Vint Hill Coffee owners offer more than a tasty cup of “jo”
By Debbie Eisele
Vint Hill Coffee is owned by Lori and Chris Keen and is located next to the post office in the revitalized neighborhood that at one time was home to a military base. Lori is an experienced chemist with a professional career in the cosmetic industry, and Chris is an experienced television and radio producer. Lori began her professional career in New York working with cosmetic giants such as Estee Lauder and L’Oreal. After completing her degree, she wanted to use her education to perform cancer research but the opportunity to work in the cosmetic industry presented itself first, which she decided to pursue since cosmetics is one of her passions.
So how did a city girl come to Vint Hill and open a retail store selling coffee beverages and beans? She moved here to be with her husband instead of continuing with a long-distance relationship. After moving, she realized her job options in this area were limited in terms of continuing her cosmetic career, so she opted to use her education and experience to her other passion in life—coffee.
“Coffee has always been one of my passions. I never thought of manufacturing my own blends until I spoke with my cousin (who owned a coffee shop) and she suggested I start my own business. She knew a roaster who was closing operations and selling equipment—she wanted us to keep coffee in the family,” Lori said with a laugh.
“When I was 11 or 12 years old, I was always at coffee shops. They were, and still are, always so relaxing. Coffee is more of a passion for me than wine tasting. So I had to decide, cosmetics or coffee. My decision was made when I was presented with the opportunity to buy the equipment.”
Originally, Chris and Lori began their coffee venture strictly as roasting business. First, they were located in Stafford, and then moved to Manassas. “From the beginning, I always wanted a retail shop. I wanted to find just the right location and we were blessed to have found this one,” said Lori. Once the location was solidified, the Keens pursued the new business model incorporating roasting and retail services.
In July of 2016, Vint Hill Coffee Shop opened its doors, serving a variety of coffee delights for local coffee enthusiasts. Lori and Chris roast their coffee themselves, on site at their current location. They begin roasting as early as 5 a.m. and will continue into the late evening hours. Every coffee beverage and by-the-pound product utilizes these house-roasted beans. Freshness is crucial to their quality; every product uses beans that have been roasted within two days of its production. “The fact that we roast here at on premise is something you cannot get anywhere else nearby, or from a chain store,” Lori explained.
The Keens appreciate their relationships with their customers and place high value on their feedback; they take into account what customers want and what they like about the location and atmosphere. “We consistently provide high-quality taste and service,” Lori said. “That consistency promotes loyalty. We are a true mom-and-pop business. We build relationships with our patrons. Some of our customers are now like family to us.”
For coffee lovers in the area they sell beans and ground coffee as well as a variety of hot and iced beverages. Seasonal offerings abound; this winter they offered winter peppermint mocha, and a variety of lattes: gingerbread, pumpkin spice, and S’mores (flavored with dark chocolate and marshmallow), just to name a few. Their maple spiced latte, which made its debut last fall, was so popular that it has become a permanent menu fixture.
Lori mentioned that her favorite beverage changes daily, but she typically prefers regular coffee or a plain latte. Recently, she noted, her favorite treat has been the iced toasted marshmallow latte. Chris is “more simplistic in” his preferences. He enjoys a simple shot of espresso, as he “loves the taste and flavor of coffee.”
To offer their variety of coffee blends, Vint Hill Coffee works with two importers. Since the coffee beans are harvested at various times of the year, it is important to the Keens to source 15-20 types of beans based on what is in season. They source from single origin beans and blend them to create their own unique roast with its own distinctive flavor and taste.
Current offerings include the Blue Ridge Blend, Capital City Blend, Lucky 30, and French Roast. The Blue Ridge Blend is by far the top seller. It is a medium-roasted blend with a balanced acidity. The beans used in this offering are from Central America, South America and Africa. This is the closest blend they have to a breakfast blend. “This blend pleases people; it offers a full spectrum that pleases all people with a variety of preferences,” explained Lori.
The Capital City Blend is a very distinctive cold-brew blend. Coffee tends to lose acidity when it is cold brewed, so the Keens created this blend specifically to address that issue. It starts with a higher acidity level so once it completes the brewing process it still has a balanced acidity, and the distinctive flavor that entices customers to keep ordering it.
Lucky 30 is a similar offering to the Blue Ridge. This too is a three-bean blend, developed by the Keens to encompass a more complex flavor.
The popular French Roast is a dark blend option that provides a well-rounded body and flavor for those who prefer a darker coffee.
The future is filled with incredible hope (for their lives with their new baby girl) and growth for the Keen family. For Vint Hill Coffee, Lori and Chris envision a future with a more industrial atmosphere that will offer people the ability to “experience the roasting process.” This could provide coffee lovers the opportunity to admire, first hand, how this beloved beverage is created.
This husband and wife duo operate a business that is warm and welcoming to individuals and families. Parents that are on the sports fields early in the morning will rejoice, knowing there is a place within walking distance to purchase a warm or cold caffeinated beverage and a receive friendly “hello” and a smile before heading back out to cheer on their children.