Running a quality coffee roastery these days is no small feat! There’s the cost, of course, trying to keep prices reasonable and still pay for inventory, rent, employees, maintenance, and taxes. There’s the quality control and skill development required to actually deliver a good final product. There’s the pressure to stay relevant and make sure you are making a good brand for yourself (not to mention all the Instagramming). There’s the setbacks that come naturally with owning a business.
Now take all this, and throw giving back to the community in the mix? That’s truly impressive, to say the least! This month we are celebrating some of our favorite coffee roasters who have worked making the world a better place into the very fiber of their business models. From going completely solar, to fighting human trafficking, to giving ex-inmates a chance at a new start, to empowering the farming communities that grow the very coffee they use, these five businesses have truly gone above and beyond the call of duty.
Come join us in our appreciation for these real-life superheroes who not only provide us with delicious coffees but also think outside of the mug and truly make a difference in the world!
EQUATOR COFFEE & TEAS
A shining example of accountable, transparent, sustainable business practices
Homebase: San Rafael, California
Founders: Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell in 1995
Notes: Peach Nectar, Ginger, Candied Lemon
Cause: “Equator’s philosophy on coffee is built from a question: how do we create value from our perch in the coffee supply chain, standing at the intersection between local and distant coffee communities?
This question that continues to frame our narrative as we strive to grow a business that values the stakeholders in both communities with respect for the people, the process, and the product. Equator believes that quality underlies economic and environmental sustainability, and this is the pillar of our approach. We support environmentally sound certifications, as well as practices that produce the highest quality coffee while securing a dignified life for those who produce it.
In 2011, we formalized our commitment to sustainability by becoming a certified B Corporation, making Equator the first California coffee roaster to do so.”
KICKAPOO COFFEE ROASTERS
Harnessing the power of the sun to give back to their community, near and far
Homebase: Viroqua, Wisconsin
Founders: Caleb Nicholes and TJ Semanchin in 2005
Coffee/Origin: Kenya Mbeguka
Variety: SL-28, Ruiru 11
Notes: Persimmon, Kumquat, Sucanat
Cause: “Every year we donate five percent of our profits to initiatives that strengthen rural communities. Our roastery is located in a tiny town in Wisconsin. It’s where we live and work and raise our families. Our coffee farmers are located in some of the most remote places on the planet, small villages in the highlands of Central and South America and in Africa. They’re our community, too.
In summer 2015, Kickapoo became one of the first coffee roasters in the world to take its power from an on-site solar array. With the exception of our vintage Probat G30 gas-powered roaster and winter heating, our entire roastery, offices and production floor are powered by an 80 panel, 25-Kilowatt solar array. Switching to solar power fits with our overall strategy and commitment to reduce our carbon footprint as well as our mission to be a farmer-focused company. Our producers are already feeling the impact of climate change. In addition to fluctuations in weather patterns and growing seasons, climate change exacerbates the spread of plant diseases like la Roya, a fungus that has become endemic in every coffee growing region in the world and threatens to change how and where coffee is produced.”
Creating space for creative people in their community
Homebase: San Francisco, California
Founders: Chris Dollries and Mike Weaver in 2016
Coffee/Origin: Santiago Lopez, Honduras
Variety: Bourbon, Catuai
Notes: Orange, Melon, Chocolate
Cause: “We believe in a creative and approachable coffee experience. 3-19 Coffee Roasters seeks out relationships that will build upon our three passions – Coffee, Art, and Community. Before we sold a single bag of coffee – we spent a week in a rural coffee community in Honduras drawing, dancing and painting a wall mural celebrating culture and life. We’ve taken this concept of creating opportunities in art and building community through coffee to our home communities as well. Check out Lilac Alley in the Mission for a mural of a Guatemalan Quetzal drinking coffee – a result of supporting local SF-area artists!
Our goal is be the glue and the window to the coffee supply chain, with a unique twist on celebrating individuality and art. For us, this means we have strong relationships with coffee farmers, coffee drinkers and those communities. By valuing what is important to each, 3-19 hopes to build a strong community that encourages expression and doing good by others.”
BIG HOUSE BEANS
Giving second chances
Homebase: Brentwood, California
Founders: John and LeeAnn Krause in 2014
Coffee/Origin: Guatemala Cubulco
Variety: Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon
Notes: Chocolate, Almond Butter, Raisin
Cause: “We believe everyone has second chances. Big House Beans Specialty Coffee Roasters not only sources and roasts the best coffees out there, but seeks to provide opportunities to anyone who has a vision for their future and a heart to work hard. We are a small business focused on true, equal opportunities. We hire, mentor and teach skills to the “least desirable” yet hard working women and men because why not?
Every person is different, but we all have a purpose. We believe in birthing potential through highlighting diversity. We source unique coffees to keep the spectrum wide, allowing each one to flourish in its own way. We believe that of people as well. That is why the main goal of Big House Beans is to empower individuals through unconditional love and opportunities. To caffeinate and embrace our community through every bag of coffee. From the bloom to the last sip.”
ST. CLARE COFFEE
Helping to protect and empower the humans who need it most
Homebase: San Francisco, California
Founder: Kevin Bohlin in 2016
Coffee/Origin: “Sister Moon” Bolivia / Honduras
Notes: Rich, Chocolate, Nutty
Cause: “St. Clare Coffee is a sister venture from Saint Frank Coffee in San Francisco and our mission is simple: pursue joy and quality of life through relationships in coffee. St. Clare fulfills this vision by engaging and empowering the potential of disconnected communities through coffee.
We diligently source and develop delicious coffees from remote and isolated communities from the Yungas of Bolivia to the Northern Highlands of Thailand. We work alongside the Not for Sale Campaign, a San Francisco-based non-profit that focuses on battling human trafficking and sex slavery in developing countries to not only provide financial support but to help provide survivors of sex trafficking a route to learning barista skills and becoming a functioning part of society. Moreover, we partner with global and local Bay Area groups for restoration and building opportunities. Choosing traceable and sustainable specialty coffee, St. Clare makes the world a better place, yet we can do more. It just starts with a cup of coffee, enjoy!”