MUSCATINE, Iowa–While attending college at Thomas Aquinas College in Southern California, Muscatine native Samantha “Sam” Flanders experienced home roasted coffee for the first time when her thesis adviser shared some with her and her fellow classmates: “Several times throughout the semester, he would invite students into his home and would do cupping sessions of his fresh roasted coffee where they would observe the tastes and aromas in the brewed coffee. It’s hard to go back once you’ve experienced really fresh coffee.”
In 2018, Sam Flanders and her sister, Hannah Flanders Richard, started roasting coffee for themselves. Their friends and family often raved about the coffee they received as gifts. Inspired, the two sisters decided to start a business of their own. They upgraded their small air popper to a 1.5 kilogram Mill City Roaster and opened Verso L’Alto (Italian for to the heights) Coffee Roasters. Flanders also received additional training under the tutelage of the head roaster at Soul Grind Café in Pacifica, California.
Throughout their first year in business, the sisters have specialized in creating coffee roasted in small batches with beans from a single origin. They especially enjoy creating brews using beans from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia. They sell each of their products online.
“We enjoy the aspects of fresh coffee as well as building community around the brand and the coffee moments we have been able to share with others,” said Flanders.
“Sam and I love to incorporate a blend of California vibes and our Midwest roots in our branding to give our customers a more personal touch when they purchase and brew our coffee,” added Flanders Richard.
Though many miles away from their hometown, both sisters feel their experiences growing up in Muscatine helped get them ready to run a business of their own. “Growing up in Muscatine gave us the opportunity to experience small business at its finest,” reflected Flanders: “We grew up assuming it was a normal part of life, knowing who owned the local pharmacy, going to the same friend’s flower market year after year, and having a personal relationship with your healthcare provider. It wasn’t until settling in the Bay Area that we both realized that living in Muscatine gave us a rich experience of local community life and showed us firsthand the joy and importance of supporting and cultivating small businesses.”
Though Verso L’Alto ships their products everywhere, Flanders says she and her sister work hard to put a personal touch on everything they sell. They finish each bag of coffee they sell with a hand written label and carefully package it up with classic brown paper and twine.
As Verso L’Alto continues to grow and thrive, both sisters welcome the opportunity to share their passion with others and to turn one of their favorite hobbies into a successful business. They encourage coffee lovers everywhere, but especially in their home town, to try some of their carefully selected and freshly roasted beans to see how they truly make a difference.