Bon Appetit is now serving Hillsdale’s only locally-roasted coffee in the Knorr Family Dining Room.
The local company, Ad Astra, is a three-year-old coffee roastery owned by U.S. Marine veteran Patrick Whalen, and his wife Kristi, a Hillsdale alumna. Patrick Whalen is the son and brother of Professors of English David Whalen and Ben Whalen respectively, and currently serves as Hillsdale operations assistant to the president at Hillsdale College. The Whalens moved the company from Kansas to Hillsdale in 2020 and have built a local following through their sales at Hillsdale’s Farmer’s Market, online, and at their indoor markets at the roastery during the winter months.
As of August, all coffee served in Hillsdale’s dining hall will be provided by Ad Astra.
“There’s already a flavor for that coffee at Hillsdale, so it was a natural fit,” Bon Appetit General Manager Benito Suero Jr. said.
As part of the contract with Bon Appetit, Ad Astra provides all the machinery needed to prepare it in the dining hall’s kitchen — such as a grinder, two-pot brewing machine, and airpots for serving.
“It’s a really big process,” Ad Astra Manager Morgan Morrison ’21 said. “We put our machines in the kitchen and spent a lot of time there figuring out ratios.”
According to Suero, it’s standard practice in the food industry for the coffee provider to provide the brewing equipment. Because Ad Astra is a small company, Bon Appetit contracted them with just the dining hall and the former dining hall coffee provider Zingermans will still be served in A.J.’s Cafe, Jitters, and Bon Appetit Catering.
“The natural question is why not serve in A.J.’s? Well, right now the dining hall is a comfortable level of coffee and equipment for Ad Astra to supply,” Suero said. “But down the road I would love to expand their footprint on campus.”
Bon Appetit will primarily be serving “The Whitney,” which is a honey-processed bean named after Hillsdale College student and Civil War medal of honor recipient William Whitney. According to Morrison, Ad Astra sourced the beans from a farmer in southern Brazil specifically for the contract with Bon Appetit.
“It’s part of a broader initiative for Bon Appetit to source locally, so it makes sense for them to partner with a local company that shares the vision of the college,” Morrison said. “The norm is to be unethical in the wholesale coffee industry, but we know the names of the farmers that produce our beans and pay them a just price.”
Junior Isabella Murphy said she appreciates that Bon Appetit is partnering with students and locals.
“I think it’s really cool that we get local coffee in the dining hall and that they are investing in a business that’s local, young, and employs current and past students,” Murphy said. “Hopefully by having Ad Astra in the dining hall, the company gets some recognition to grow even more.”
All the Ad Astra coffee will be served “bean to cup,” which means the Bon Appetit staff will grind beans only as they’re needed to prevent the grounds from oxidizing and giving the coffee an aftertaste.
Additionally, the brewing system pulses the water on and off over the beans instead of steadily pouring the water over the beans. Suero explained that this process takes twice as long — 14 minutes instead of the usual seven — but allows for the different characteristics of the bean to “make it to the pot” and result in a better cup of coffee.
“Food is life, and coffee is part of that,” Suero said. “A really good cup of coffee complements a meal.”