One UD alum is using the ethical practices she learned in her classes to produce a better cup of coffee. Photo courtesy of Grace Dipierro.
News Staff Writer
Most UD students can’t start their day until they have a cup of coffee. Audria Maki, owner of Reza’s Roast, is an expert when it comes to making coffee.
Maki went to UD and graduated with a degree in business. Her first job on campus was working as a barista at the Blend during her freshman year. She also worked at the Blend Express located in Miriam Hall when it first opened.
Maki explained how Flyer Enterprises taught her the ins and outs of being an entrepreneur. FE prepared her well to start her own business as the owner of Reza’s Roast. When Maki finished law school and became a stay at home mom, she decided to start her roasting company.
“They say the best time to start a business is when you have kids because you’re not sleeping anyway,” Maki joked.
As a mother, it was important to Maki that her business was family-oriented. She has added features at Reza’s Roast that cultivate a family friendly atmosphere. For example, Reza’s provides wheelchair access, a nursing room for new mothers and a kid-friendly bathroom.
Reza’s has been roasting coffee for about 5 years now. The Maki family bought their current building on Wayne Avenue 3 years ago. After 2 years of renovations, Reza’s is finally done and fully equipped with its own roastery.
The roaster is responsible for turning coffee beans into the caffeinated beverage we know and love. The machine is mostly automated, controlling for humidity and temperature differences throughout the seasons.
Maki explained that the humidity is different in January than it is in July, and the roaster at Reza’s automatically takes this into account when roasting.
Maki says Reza’s coffee has a tangy taste that she couldn’t find anywhere else, so she made it herself.
When Maki went to UD, she noted that her classes emphasized the importance of ethics in business, often exploring how to make a profit while using resources that are ethically sourced. The stressed significance of ethics in decision making influenced Maki in a big way.
“It’s why I run this the way that I do,” Maki said.
Maki uses her purchasing power to make a difference because she believes in doing things as fairly as possible. She buys her coffee beans right from farmers who are notoriously impoverished. “I like to do things in a way that everyone wins,” Maki added.
The three farmers that Reza’s Roast relies on live in Nicaragua, Thailand and Costa Rica. These farmers produce coffee beans but often cannot afford to export them, so they rely on brokers or exporters to help with that.
Maki tries to find good exporters who can get her in touch with farmers. Maki meets with all the farmers she buys from, asking them about their families and personal lives. However, she also asks the hard questions like what other crops they’re growing, what fertilizers they used, and if they use pesticides or not.
These questions help Maki make a more informed decision about who she will buy her coffee from to keep her products as ethically sourced as possible.
For Maki, it is important to have strong relationships with her farmers. “We depend on each other, so if they know we will buy from them, they can go ahead and keep planting”, Maki said.
In the future, Maki hopes to add a farmer from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, because their coffee beans have a special and delicious taste.
In response to COVID-19, Maki said it was a very stressful time for her, both as a mother and as a business owner. She was trying to care for her three children while maintaining a business where the rules for COVID-19 were changing every day.
However, now that the COVID-19 guidelines are more stable, Reza’s Roast has been able to return to some level of normalcy. Maki noted that the customer flow has been down to about half of what it was before COVID-19, but coffee bag sales have been increasing as more people are working from home.
Maki announced that in January of this upcoming year, Reza’s Roast will be supplying the coffee in UD dining halls, including Kennedy Union, Marycrest, Brown Street Bistro and Virginia W. Kettering.
President Spina recently gave a directive that the University of Dayton should buy ethically when possible, so Dining Services reached out to Reza’s Roast. Maki was able to educate UD on what goes on in the coffee world and how UD can make an impact.
UD’s switch to Reza’s Roast means a lot to Maki and her family, but it also means a lot for her farmers who produce the coffee beans and profit from the sales.
Maki will be coming to UD dining halls in November to pass out stickers and coffee samples to students. Maki is excited to talk with students about her coffee and to bring new business to the coffee shop downtown.