For Woodbury resident Justin Rumley and many other competitive cyclists, cycling and coffee are a natural match. Bike racers around the world have come to rely on the caffinated brew for an instant mental and physical boost on race day, and when training. Rumley and his wife, Annie, have combined those two interests by founding Bell Lap Coffee, a new subscription coffee service they launched in November.
Bell Lap’s mission is providing small-batch, hand-roasted coffee beans sold by subscription (single purchases are also available), with an emphasis on freshness. “We don’t have bags of coffee sitting on the shelves growing old,” Justin says. They submit customer orders to the roasters on Monday, and ship them on Wednesday. On its website, Bell Lap also sells a line of coffee merchandise.
Justin says his love of coffee dates back to his first taste of the brew at age 3 at a neighbor’s house in Des Moines, Iowa. In the ’90s, Rumley’s coffee appreciation deepened when he spent three years with the U.S. Navy stationed in Seattle during the “second and third waves” of coffee, when barista-made brew gained mass popularity.
His coffee fervor was re-ignited last year when he met the owners of River Moon Coffee in River Falls, Wis., at a Fourth of July gathering. They enlisted his help to connect lines for nitrogen for nitro coffee at their roasting facility, paying him in coffee beans.
Justin and Annie, who works for an organic fruit subscription service called Fruit Share, realized the subscription model would be ideal for artisan coffee. “I said, ‘This coffee is so amazing; if we can get River Moon to do a private label for us, I know we can sell it,’” Justin says.
“What really got me started was seeing people waiting in line 10-deep at Starbucks,” Justin says. “People will say, ‘I don’t have time to make my own coffee,’ yet they will wait in line for 10 minutes.”
Several years ago, Annie gave Justin an AeroPress coffee maker, which also fanned his ardor for the brew. The couple, who moved to Woodbury in 2007, also had prior experience with small batch drink production; they met at a craft brewery in Iowa and Justin later brewed his own beer for 12 years.
Enabling customers to make a barista-quality cup of coffee at home is a labor of love for the Rumleys, who both have full-time “day” jobs—Justin as a curtain wall designer of office building window systems for Harmon Glass, and Annie as an operations consultant. Annie, a liberal arts grad who returned to school to earn a certificate in marketing, says there are a number of things to like about the subscription model. It works well for customers because “They have control; they can set up bi-weekly or monthly deliveries. And they’re not waiting in line at Starbucks.” For the entrepreneurs, “It’s a great way to start out without having to invest a great deal,” she says.
The coffee venture’s cycling theme starts with the brand name Bell Lap: It’s a reference to the bell rung to signify the final lap of a cycle race. Even the names of Bell Lap’s four signature roasts are cycling-based: The Rivet, Rouleur, Max Bulla and Flamme Rouge. Reading the detailed product descriptions on the Bell Lap website, akin to those in a catalog of fine wines, it’s clear that these are blends made for people who take their coffee seriously. For example, the El Salvador Finca Piemonte Millenium is described as “a complex yet balanced coffee with a hint of creamy orange, cherries, and a pleasantly sweet finish.”
Justin has also linked his coffee enterprise with another one of his top interests: the effort to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Justin lost his father, Steve Rumley, to ALS in 2009, and a year later, established the annual ALS Bike Trek MN; he is executive director of the event. Justin is proud that the ride has raised more than $765,000 for ALS research, Therapy Dogs International and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He recently added a Bell Lap blend called Coffee For a Cure, donating the proceeds to the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based ALS Therapy Development Institute (TDI).
Woodbury resident Corey Schreppel was one of Bell Lap’s first subscribers. He’s a fellow bike racer who met Justin through his work with the ALS Bike Trek MN; Schreppel’s father is currently battling the disease. Schreppel likes supporting a local venture and, “it’s only fitting that he branched off into coffee, which is definitely a vice for us road cyclists.” What is Schreppel’s favorite blend? The Rivet.
As the Rumleys develop their brand, they have an eye on educating consumers, Justin says, noting that there are several ways to prepare each roast. “Not only do we want to sell fresh roasted coffee, we want to show them its importance and why it tastes better.” His plans for the future include conducting seminars to show people how to make great coffee. “If you want good coffee, everything starts with fresh beans.”
Bell Lap Coffee has developed four signature blends
The Rivet, a light roast, named for the cycling term “on the rivet,” meaning a rider who is riding at full speed.
Rouleur, a medium roast named for a type of racing cyclist considered a good “all-rounder,” able to perform well on different types of courses.
Max Bulla, a Vienna roast named for a Vienna born cyclist who was the only semi-amateur rider to lead the prestigious Tour de France (which he did in 1931).
Flamme Rouge, a French roast named for the red marker at 1 kilometer from the finish line in the Tour de France.
Bell Lap also offers a rotational single-origin “Roaster’s Choice.”