How Lousy Airplane Coffee Inspired This Man to Chase His Own Java Dream

Former pilot, sick of bad airplane joe, opens shop to peddle the good stuff.

Years of scarfing down cups of lousy airplane coffee, laced with milk to make it palatable, propelled former airline pilot Mike Foster’s venture, FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters, an artisan provider of specialty-grade Arabica coffee beans, in High Point, N.C. You can’t get many beverages there: iced coffee, yes; espresso, no. The focus is on ground or whole beans that coffee lovers can brew at home.

“I discovered my passion for coffee on my first transatlantic flight in the mid-1990s as a pilot for American Airlines,” says Foster, 57. “The coffee I drank trying to keep my eyes open was awful. I made it a hobby to seek out new coffee shops wherever I had layovers.”

In 2009, after 23 years with the airline, Foster accepted an early retirement from his six-figure salary and captain’s seat at American Airlines, with a dream of opening his own coffee shop.

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