Oct. 15 2014 12:00 AM
Lansing’s specialty coffee scene continues to grow with the addition of another business. Paul and Emily Nicholls are the owners of the new Rust Belt Roastery in Old Town. They roast small batches of beans in an antique woodfired roaster and distribute them at local farmers markets and retail stores.

“We’re both been big fans of coffee, and when we moved here, we couldn’t find anyone doing this, so we started,” Emily Nicholls said. “We haven’t met any of them yet, though. It’s kind of a solitary vocation.”

Last year, Craft & Mason Coffee Roasters, another mico-roastery, opened in DeWitt. Within the last six months, two local businesses opened that cater to specialty brewed coffee: Strange Matter Coffee Co. in East Town and For Crêpe Sake in the Lansing City Market each feature pour-over style coffee.

“We’ve also met a lot of home roasters in the area,” Nicholls said. “There are a lot of people around here who take their coffee seriously.”

He’s originally from California; she’s from the Cleveland area, but they moved here in 2010 when she accepted a position as farm manager at CBI Giving Tree Farm, an organic community supported agriculture program in Lansing. The beans aren’t all organic, though — the pair experiment with different types to achieve different kinds of roasts.

“It’s nice to have that variety,” Nicholls said. “We like to work with small companies, but our priority is getting the freshest beans.”

The coffee beans are then roasted in a 3,500-pound cast iron wood-fired roaster that was made in Italy in the 1930s. They found it in Wisconsin and rescued it was retrofitted to run on gas.

“It’s very efficient,” Nicholls said. “I can roast 20 pounds of beans with a piece of wood the size of a baseball bat.” Every Saturday, they roast about two or three batches using a variety of different woods.

Rust Belt Roastery coffee beans are carried at the Old Town General Store, Detroit Frankie´s Wood- Fired Pizza and Farmstead Specialty Store in Charlotte. They’re also available online at rustbeltroastery. com. Nicholls said she wouldn’t mind growing the business to distribute beans regionally, but doesn’t see Rust Belt moving outside the Rust Belt.

“We don’t need to be too big,” Nicholls said. “We just like to roast.”

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