Q&A with Wille & Rebekah Yli-Luoma of Heart Roasters



We partnered with with the team at Ned Ludda Portland restaurant that feels like home, to bring our Open Kitchen collection to life this season. Its cozy, casual vibe pairs perfectly with its rustic menu, which highlights peak-season produce and handcrafted, locally sourced ingredients. Read our interviews with the owners, chefs and partners behind Ned Ludd and try their original recipes here.


Wille and Rebekah Yli-Luoma opened Heart Roasters in 2009 with the goal of bringing their passion for coffee and quality to the people in their Portland community. Ever since then, this specialty roasting company has brewed some of city’s most-loved cups of coffee and espresso, always starting with the highest-quality green coffee and roasting it to the ideal degree.

We asked Rebekah to tell us the Heart Roasters story, about their involvement in the local food community, and what her and Wille love the most about living in Portland.


Tell us the Heart Roasters story.

Wille came to Portland because he was a professional snowboarder. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to do it for the rest of his life, and he still wanted to do something he felt passionate about and that was coffee. I had an interest in the business side of things and I love coffee too. He opened the café without me (on October 20th, 2009), and I started working there about 8 months later.


What is the local food community like? Did they embrace you?

Now, yes. There’s a lot of coffee-making companies worldwide, and especially in Portland. Everyone wants to do something craft, and everyone is coming from a completely different background. Here we had a young adult male who wanted to open a café, and he loved it and he was nerdy about it. But I wouldn’t say at the beginning that the coffee community welcomed us with open arms. But now, we have an awesome community. People are very loyal, and understand that what we are doing is unique.


How does Heart Roasters embody Portland’s food philosophy?

We are incredibly meticulous. Our coffee has to pass a lot of tests before it reaches the consumer. Our baristas have extensive training. What we do is craft and there is a lot of care put into what we do. It’s just what we do–not everyone does it. But it fits with the philosophy of the food industry around town. Ned Ludd for example, they were our first wholesale account. Jason French is brilliant.


What is your connection to Ned Ludd?

We were introduced to Jason just by eating there and talking to him about the project we were doing, our coffee. I think he really just liked our vision and what we were doing. And he appreciated it. He has become a dear friend.


What is the Heart Roasters’ specialty? What drink are you known for?

I would say either a double espresso or a cup of drip coffee. There is a lot of care and focus put into properly extracting the coffee. There is so much time and effort, so many steps that go into it. You can tell that it’s different.


What are your favorite places in Portland?

For brunch I would say Ned Ludd. Sometimes they have a polenta dish that is amazing, their hashes are amazing, their salads—they change their brunch menu a fair amount. They have an egg and potato hash that is delicious, they always have a French toast that’s really good.


Luce. They’re right across the street from our first café. The food is super simple, it’s very comfortable and cozy, and they have a great wine list.


Le Pigeon. They’re known for their beef cheeks. Every time I get them I think they are better than the last time.


Mirakutei, for sushi. The guy that owns this restaurant has been in the industry a really long time. The omakase is the best; it’s the best sushi I have ever had.


Describe your entertaining style. What does a dinner party at your house look like?

We do a lot of grilling, year round—fish, chicken and steak with dry rubs. We also do a lot of sous vide. We love cooking for people and have people over to eat. Wille makes great chicken tikka masala. It’s more family-style, we prep and line it up on the counter and people can go at it—it’s pretty casual. Our kitchen opens up to a patio so you can go outside. It’s a good place to entertain, we can have people over and not be constricted to one room.


What makes the Portland food community different from other cities?

The community here, in this small city, is so supportive of folks doing what they love to do—it reinforces the craft that goes into the delicious food at the amazing restaurant or your experience having delicious coffee. I feel like I’m in Portlandia right now, but its true! People are really open to ideas here and people are really open to fulfilling your dreams. It reinforces your ability to do it. Not that you wouldn’t have the confidence to do it without support, but it makes it more possible. I’ve never been in a city that had so many restuarants where the people in the kitchen are the owners, and the owners are eating there often. People open restaurants here because they love food and they want to share it with the community.


How many cups of coffee have you had today?

I cup of drip coffee—10oz!


What products should people have to make great coffee?

There are 4 things you need to have:

Filtered water

A gram scale

A high quality Burr grinder

Brew equipment suited for the amount of people you are making it for. A pour over funnel for 1, an electric coffee maker for a crowd.


What are you having for dinner tonight?

I’m going to make spaghetti squash with some type of meat sauce  and kale pesto.


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