Our Team

Jeff Taylor: Co-Founder, CEO + Director of Coffee Operations

Jeff Taylor

Prior to co-founding PT's with business partner Fred Polzin in 1993, Jeff was an award-winning photojournalist for several newspapers and wire services, including the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Jeff has been published in many national publications, including Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, USA Today, ESPN The Magazine, Associated Press and REUTERS News Service.

Jeff earned a number of awards from the Associated Press, Inland Press Association, and the National Press Photographers Association, including Region 9 Photographer of the Year in 1990, before retiring from photojournalism in 2004 to pursue his coffee passions full-time.

Jeff worked with many others to develop what eventually became the United States Barista Competition (USBC), dating back to 1999. In that year a member of PT's staff placed second in the little-known Torani Barista Competition. As a member of the founding committee for the USBC, Jeff traveled around the world judging the USBC, Mexican National Barista Competition and the World Barista Competition. After several years of voluntary service, he returned to focus on developing PT's Direct Trade Program. He also served one term on the Specialty Coffee Association of America's Board of Directors.

While serving on the board for the SCAA, Jeff made the transition to Coffee Buyer for PT's Coffee and began the process of building relationships with producers around the world, specifically with the best producers in each country. To this day, Jeff travels to meet with our coffee-producing partners in Central and South America and Africa to experiment, source and evaluate the harvests from each farm, and develop a strategy of partnering on social projects. This direct relationship with the producer guarantees that the price paid for the coffee goes straight to the farmer and not through a third-party middleman.

Fred Polzin: Co-Founder, Start-up Specialist + Equipment Consultant

Fred Polzin

Fred Polzin, co-founder of PT's Coffee Roasting Co., was born in Hoisington, Kansas, in 1963. Fred grew up in Emporia and graduated from Emporia High School in 1981. He attended both Emporia State University and Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, majoring in Communications and Political Science.

Fred and Jeff decided to open their first coffeehouse in 1993. Prior to doing so, Fred had managed a number of fast food restaurants, including Burger King and Schlotzsky's, giving the partnership the retail experience it needed to succeed.

As the small coffee house business began to take off, Fred left his full-time job with Schlotzsky's Corp., to pursue this new venture. PT's began roasting its own coffee for restaurants and coffee houses throughout northeast Kansas. Soon, the business expanded and additional coffeehouses were added.

In 1999, Fred led the charge to form PT's Coffee, a wholesale company and supplier of micro-roasted coffee in the Midwest. There is one retail location and well over 200 wholesale accounts across the country.

Maritza Taylor: Director of Quality Control

Maritza Taylor

Maritza Taylor has been in the coffee industry since 1999. She began her career as a quality control analyst for the Colombian Coffee Federation (FNC) in Bogota, serving for five years.

In 2003, she accepted a position with Neumann Coffee Group in Bogota to work with Quality Assurance for Specialty Coffee. Neumann Coffee Group has 46 companies offering green coffee services in 28 countries around the world.

Maritza was one of Colombia's first four coffee professionals certified by the Quality Coffee Institute as a Q-Grader. Shortly thereafter, she became one of seven Certified Instructors of the Q-Grader Program in Colombia.

Maritza is now the Director of Quality Control for PT's Coffee Roasting Co., based in Topeka, Kansas. She continually builds relationships with producers and works to ensure that all of our Direct Trade partners are meeting, or surpassing, our quality standards.

Brent Piepergerdes, Ph.D.: Director of Operations + Sustainability

Brent Piepergerdes

Brent has been with PT's since 2011 but is by no means new to the company. He and his wife formerly managed one of PT's longest-standing wholesale clients. Brent brings more than ten years of management experience to his position as Director of Operations and Sustainability. Brent oversees coordination of our wholesale operations and financial management. Working directly with our Production and Sales teams, our Customer Service, Design, and Marketing staff, and our Directors of Coffee and Quality Control, he wears numerous hats for PT's.

Brent brings unique and valuable expertise to our Sustainability and Direct Trade missions. He holds a Ph.D. in Geography and has taught more than a dozen different courses in the Political Science Department at Washburn University and the Geography Department and Environmental Studies Program at The University of Kansas. His advanced knowledge of environmental law and social justice issues is an asset to our evolving initiatives to encourage and support sustainable practices at origin and to broaden our educational capacity, both domestically and abroad. His knowledge of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, climate and soil analysis, and biogeography provide us with an impressive opportunity to embolden our working relationships with Direct Trade partners. At our roasting facility, this skill set also applies to Brent's initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint, institute everyday green practices, and develop partnerships with local farmers involving composting of production by-products.

Chuck Patton: Green Coffee Buyer

Chuck Patton

Chuck Patton started roasting coffee in 2001 with a DIY home coffee roaster, a fateful gift from his wife, Elke. He soon turned his new hobby into a small business, selling his coffee at farmers markets, home deliveries, and at a small kiosk.

A few years later, Chuck made the bold move to open a retail shop on La Jolla Boulevard, directly across the street from a Starbucks, and the first Bird Rock Coffee Roasters retail location was born.

Chuck was the first coffee business owner in San Diego to introduce Direct Trade coffee, valuing quality and farmer relationships above all, and helped shape the ways in which these growers were compensated internationally. Bird Rock Coffee Roasters expanded to three locations in San Diego and received numerous local and national awards under Chuck’s leadership. These awards including Micro Roaster of the Year in 2012, Good Food Award winner for 2016 and 2017, top 40 coffee shops in the United States, gold and silver awards for roasting, and the number-one coffee in “The Best 30 Coffees of 2016” international competition.

In early 2017, Chuck sold Bird Rock Coffee Roasters to Jeff Taylor and partners from PT’s coffee. As Head Coffee Buyer for both Bird Rock and PT’s, he will continue to do what he loves best: find us the best coffees in the world.

Mike Mazulo: Head Coffee Roaster + Production Manager

Mike Mazulo, Roaster at PT's CoffeeMike was a frequent customer of our retail shop until February 2009, when he was hired at our roasting facility as lead Customer Service Representative. In that position he got to know our wholesale partners and many retail customers, as well as our Direct Trade farmers.

As of January 2011, he had transitioned to production full-time in the warehouse as Production Manager and Roaster. Mike roasts on a 5kg IR-Deidrich, 24kg IR-Deidrich, and 90kg Gothot. He is also part of our Coffee Development & Cupping Quality Control team.

Mike has been a Roasters Guild and SCAA member since 2014 and is currently finishing up his Roaster’s Certificate.

In the years since he started he has seen PT’s grow and change, and is glad to have been there then, and where we are today, and looks forward to seeing where we will be in the future.

 

     

 

Lara Prahm: Assistant Roaster

As a German native, Lara has always been in love with European coffeehouses and cafés. She moved back and forth between Germany and Kansas for a few years and worked as a cashier, caretaker, and transcriptionist. When a packaging job at PT's introduced her to the wonderful world of specialty coffee, she knew she had found her calling. Lara is an Apprentice Roaster and Production Assistant in the PT’s roasting facility. She has won several in-house brewing competitions, placing her as a top coffee aficionado among the staff. Cool, calm, and collected, Lara is a real gem and we’re glad to have her as part of the team.

In her free time, Lara most enjoys creating things and being by the lake with friends. She’s all about good conversations around the campfire and sharing a great beer with friends.

Rachel Passman: Office Manager, HACCP Coordinator

Rachel Passman

Rachel began her coffee journey in 2007, working as a barista at a cafe that served PT's Coffee. Ever since then, she knew she wanted to build a career in the coffee industry. After working at various cafes—and a brief stint at a commercial printing company—the perfect opportunity arose for Rachel to work with the company that inspired her love of coffee from the beginning.

In her spare time, Rachel likes to binge-watch Netflix and smother her cat with as many snuggles and kisses as possible.

  

 

Audre Langebartel: Account Ambassador

Audre Langebartel

Audre came to PT’s from Springfield, Missouri, where she had nearly 10 years of experience in the coffee industry. During that time she worked as a barista, with start-up cafes, wholesale sales, and in business management. She has experience in staff training, consulting, menu development, and cafe management. It’s an impressive resume and it means that she understands the amount of effort and planning it takes to run a successful cafe. It is her goal to use these tools to support you to greater success.

Outside of work, Audre enjoys being with people, hosting dinner parties and wine nights, or going out and sampling the local food and beverage scene.

 

Autumn Eaken: Content Marketing + Graphic Design

Autumn Eaken

Autumn started working for PT's Coffee Roasting Co. as a part-time barista in its original cafe location in 1998, eventually becoming that store's acting manager. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 2005 with a Bachelor's degree in Film Studies.

Along with maintaining the company website and copywriting, she gets to use her nearly 20 years of coffee experience and skills in video production as a member of PT’s marketing team. She is proud to play a role in PT’s growth as we continue to bring people the world’s best coffees.

In her free time, Autumn enjoys traveling, backpacking, biking and bike camping. In 2014, she spent six weeks camping and working trail maintenance in Thorsmork (Þórsmörk), Iceland and conquered the Laugavegurinn. She recently started a victory garden and, when she isn’t camping out in a tent, she likes to take it easy with a movie and some wine.

Leah Shinkle: Education + Training

Leah Shinkle

With almost 10 years of coffee history behind her, Leah has been a jack of all trades for PT's, contributing as barista, production assistant, and customer service representative. After competing in the USBC in 2016, Leah took over our training and education department, answering all your coffee brewing, espresso slinging, and milk aerating questions.

Before working at PT's in its many facets, Leah worked with a non-profit organization off the coast of Northern California. She is a Kansas native turned world explorer. When she's not drinking coffee, you'll find her exploring a new city or country, backpacking, biking, running, or doing anything outdoors while making new friends along the way. She is always planning her next adventure while making sure she is surrounded by great people and great coffee.

Corbin Adams: Delivery Driver

Corbin AdamsCoffee has been a part of Corbin’s life for nearly a decade. The tasty brown elixir kept him fueled as he pursued a degree in Fine Arts from Washburn University, and he paid for his habit by scrubbing toilets for a local law office. Corbin officially joined the PT’s family as our delivery driver in the summer of 2015. You can spot his beautiful hair as he weaves through traffic distributing pounds of beans in the Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City areas. In his free time, you’ll likely catch Corbin doing deep, deep nerd stuff like playing D&D and board games, sketching and painting, or working on plans to launch his rap career.
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
  
  

Brooke Peele: Customer Service, Sales, & Education

Brooke Peele

Brooke has been drinking coffee black since she was seven years old. It was only a matter of time before she made a career out of it. She started out as a barista at our College Hill location, and after working at the cafe for two years she made the transition into a Customer Service, Sales, and Education position at the Roasting Facility.

Outside of coffee, her hobbies include jamming out in her car, water colors, eating all of the food, yoga, and binge-watching Rick & Morty.

WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB!!!

 

Sara Johnson: Quality Control

Sara Johnson

Sara has filled many roles at PT's since the beginning of her employment with the company in 2007: barista, baker, customer service rep, self-acclaimed "office monkey," and now, quality control, where she sets up cuppings and lovingly analyzes (and names) green coffee beans.

Sara enjoys cats, memes, memes involving cats, and cross stitching/embroidering subversive messages and anti-fascist symbols. She resides in the wonderfully weird city of Topeka with her three cats, barista husband, and Lego-obsessed son.