Umble Coffee Company's mission is to make healthy, delicious coffee accessible for everyone. The Starkville company was founded in 2017 by Kenneth Thomas, a physician and the owner of Umble Coffee.
Thomas explained that "Umble" is really a play on the word humble. Thomas wanted a company that made good coffee without the pretension that usually follows specialty coffee.
"One issue we see in most specialty coffee is kind of a standoffishness or almost like a snootiness sometimes, or an intimidating factor you know with specialty coffee and we wanted to be really good coffee but approachable, so that all kind of fits," Thomas said.
Not only is Umble Coffee accessible for users, it is also a high quality brew. Will Stanard, a senior political science major, has enjoyed the exceptional caliber of Umble Coffee.
"I love Umble Coffee because I find it to be very good quality and extremely enjoyable to drink! I also love the fact that it's a Starkville company and it's doing so well," Stanard said.
Crafting a cup of coffee that is both accessible, high quality and healthy takes skill and intention, along with extensive research. With a background in chemical engineering and experience as a physician, Kenneth Thomas was able to research and perfect a roasting method that provides a fresher, tastier coffee. After his mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he realized that while coffee has potential to be a good source of antioxidants, most of what we drink is unhealthy. He found that for many people, drinking coffee can cause health problems, especially when creamer and sugar are added.
After lots of research, Thomas was able to perfect a method for roasting beans that resulted in the signature blends he sells today. On their website, umblecoffee.com, there is a Healthy Coffee Calculator. This can be used to test the nutrition of any coffee. Users can simply input the information from their coffee bag and check the health rating.
According to their website, it is this consideration of health and nutrition that sets Umble apart from other roasters.
"There is no other coffee company out there like Umble — we're the original healthy coffee. We're 100% focused on crafting the healthiest coffee imaginable."
Umble not only serves a healthy roast, but one that has a tried and true award-winning taste. Umble is proud to represent Mississippi in competitions against large coffee companies from the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast. Some of their roasts have won top 15 in national competitions. The goal of the company is to become a regional and even national presence and provide some competition for companies like Starbucks by providing a healthier option that works with a busy lifestyle.
Umble employs two Mississippi State University students. Junior kinesiology major Mycah Sanders does a lot of the roasting and senior kinesiology major Walker Hardin packs, ships and delivers orders.
Sanders and Hardin have been able to play a vital role in the roasting and distribution of Umble Coffee. Since working at Umble, Hardin has gained a deeper appreciation for his morning beverage.
"I already enjoyed coffee, but working at Umble has really helped me gain a better appreciation because now I get to see all the hard work that goes into making a cup," Hardin said.
Thomas emphasized how skilled Sanders has become at roasting the beans.
"Mycah Sanders ... honestly does most of the roasting now and she does a phenomenal job, you know, I've kind of taught her but also she has wanted to learn and she really enjoys it and she's really good at it," Thomas said.
Umble produces five different roasts of coffee, and the beans for each are from a different country. "The Decaf" is made from beans grown in Colombia. The lightest, "The Breakaway," is made from Ethiopian beans. "Front Runner" is a medium roast brewed from Colombian beans and "Base Camp", from Brazil, is a dark roast. The fifth roast, "Upper 90," is what Thomas calls "coffee for a cause."
"We partner directly with a coffee farm and Christian-based orphanage in Zambia, and we give a lot of money back to them," Thomas said.
Like all businesses, COVID provided a challenge to the company.
"A lot of our customers are, you know, restaurants or coffee shops. And so I mean if they were down, then we were down. The places where coffee shined was in grocery stores at the time; we were not in grocery stores," Thomas said.
Luckily, the company was able to adapt and moved their product into grocery stores such as Kroger. Originally, the plan was to sell online, but wholesale took off in restaurants and coffee shops. Umble's coffee is currently available in many locations in Starkville, including Proof Bakery, 929, Kroger and The Fountain Bakery on campus.
With five different roasts and so many different distributors, Umble offers a steaming mug to suit every coffee drinker in Starkville. Hardin encourages local students and Starkville residents to get out and try a cup.
"I've had them all, and if you haven't tried the coffee, try it. It's really good," Hardin said.