My mornings always start with coffee. Like many of you, the act of drinking coffee has long been a part of my daily routine. So, I was excited when approached with the idea of crafting my own blend. If you’ve visited The Factory lately, you’ve probably enjoyed a cup of our house coffee, which is roasted by Muletown Roasted Coffee, based in nearby Columbia, Tennessee. I drink it at home, in the car, at work (and I’ve noticed most of our staff does as well. If you happen to drop by when we are having a meeting, you’ll find most of us taking sips between taking notes). We have several former baristas and coffee aficionados on our team and we all agree: our Factory blend is borderline addictive. The flavor is smooth, yet dark, with a buttery feel and a slight dark chocolate finish. Delicious.
Muletown was founded by Matt Johnson and Chris Weninegar in July 2013, as a means of supplemental income (both Matt and Chris and their wives recently welcomed beautiful baby girls to their respective families). What began in the back of a garage has now grown into a charming new roasting and retail facility, located on the square of downtown Columbia. Matt has become a welcome face here at The Factory—personally making weekly coffee deliveries and offering guidance as we expand our collaboration. We were recently able to ask him a few questions about coffee and the ins and outs of building a business.
AC: What significance does the name “Muletown” have?
MJ: Columbia is the mule capital of the world! They bred and trained mules for the military during the First World War just down the street from our shop. They also used to hold a huge mule auction on the square each year. They called it “Mule Day” and it is still a big event here. The name just seemed obvious.
AC: Can you tell us more about your coffee-roasting process?
MJ: Our philosophy is all about simplicity. We order beans only through importers who have a reputation for ethically sourcing beans. We get fresh beans practically every week. If you use the best beans and roast them fresh, you’re going to have a great cup. Yes, there is some science and craft to it, but if you get the first part of the equation right, you’re a step ahead.
AC: What is your connection to The Shoals?
MJ: Chris and I met at Rivertown Coffee in 2008, so we have sort of come full-circle from that first encounter—from meeting at a local coffee shop to running our own roastery. I have worked as a staff songwriter at Noiseblock Music Group in Florence for the last ten years and still make the commute every few days. Chris worked at Rivertown at one point and also as a songwriter. We like to joke that we are recovering musicians, trying to survive in the business world.
AC: Tell us a bit more about The Factory Blend.
MJ: The Factory Blend is a mixture of yellow bourbon Brazil and Columbia popayana. It is roasted dark to give it a smooth taste with a buttery mouth feel and a dark chocolate finish. It’s by far my favorite dark roast we do.
AC: What’s next on the horizon for Muletown?
MJ: We really want to focus all our attention on making our coffee roasting good as it can be and, in turn, doing new, exciting things with coffee. The retail store has started selling brewing equipment. Our main plans for the future are to continue building relationships with like-minded coffee folk and working to make their experience with coffee and our company truly special.
AC: And finally, how do you take your coffee?
You can purchase The Factory Blend online here and at The Factory.
P.S. – Thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer our questions, and for sharing photos of Muletown’s shop, located at 23 Public Square, Columbia, Tennessee. Hours of operation: Monday – Thursday 6:00 am – 5:30 pm, Friday 6:30 am – 9:00 pm, and Saturday 9:00 am – 9:00 pm.