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Omaha Magazine

Archetype’s Espresso Extraordinaire

Sep 22, 2023 04:19PM ● By William Rischling
isaiah sheese archetype coffee

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

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Archetype Coffee in Little Bohemia—from the sharp scent of coffee grounds lingering in the air to the calming din of conversation, every sensory experience seems tailored to the comfort of the customer. The décor, delightfully understated, combines elements of a more traditional café with tasteful splashes of modern architecture. The way these aspects mingle together so perfectly could be dismissed as a happy accident…if the owner and creator of Archetype Coffee was anyone other than Isaiah Sheese.

Having competed in eight national competitions, and placing fourth in this year’s World Barista Championship, Sheese’s relationship with coffee is steeped in passion. This affinity for caffeine can be traced back to his childhood. As Sheese said, “Since I was a kid, I drink a lot of coffee. There's some coffee shops in Tulsa that I would visit from time to time. My first job in a coffee shop was fun, It was a mom and pop shop where we made a drink called 'The Big Train' and they would change the art in there every month.” 

Sheese’s origins in the barista world mirrors the sleek but modest arrangement of Archetype’s aesthetic—a man whose humbleness belies an artistic and scientific comprehension of his craft. 

“Our parents’ and our grandparents’ coffee was bitter. The sourcing of coffee was terrible, the roasting of coffee was terrible, there wasn't very much science backing any of that up,” he recalled. “And so the problem was the pendulum swung from super dark roast and bitter all the way over to light roast—and there are defects in both of those.

"So on the dark roast side, it's carbon. On the light roast side, it tastes papery. And it's not balanced. Neither of them have sweetness. If something is too acidic, it's not going to have sweetness, and so it wasn't until the last decade where the pendulum is swinging back into that middle ground where you have a well-developed, well-roasted, well-sourced coffee.” 

Many calculations imperative to the coffee industry escape comprehension, or sometimes even regard, by the general public. Explanations by Sheese and Archetype Roaster Jason Burkum pierce the mystique surrounding truly exceptional coffee. Burkum works in a large room at the back of the Little Bohemia location alongside a massive roasting machine. The sheer size of this metal behemoth is contrasted by a comfy workspace on the other side of the chamber. Burkum and Sheese have worked together since Archetype’s inception in 2014, roasting and brewing from a hole-in-the-wall shop in Blackstone. 

Burkum spoke about the nature of roasters, and noted, “We're sort of an odd breed of person because you have to be curious and creative, you have to be technical, but you also need the stamina and patience to deal with a lot of repetition. Sometimes for creative people, it's hard to do things the same way every time, because they get bored. But once you find the right road for something, there's no need to keep trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Burkum has competed in numerous events as well, and while his job may be less face-forward and flashy than Sheese’s, it’s no less vital to Archetype’s winning formula. Alongside Burkum’s veritable ‘bean dungeon’ is a room filled wall-to-wall with a staggering variety of appliances and accoutrements. Sheese detailed the numerous displays he used to present his drinks to the judges of the 2023 Barista Championship—depicting colorful scenes of nature adorned with backlights, these drink dioramas are designed to highlight specific aspects of the accompanying beverage. 

“Every year, we do try to do something different, something more creative than last year. Anything that's culinary is multi-sensory, you know? We taste with our eyes and nose before we taste with our mouth,” Sheese explained. “So the more layered that you can create this experience for these judges, the better that you're going to score. If you can visually get them to make those connections between, say, the flavor of raspberry and the color red, that creates a much more interesting experience.”

Throughout this exposition,the impression that Sheese has maintained a sense of humility throughout his many years of successful competition and business growth becomes apparent. 

Regarding placing fourth in the World Barista Competition, Sheese said, “I think what’s interesting about competitions is that there are a lot of amazing baristas that might be better than some of the competitors. They’re doing this job every day, they’re behind the bar every day. Do I think whoever wins the World Barista Championship is the best in the world? They have the title. Are there baristas out there that are potentially even better? I think so. Do I feel like I’m fourth best in the world? I feel like I’m one of the best—I’ve worked hard through every competition while owning a business. 

“During my finals presentation I made a mistake. I had to pull another shot of espresso, which is something I don’t think I would have been able to under a time limit if I wasn’t working as a barista on a daily basis.”

Every element of Archetype Coffee, from Sheese’s honed skillset to Burkum’s behind-the-scenes wizardry, down to the choice of interior design, marries technical knowhow with a genuine passion for a craft that’s as intensive as it is refreshing. 

To that end, the pair have made Archetype anything but archetypical—but rather, a trendsetter in Omaha’s burgeoning bean scene. 

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This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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