Inspire Moments Worth Savoring

Interview by Erin Gravitt
Photography by Sydnee Mela and Morgan Campbell

Chris Miler is a Discipleship Pastor and Coffee Roaster here at A Place for the Heart. Chris lives in Asheboro, NC with his wife, Jessie and son, Henry.  He established Maker Coffee in 2015 alongside Jonathan and Melissa as part of the Cageless Birds Collective to share his creative passion and generate income for our growing ministry and discipleship schools. Each of our specialty-grade coffees are sourced carefully, harvested seasonally, roasted fresh, and shipped weekly. We sat down with Chris this week to hear his passion behind the Maker Coffee process.

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Can you share briefly how your love of coffee began?

Shortly after moving to a small town in Oregon in the mid-2000s I started working in coffeeshops to network and meet people. Compared to eastern North Carolina, where I was from, Oregon, had such a great coffeeshop culture. It was so rainy and cold all the time, and people would show up to support their local coffeeshops. Then when I moved to Portland, I got a job at a little coffeeshop on the waterfront. I loved the ability to interact with all kinds of people during the day—doctors, photographers, dog-walkers, old and young. I liked this concept of people gathering and taking pause - sometimes simply to enjoy a hot beverage together. These small, local coffeeshops balanced quality and atmosphere. It was never about me seeking out the best coffeeshops in the world, I was just impacted by these companies who put quality in their space and brand. 

Later, I discovered Stumptown and Coava, two of the leading coffee roasting companies in the nation. I would order coffee there and think, Wow, this is the smoothest, pleasant and most delicious coffee I’ve ever had. I found out the reason behind the delicious coffee was the way they both sourced and roasted the beans.

Tell us a bit about when and how you founded Maker Coffee?

It all started with a phone call from my dad in Spring 2013. He had questions about how we made coffee for all of our 18 Inch Journey students and retreat guests.  At the time we were buying coffee in bulk at a big box store. He let me know that a family in Virginia was selling their coffee business to go into missions, and they were praying for someone to buy their coffee equipment. I was so intrigued because Jonathan and I had already been dreaming into roasting coffee as part of the growing Cageless Birds collective. Thanks to the generosity of my dad and others, we went for it! The equipment, including our giant blue Diedrich coffee roaster, came to us the winter of 2013. After prayer and consideration, we decided to build a brand new space for us to roast beans, then we finally got everything up hooked up and running in October 2014. I started practicing and roasting weekly, giving the better part of a year to falling in love with the craft, inviting the Holy Spirit so teach me something each time we turned on the machine. With a lot of joy and excitement, we officially launched our brand in August 2015. This year we’re celebrating our third birthday.  

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What’s the mission of Maker Coffee?

I had a dream in 2013 where the Lord highlighted Psalm 139 to me. I woke up speaking “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” out loud. I journaled about this dream and it never left my memory. In the process of naming our coffee, we cycled through many ideas and possibilities. One day, while sitting in our space, I prayed for fresh perspective and wrote out out every possible name and word that I had considered. The more I thought about it, I considered the simple ritual and daily action of making a cup of coffee. And I thought, Hmmm…MAKER... It’s so simple. At the core, we MAKE coffee. What are people gonna do with this coffee? Make it! It’s a name for God; He is the Maker of all. We create, because He first created. The bottom line is that our desire is that this coffee would empower you in your own life, fuel your creativity and inspire moments worth savoring. 

As an artisan, what do you feel most passionate about? 

Relationship and quality. I want my relationship with the importers and coffee farmers to be full of integrity and quality. And I want my relationship with my co-worker, Cade (Assistant in Roasting and Production), to be full of growth, authenticity and connection. I want to know that I’ve given him the best of me in our work together, that he feels empowered to grow beyond me. And of course, I want our product to be quality. I want to give people our best; and we do that with our beans coming from ethically-sourced farms in El Salvador, Sumatra, Colombia and all over the world. 

What’s the most important part of the Maker Coffee process to you and why?

Well, the roasting because that’s our role at this step of the process. The more I have learned about roasting, the more I have realized that coffee is made three times. Once at the farms where it is grown and harvested, secondly by the roasters, and third by people in their homes, cafes, and workplaces. We have learned to value and cherish the whole story of the coffee bean and the most important work of any coffee we offer has already happened before it comes to us.  The growth and development of the bean is most important. If that hasn’t been done well, there’s nothing I can do to redeem the bean. We’re only sourcing, roasting and presenting coffee that is specialty-grade. We’re celebrating that margin of the coffee world that is cultivating excellence and needs support to grow. 

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How do you see your customers interacting with your product?

My goal is that we do our job so well that people feel empowered to make great coffee wherever they are—home, church, their community, office, etc. I want to empower the maker. People can take these beans and hot water and make a great cup of coffee without feeling intimidated; and they can use whatever method they want to brew. Whether it’s light, dark or medium roast, people should be able to get the kind of coffee they prefer and know it’s been roasted with their experience in mind. 

When you purchase a bag of Maker Coffee, you make a tangible investment into the lives of others. Our desire is that this coffee would fuel your creativity and inspire moments worth savoring. All proceeds help support the 18 Inch Journey, our discipleship school in Sophia, NC.

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