This one time, he made me a cup of coffee, and I didn't even need cream and sugar. It was that sweet.
It's the most torturous coffee known to man. It takes five minutes to make, and it's too good.
This is the legend of nano-coffee-roaster Oddly Correct and its owner, Gregory Kolsto, and these are the tales told every Friday in the back corner of the BadSeed Farmers Market at 1819 McGee. Red and green Chinese lanterns illuminate a wooden bar, where a lampshade rests on a golden cherub and an empty Mr. Coffee machine sits like some forgotten punch line.
Today the legend is late. It's 4:45 p.m. — 45 minutes after the farmers market has started — when Kolsto joins his brother-in-law and co-worker, Mike Schroeder. At 36, Kolsto is trim and compact, his shaved head offset by a thick brown beard, his eyes framed by round glasses.
"I'm not the great and powerful Oz," Kolsto says. "I'm more like the quaking doctor behind the curtain."
He flashes a wry smile, the look that typically punctuates his self-effacing jokes. He looks up and sees a man in his early 40s, wearing a green T-shirt.
"I like your hair and I like your shirt," Kolsto says, with a polite attentiveness that's almost formal. He often pauses briefly before answering a question, his left eyebrow folding slightly inward toward his nose, signaling full attention.
The man in green is sipping a $2 cup of coffee. He doesn't leave the market without enthusiastically spending $12 on a 12-ounce bag of Oddly Correct beans.
Kolsto then greets Robin Krause, owner of the two Filling Stations.
"The first time I had Gregory's coffee, it was so good, I threw up," Krause says.
This turns out not to be the exaggeration of personal mythology. Krause was at her McGee Trafficway coffeehouse early one morning in 2009 with the lights off and a four-cup French press filled with Oddly Correct's Sumatra. By the time the lights were on and the place was open, she had drunk the entire amount in what she refers to as a "completely delicious accident."
"A lot of people want to sell me coffee, and I don't listen to them," Krause says. "But I listened to Gregory. Coffee has been like football teams in Kansas City. Coffee-shop owners don't want to work together. It's so competitive. But Gregory just wants to build a community."
Kolsto's chances of accomplishing that mission improved last year when the J.M. Smucker Co. announced that it would close its downtown Folgers roasting plant in the summer of 2012. For more than 100 years, downtown Kansas City has awakened to the smell of Folgers. But now, several area beverage companies are vying to remake KC's coffee-town in their own scent. The two leading contenders are the Roasterie and Parisi Artisan Coffee.
In July, the Roasterie announced a $5 million expansion, including an event space and café across from its roasting plant, at 1204 West 27th Street. Paris Brothers, which began roasting coffee under the Parisi name in 2006, opened the Parisi Café inside Union Station in August. And in September, 250 people boarded buses to participate in the first Caffeine Crawl, a citywide tour of 11 coffee shops organized by Jason Burton, of beverage-marketing firm Lab 5702.
"Kansas City is not just the Roasterie," Burton says, "What we're seeing in the coffee world is not even a new chapter but a whole new book of boutique nano-roasters."
Burton says the market is shifting dramatically, with independent roasters such as the Broadway Café (which made national headlines in 2008 for outlasting a Starbucks in Westport), Revocup (an Overland Park operation specializing in Ethiopian beans) and Oddly Correct pushing single-origin coffee. But it's Kolsto's approach more than his market share that has set him apart so far. In an industry where growth historically has come at a competitor's expense, he's selling a different idea: What if we all just sat down over a proper cup of coffee?
It's easy to drive past Oddly Correct even when you're looking for it. The coffee shop opened four months ago at 3934 Main. It sits in an empty bank of storefronts on Main Street, two doors down from the former home of B-Bop Comics. And it still has no sign, other than a piece of plywood — painted with the word coffee and an arrow — leaning on a wall outside the front door.