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Kaldi’s co-owner Tyler Zimmer spills the beans on the biz

Article by George Mahe Photo by Kevin A. Roberts

Kaldi’s co-owner Tyler Zimmer is a certified “Q Grader,” the closest thing to a coffee sommelier. As such, his palate is rarely questioned. Part of Zimmer’s job is to taste and evaluate (“cup,” in coffee parlance) 1,500 to 2,000 coffees per year, less than 10 percent of which ever see the inside of Kaldi’s 80-year-old roaster. St. Louis’ coffee cognoscenti wouldn’t have it any other way.

Explain how Kaldi’s came about.

Howard Lerner and Suzanne Langlois started Kaldi’s in October 1994, before there was even a Starbucks here. They were two journalists looking for a change, and the local coffee culture was beginning to develop, and they recognized that. They got into roasting a few years later and the wholesale business after that.

How long have you had a passion for coffee?

My family was entrepreneurial and wanted to do something different. I was always into food and tasting and I liked coffee, frequenting Kaldi’s and even Starbucks. Then, in 2005, we got to know Howard and Suzanne and struck a deal. I will admit that none of us had any idea of the complexities involved.

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