How a Coffee Catering Company was Invented for a Meeting Planner’s Wife

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Aroma Express

A quality cup of coffee can be difficult to find on a trade show floor but with the help of Aroma Express, that is no longer the case. Not only does the company specialize in mobile espresso catering—bringing the espresso bar experience to events—a 20-year veteran meeting planner leads it. His event-planning perspective ensures that everything will be “done to a T”—a phrase every meeting planner likes to hear.

Serge Butman, owner of Aroma Express, founded the company in 2011 after fulfilling a meeting planning request for his wife. She was a high school principal in Montreal and wanted to serve gourmet coffee for Teacher Appreciation week. Butman couldn’t find a coffee-bar catering company, so he rented a commercial espresso machine, bought quality coffee beans and hired a barista for the event. The event was so successful that he received calls from attendees who wanted to use his services at other affairs.

A new company was born.

“My only interest in coffee before that event was that I am a big coffee drinker,” says Butman. “I drink an average of 15 to 20 cups a day, but that was the extent of my coffee knowledge. Now, however, it’s a passion. I read books and magazines about roasting coffee and where it comes from.”

Butman became a self-taught barista after he started the company when the barista he hired got a headache two hours before an event in Quebec City. Burtman had access to YouTube and, with a basic knowledge of making three drinks, was able to work the event without receiving any complaints. To avoid a future similar complication, he learned everything his baristas could teach and did every event for three months. His lack of knowledge has helped create some of the company’s tastiest drinks. For instance, the caramel macchiato is made by melting caramel and milk together before adding the espresso shot—a trick he learned from YouTube. Butman says the Starbucks version, which most baristas are accustomed to, only has caramel syrup on top, making the drink not as flavorful.

The company has since expanded to all of Canada and now offers services in the Continental U.S. Because the company doesn’t outsource any of its services yet, the staff members will fly to the event location with the required equipment. The espresso services can be set up in three different ways, using a 6-foot table, a kiosk or a coffee-themed tricycle. Another perk: The company serves unlimited drinks. Butman says the company has catered groups of 80 and served about 400 drinks without charging per cup.

Planners can opt to brand the cups of coffee with edible paper imprinted with the company logo or a personalized message that floats in the drink. Butman says the paper can be an icebreaker, too, as attendees wonder if its edible and ask each other about it until it dissolves in the hot drink.

The company plans on expanding in 2014, as they will roast their own beans starting in January. Butman also hopes to have five strategic teams across North America by the end of 2014.