You’ve heard of a coffee cup.
Michael Jones is a “coffee cop.”
Jones, an Evanston police officer since 2008, has a business called Badge Brew Coffee Roasters, where he roasts various types of beans, and then sells the packaged coffee with names like “The Recruit,” “The Academy,” “Full Pursuit,” and “Retire.” That last one, as you might imagine, is decaf.
But while the names are amusing, Jones is completely serious about roasting outstanding coffee, and growing the business into a full-time occupation once he retires from the police force in a few years.
Jones is currently a community officer, dealing with issues in the 3rd and 4th Wards. He’s also been a detective, and a patrol cop.
And it was those patrols, on the midnight shift back when he started police work in Broadview, Illinois, in 2002, that made Jones think he not only should make his own brand of coffee, but that he could.
Jones says he always had a “passion for coffee.” But on the overnight shift, about the only place you could get a cup was at an all-night convenience store.
“I couldn’t stomach that coffee,” says Jones, who loaded it up with flavorings, cream and sugar, just to create a different taste that he could tolerate.
“I wanted to be able to drink it black,” with nothing in the cup except the coffee, Jones says.
And so the solution was to make it himself.
After moving to the Evanston Police, Jones was in a town with a large number of craft coffee houses. A lot better than the 3 a.m. caffeine jolt at the convenience store.
About ten years ago, Jones says he and his patrol partner were, where else, at a coffee shop, when Jones started talking about having his own shop after retirement.
“I started to explore my idea, my passion,” Jones says.
He wasn’t yet ready to open a shop, but over the past several years, Jones became more than ready to roast his own coffee, figuring he could “provide it to coffee shops” for all customers, not just his friends in law enforcement.
Jones began exploring the coffee shop scene in Chicago, learning all he could about things like cold brew and French press. “I educated myself,” Jones says.
One thing which was obvious. There were not very many Black and other minority business owners in the coffee field.
Ironic, Jones says, because coffee originated in Africa, in Ethiopia.
“There was a disconnect” for sure between coffee’s past and coffee’s present.
Jones started small, in his kitchen, then moved to the garage,which became his coffee roasting laboratory.
He “ordered an individual roaster,” which handles two pounds of beans at a time.
Jones is also fortunate enough to live in just one of three places where a college has its own coffee roasting program, Naperville, with North Central College.
In return for doing their sampling, and lecturing both on law enforcement and about coffee, North Central lets Jones use their 25 pound roaster.
On his “roasting day,” Monday, Jones says he can turn out about 400 bags of coffee in a four-hour block. He grinds, bags, and seals the coffee at the school, then takes the coffee home to ship to his commercial and individual clients.
“Badge Brew” became an actual business last summer. Jones already has customers around the nation, coffee lovers and businesses including coffee shops, bakeries and restaurants.
Now, he’s thinking bigger.
“We want to be a global company,” Jones says.
He already ships to Africa, and is also buying a type of coffee bean called Guji, from Ethiopia.
Incredibly, the Ethiopian farmer who grows those beans was in Chicago some time ago and heard Jones talking coffee on the radio. A connection was born.
Once Jones does retire, he’s still thinking coffee shop, but not a tiny storefront.
“I want it to look like a craft brewery,” he says, with a roaster inside, and a chance for customers to sample a “flight” of coffee, just like you can do for wine and beer in certain places.
He’s also aiming for his own warehouse.
Jones says he never could have made it this far without the support of the Evanston community.
Part of his coffee profits will go to community groups,and to officers wounded in the line of duty, or to family members of cops who are killed.
His vision is to see “Badge Brew” on grocery store shelves as well as in coffee shops and bakeries.
Jones says the coffee business is “not work to me. It’s still like a hobby.”
“Every batch is different,” he explains.
And of course, being a cop in the coffee field, Jones says he’s often asked this question: “What about donuts?” What else goes better with coffee than donuts?
Well, Jones says, looking back to all those late night stops at the convenience store, cops really don’t go to donut shops for the donuts. They go for the coffee.
So it might as well be good.
“I’m having the time of my life,” Jones says, working on that perfect cup.
As he puts it, “from crop to cop to community.”