers’ hands.|
Setting the Scene
Tyler Ellison started roasting on a barbeque grill with his friend Zach in 2015. Specialty coffee in Denver was booming and they started hobby roasting because of the potential. They gave away bags of coffee to family and friends.
The coffee was good, but hard to replicate. Tyler knew that to scale would require a more reliable piece of equipment. The opportunity came in the form of an unused tabletop roaster from a Christian school; Tyler took it and started developing roast profiles.
The company, Sip Coffee, launched in 2015. Sip quickly scaled to a 7kg production roaster selling at the farmers market and other outdoor events from a food truck. In 2017, he and Amber married, and they worked Sip full-time together for a year.
At the end of that year, the business had outgrown their bandwidth. They made a decision to focus on each other. “We were young and immature without business foresight,” he says. “It ballooned really quickly and we couldn’t grow with it.”
In 2018 Tyler and Amber chose to reclaim their shared life and sell the business.
The Way Up
When Tyler and Amber decided to jump back into the coffee pool in 2019, they had more experience and resources than before. Also, Tyler now had a full-time job as a deputy sheriff in Buena Vista, a hundred miles southwest of Denver.
With more financial security, he and Amber could take their time, stay in control, and avoid being towed along behind a business moving full-steam.
They started again, this time on a 1 kilogram electric roaster in an outbuilding behind their house. They named their company Storyline Coffee Roasters.
In Buena Vista, Tyler ran up against a different coffee culture than what he’d seen in Denver. The support he and Amber received in Denver was formative for their career; Denver was full of people like Daniel Mendoza from Corvus Coffee Roasters, who helped the Ellisons narrow in their roast profiles in the Sip era and eventually pointed them toward Mill City Roasters.
It felt like the norm to learn from others and open up a two-way street for shared knowledge and collaboration. But when he and Amber came to Buena Vista, they found a much more closed-off community. Instead of a team effort, “It was a trial by fire,” he says.
So the knowledge Tyler sought out in round two came from cupping, experimenting, and comparison with his previous company.
As Storyline Coffee Roasters proofed, Tyler started to see where he could steer Storyline away from the challenges that had affected Sip Coffee. He had a better grasp on his customer base: Storyline, based in Buena Vista, would serve both the seasonal Colorado tourists as well as the smaller, local population
Once they outgrew the 1 kilogram, they purchased an MCR-6 in May of 2022, installing it in a 200 sq ft tiny home on a rented plot of land. “It was a ton of work,” Tyler says. “We wanted a nice environment.”
Another key piece of Storyline’s solid success is its branding. Both Tyler and Amber are intentional about the content they create and promote in tandem with their coffee. They work as hard pairing content with roasts as they do pairing flavor notes.
The content is important because it can reach new customers as well as educate existing ones. Buena Vista has a much smaller population than Denver, and their exposure to specialty coffee can be greatly expanded through the work that Storyline does there.
The Storyline Coffee Roasters Menu
Storyline Coffee Roasters regularly offers a menu of eight to ten products, with four core staples. Tyler sections his coffees by Q grade, offering a Tier 1, with cupping scores of over 90 from the importer, as well as Tier 2, with scores in the mid-high 80s.
Tier 1 coffees, like the Zambia Kateshi Estate, offer customers a more experimental third-wave cup. The Zambia is washed, and then undergoes extended fermentation with lactic acid and yeast starter cultures.
Tier 2 coffees, like the India Araku, are more balanced; they make up the menu of daily drinkers for coffee homebodies.
By sorting his coffees into two different categories, Tyler helps his customers understand what they want. “I like to try new things,” he says. “And I don’t want people to come to us and get bored.”
Two tiers on the menu also serve the dual purpose of appealing to both populations of Buena Vista; the more adventurous tourists, who flock to the mountain town in the summer months, as well as the locals, who live there year-round and expect darker, more predictable coffee.
Buena Vista’s full-time population is also much more price-sensitive than their seasonal counterparts. So Tyler has a goal of educating his audience. He wants his consumers to make an informed decision on their purchases, rather than forcing them to try something out of their comfort zone.
All of Storyline Coffee Roaster’s coffees come from importers that offer affordable and accessible greens in sizes below a full pallet. Right now, greens come from Genuine Origin and Royal Crown Jewels, both of which give Tyler the flexibility to rotate half of his menu.
Storyline Coffee Roasters also sells chai, homemade syrups, and coffee-of-the-month subscriptions.
With a recent promotion to detective, Tyler is looking forward to keeping his law enforcement career going while also exploring scaling opportunities for Storyline Coffee Roasters. Both he and Amber foresee the company staying on its track in wholesale supply. It would take a kismet collaboration with the right barista or cafe manager to open a brick and mortar, since Tyler’s wheelhouse is, and always has been, roasting.
As the company scales, Tyler is looking for new ways to expand Storyline Coffee Roaster’s marketing and informational content; by the end of this year, he’s hoping to have a campaign of educational content lined up to match his subscription coffee.
Bring Storyline Coffee Roasters Home
Storyline Coffee Roasters products are available in three coffee shops in Buena Vista, as well as food trucks, hotels, and the local high-end gas station Steadmans. All of their current Tier 1 coffees, Tier 2 coffees, and syrups are available on the Storyline Coffee Roasters website, which is also the place to stop if you want to subscribe to monthly content curated to match the Storyline coffee of the month. You can also keep up with Tyler and Amber on Instagram or Facebook.