Every runner knows that running and coffee go together like, well, running and coffee. There’s nothing like a good pick-me-up to get you going in the morning or for some post-run socializing. Ryan and Desiree Linden, two endurance athletes who are pushing their limits in athletics and love a great cup of coffee to fuel the pursuit, certainly agree — so much so that they decided to start their own coffee brand, Linden x Two, with a unique perspective as world-class runners and avid coffee drinkers.
Running Insight caught up with Ryan and Des to find out about their latest business venture and why run specialty retailers — and The Running Event attendees – should reach out to learn a little more about how running and coffee are inseparable. (Editor’s note: Unfortunately, the interview took place virtually and therefore we could not sit down over a cup a fresh brewed coffee to chat, but perhaps we can at The Running Event.)
The Back Story … Sports have taken the Lindens all over the world and on their journey they’ve sampled and enjoyed coffee on nearly every continent. In fact, they often found themselves throwing out running shoes and stuffing their travel bags with whole bean coffees on the way home.
The Coffee Epiphany … One day Ryan and Des decided they should try and make their own perfect roast — starting with an air popper (think at-home popcorn machine) and quickly graduating to a proper coffee roaster and currently working off a Mill City 6 kilo roaster. “The flavor profile and quality of a roasts escalated equally fast and we decided we wanted to continue chasing the perfect roast and make our beans available to others who could appreciate a quality cup of coffee,” Des explains. Thus, Linden x Two was born.
Linden x Two Today … The couple has come a long way since, creating Linden x Two in 2019 and today they operate a small business out of Charlevoix, MI. It boasts two coffee clubs – Small Batch Coffee Club and Roast Ryan’s – and they sell single origin bags year-round on their website – coffeebylt.com – and have several wholesale accounts for shops around the country.
Why Coffee? … “Along with running, coffee is our passion,” says Des. “Racing has taken us all over the world and we found that on these business trips after a run the second order of business was to find the best local coffee shop and load up on their brews and beans. After sampling so many coffees we developed a sense of exactly what we wanted in our own cup.”
Developing a Coffee … Then came the roasting process, taking all that information and seeing if they could bring out the best in every bean that hit their roaster. “Much like running, it’s a never-ending pursuit of seeking perfection and self-improvement,” is how they describe the effort. “We really do love the process and we hope that passion and drive is reflected in the quality of the coffee that hits your cup when it’s finally brewed by you.”
The Linden x Two Difference … The Lindens believe that their background in high-performance athletics offers a different mindset than most folks have in the coffee business. They pledge to take the same intensity and desire for perfection and improvement they both have in athletics and apply it to the beans they’re roasting — in essence, they are truly chasing the perfect cup of coffee, from selecting the right bean, nailing the roast and delivering it to the customer as fresh as possible.
The Business Angle … Linden x Two was formed as a very collaborative company — there is no ego about getting its logo stamped on everything and making sure the brand is front and center. Instead, they are looking to work with partners to make sure they’re giving a delicious cup of coffee to their customer — if they want to make custom labels or co-brand a label with Linden x Two, they are up for it. In fact, the “x Two” in Linden x Two exists as a slot to place a retailer’s brand alongside.
Why do runners like coffee so much? … A simple question with a simple answer from Des Linden: “It’s the go juice! There is no other beverage that gets you geared up for a run in the morning. That’s because the caffeine in coffee is a natural performance boost.”
Social Drinking, Of Course … And then there is the social component of finishing up a run and milling around with friends over a cup of coffee — it’s totally socially acceptable to hang out in running clothes at a coffee shop. “Have you ever had a shower coffee? — perfection,” Des says. “I could go on and on, here.”
Next Brew Up … Cold brews and instant coffees are two items they are working hard on getting just right, but that’s about as adventurous as the brand is willing to get at the moment. There are definitely a number of trends on the rise — mushroom coffee, CBD infused, etc. — but those venture a little too far from the Linden’s business plan. “Our goal is to keep the main thing, the main thing,” is how they put it. “We don’t anticipate a great cup of hot coffee going out of style any time soon.”
The Marketing and Promotion Strategy … Social media and word of mouth are the cornerstones of Linden x Two’s marketing strategy. They don’t plan to push too hard, but are finding the right partners and customers seem to find them.
Welcome to The Running Event 2022 … Linden x Two will be showcasing its coffee and how unique and delicious it is during The Running Event in Austin at Booth 309. The game plan is to have fresh hot coffee brewing and cold brew cans – and potentially nitro kegs – available throughout the day.
Coffee and a Good Book … At #TRE22 Des will also be sharing some of her book material, “Choosing to Run.” After coffee and a run, they think coffee and a book are about the best pairing you can get, so they are inviting TRE attendees to drop by and enjoy a cup of coffee, some conversation and a light read.
2023 Goals and Beyond … Linden x Two is looking to continue its slow and steady growth. Since both Des and Ryan remain heavily involved in competitive athletics and full-time jobs, they aren’t looking for explosive growth at the moment. However, they plan to continue to spread their coffee message by working directly with brands and run specialty shops. They are looking to make more of those connections in 2023 and consider being at TRE a great first step in facilitating that process.
Still Running … Ryan describes himself as a bit of a casual runner these days and has found a love for gravel cycling that’s kept him out of his running shoes more often than he’d like to admit. However, with winter rolling in he expects his mileage will take a nice bump and perhaps that will inspire him to jump in another marathon sometime soon. Des is prepping for the New York City Marathon and is very deep in training. So the routine is pretty simple: run, eat, sleep, run, be cranky, repeat.