Interviews

  • SCG Crew Interviews: Allie

    Hey coffee fans! This week we're chatting with another one of our fabulous crew members! Allie worked in our Bellevue retail location before coming to our HQ to work on our commercial and home consulting teams! We hope you enjoy getting to know her!

    What’s your life story?

    I grew up in Louisiana in a town right off the interstate in between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. It was a town of about 10,000 people, where the best food and coffee are served at the local gas station (I know). I graduated high school early and moved to Tennessee to pursue my degree. While in college, a friend introduced me to specialty coffee. I already loved my morning cup of drip, but tasting my first Chemex changed the game. I quickly fell in love with the community, the culture, and the ability to connect with people over a beverage. After graduating college, I decided to follow my heart (and my taste buds) and move to Seattle to find out what the real coffee scene was about. 

    What’s your background with coffee? Be specific if you can!

    I started working at Starbucks in 2015. I loved the rush of caffeine and adrenaline from working on the bar in the morning. I moved around a lot, so I've actually worked in several Starbucks in various responsibility positions. When I decided to move to Seattle, I was chosen to work for the Starbucks Reserve Roastery (which was the only one in the world at the time).  Working for the Roastery taught me a lot about specialty coffee, espresso, and roasting. I quickly made it a habit to go on coffee crawls every chance I got so that I could learn about how others pulled their espresso and what made it unique. When I stumbled upon Seattle Coffee Gear, I was hooked immediately. A whole new way to experience coffee: equipment!

    What has it been like transitioning from SCG retail?

    Working in SCG retail gave me great hands on experience with our most popular equipment and allowed me to have a real understanding of what people are looking for in their machines. I can pretty much narrow down the machine you are going to purchase with a few well answered questions. 

    What’s your favorite thing about the coffee industry?

    Coffee = connection. It brings people together from all over the world, from all places in life, at any time of day. It's amazing how many wonderful and passionate people I have met at a coffee bar.  Pouring beautiful latte art or dialing in an espresso to an exact note allow me express myself in a really fulfilling way. 

    What’s your favorite way to brew/drink coffee?

    Black coffee. Most mornings I start off with an espresso and a hand brew chaser. 

    What do you like to do for fun? Outside of coffee!

    I love to travel. I try to go somewhere new every year (if I'm lucky). So far the best place I've ever been is Salzburg, Austria. 

    What’s one thing you want everyone who shops at SCG to know about running/opening a cafe

    A ton of work goes into making an excellent cup of coffee.  I have a lot of respect for the product and the way its made. Choosing the right equipment (and using it well) makes all the difference in the drinks you sell!
  • SCG Crew Bio: Bryan

    This week we're catching up with Bryan for another SCG Crew Bio! Bryan is one of the amazing folks on our commercial operations team. He's the person who will help to make sure you get the most out of your commercial coffee purchase!

    What’s your life story?

    I grew up in a tiny agricultural town in eastern Washington no one had ever heard of, but that is now known for its unique varietals of hops. Seattle had been where I wanted to live as long as I can remember. As soon as I got my drivers license I would make the long trip to the "big city" (not so big back then in hindsight) to experience the culture, the people, the music and all the Emerald City had to offer. Exploring coffee shops, 24 hour diners, all age music venues, thrift stores, record shops and the like. After high school I moved to Seattle for school and have been here ever since.  

    What’s your background with coffee? Be specific if you can!

    I first fell in love with coffee, and coffee shops, at the now defunct Bauhaus Coffee on Melrose and Pine in the Capitol Hill district of Seattle. Its moody atmosphere mirrored that of the city. Tall ceilings, walls lined with shelves full of books, looking as much like a medieval library as a coffee shop. Regulars crowded around tables, The Smiths likely blaring over the stereo, rain dripping from coats as they sipped coffee beverages being prepared on a La Marzocco. My first peak of a machine I would grow to know and love. I worked as a barista at Seattle's Uptown Espresso for three years in between working in the automotive industry and as a bicycle mechanic. Ultimately I would find my place in the coffee industry combining my technical skills and love of coffee as a Coffee Equipment Technician. I spent five years in the field managing technical services for Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Seattle and throughout Washington State before making the transition to my current roll at Seattle Coffee Gear.

    What’s your favorite thing about the coffee industry?

    My favorite things about the coffee industry are the people, the passion and the machines that allow them to create the unique beverages and experiences coffee drinkers around the globe enjoy every day.

    What’s your favorite way to brew/drink coffee?

    l like to start the morning with an espresso and a cup of filtered coffee (drip or pour over), followed up by an americano or cold brew in the afternoon depending on the season.

    What do you like to do for fun? Outside of coffee?

    l am an avid cyclist, enjoying riding for fun as well as sport. I enjoy bicycle camping around the beautiful northwest and racing cyclocross in fall. Getting outside and enjoying nature is always a blessing (added perk, nothing tastes better than a cup of coffee in the great outdoors). I also still enjoy working on machines outside of coffee equipment. I restore and build interesting cars and bicycles. You'll often find me with a wrench in my hand or on/in some sort of machine with wheels.

    What’s one thing you want everyone who shops at SCG to know about running/opening a cafe?

    You can't do it alone! Opening and running a cafe is a large on taking that requires a wide range of skills and a lot of work. Don't try to do everything yourself. You don't need to reinvent the wheel, rather stand on the shoulders of those that came before you. Knowing when and where to seek help in your business endeavors will save you a lot of hassles, a lot of time and a lot of money. The coffee industry is one you should enjoying being a part of, and there is a wealth of knowledge you can tap into.  

    What’s your favorite item we sell on the SCG website?

    The La Marzocco Linea. There is so much coffee history wrapped up in this machine that has been produced since 1990! Today you can certainly buy a "better", more expensive or flashier espresso machine. But the Linea, "the Volvo 240 of espresso machines", set the bar for quality in the industry and still performs today. What can I say, I'm a sucker for the classics. 

  • SCG Crew Interviews: John!

    From giving us the skinny on the newest commercial machines to helping new café owners on the phone, John's a pro! We asked him a few questions about his past, present, and future in coffee. Read on to learn more about this SCG video host and commercial consultant!

    Hey John! Thanks for answering a few questions. Can you tell us a little bit about your history? Have you always lived in Seattle?

    I have been a Washingtonian since birth and grew up in the boonies outside of Sultan, WA. Most people knew where I lived as the place they drove by on their way to the mountains. I lived in California for a brief moment before deciding that private school was too expensive and I moved back to Washington. My wife and I met at our church in 2014 and got married in 2016. We somehow wound up with 3 adopted black cats, it was not our plan to do so!

    What’s your background with coffee? Be specific if you can!

    I was a home barista at the start and knew nothing about the difference between drip coffee and espresso. I had a series of very cheap home espresso machines that promptly broke because I failed to take care of them. After my home endeavors, I began visiting specialty coffee shops and learning about what makes coffee good or bad. I started going to local coffee competitions to observe and eventually made friends with a few folks in the industry. I started with Caffe Ladro in Seattle as a barista and over a few years worked from there to trainer and then to manager. Along the way, I led cuppings, trained dozens of baristas, and absorbed all the coffee knowledge I could. I practiced my latte art diligently and ended up in a few of the local competitions where I met coffee people in the first place. Now I get to educate people from a different perspective and help coffee shops of all different shapes and sizes figure out this crazy and awesome industry we are all a part of!

    What’s your favorite thing about the coffee industry?

    My favorite thing about the coffee industry is the diversity of coffee itself and what it is to different people. Not everyone wants to wait 10 minutes for a carefully prepared cup of coffee that will blow their mind! Some people just need a caffeine fix to get their day started. I have been on both sides of that spectrum and appreciate coffee for both of those things. I think relegating coffee to just one thing that you think it is isn't doing it justice, and that goes for both ends of the spectrum. 

    What’s your favorite way to brew/drink coffee?

    I am an espresso drinker! I love the preparation, dialing it in, drinking it, the whole process. This started mainly because I did not have the patience to wait 5 minutes for my Chemex to finish so I could critique it and make adjustments. I initially liked the instant gratification a grind adjustment makes, but I grew to also enjoy the practice it takes to have consistent results all the time. 

    What do you like to do for fun? Outside of coffee!

    I'm a musician and enjoy all things music! I like to play music with others, go to shows, listen to music, etc... I mainly play with my church's Sunday morning team, but my wife and I are looking to get a house with a dedicated practice space. Drums are not meant for Condos!

    What’s one thing you want everyone who shops at SCG to know about running/opening a cafe?

    I want people to know that while it is not an easy thing to do well, the joy you get from hearing someone talk about how much they love your cafe is worth it. The relationships you get to build with your customers, as well as the experiences you get to create for them, make it all worth it!

    What’s your favorite item we sell on the SCG website?

    That's a tough question! I'd say one of our pitcher rinsers. I would put one in my home if my wife would let me! They make a world of difference in your bar flow and allow to increase your speed of service way more than you would think. 
  • Piecewise Coffee Co. - Equipping Your Shop

    Hey everyone!

    A couple of weeks ago we introduced you to our friends Stanton and Lindsey Scoma, founders of Piecewise Coffee Co. If you haven't had a chance to read about them, you can do so here! This week we're taking a look at Stanton and Lindsey's process of selecting equipment. We're also sharing some of the photos of the cafe build in progress!

    Hey Stanton! We're excited to see the progress at Piecewise. How did you go about selecting the space?

    The area we selected was in what was formerly the city’s main economic hub. Several storefronts dotted the side-walk lined street, but the life of the area had left decades earlier. We wanted to show off our little city and the history it has by giving the community another reason to walk the street.  We were blessed to have building owners who share this vision. The building we’re in is around 75 years old and we stripped back most of the interior to expose its structural character. Many of the bricks in our space were made just down the road in a local brickworks. What elements could be left exposed were.

    Makes sense, how did you go about designing the layout of the interior?

    While showing a little of our city’s past, we also wanted a space that encouraged our customers to feel welcome. The long and narrow nature of the building allowed our customer servicing area to have one long bench with several two-person table tops. This makes the space adaptable for individuals coming to study or for larger groups to come push the tables together creating a more typical community table. Community can’t be forced, and our space allows it to meet a variety of their needs. The design is full of clean lines in a lessismore approach.

    How did the general layout of the space factor into your equipment selection?

    The largest impact on selection when considering space available was ensuring the drink prep area wasn’t cluttered. We eliminated a hot water tower because the available space just wouldn’t allow it. Instead, we chose a drip brewer with a hot water dispensers to help alleviate having to eliminate the hot water tower. Fortunately, our espresso machine was in a custom space built for it so we didn’t have any space concerns with its selection.

    What considerations does workflow require when selecting equipment?

    Workflow was important for us, but we felt it could be managed well if the equipment in the shop was easy to operate and allowed our baristas to stay engaged with our customers.

    When we designed the behind the counter area, we wanted to create two regions, one for preparing espresso-based drinks and one for drip brew drinks. Each area would have its own unique equipment and anything needing to be shared would be put on a small overlapping area. Equipment capable of doing everything required for each drink area was important for this concept to work. SCG helped us think through this and showed us equipment models that could get this design right.

    Where would you say Piecewise’s “coffee identity” lies? Do you see the shop as a coffee focused shop, or is coffee just part of a wider offering of food and other drinks?

    Our focus at Piecewise Coffee is most definitely on the coffee drink. It’s our desire to produce the best tasting coffee and introduce some third wave coffee products to our area.

    Broad question, but what were some of the benefits of working with a consultant? Obviously we want to make SCG consultants seem awesome, but even more than that we want to highlight how important it is to have a dealer that does more than just sell you a machine.

    The knowledge and accessibility of the SCG consultant staff was so impressive. Each coffee shop has a unique set of needs and no equipment review we found was able to address all of our needs like John did. He had a way of steering us towards equipment to match our business and coffee goals that we couldn’t have done on our own. And we never felt pressured working with SCG.

    We ran into an issue with a custom ordered item and John worked with the manufacturer to speed up shipping times so it wouldn’t delay our opening date. To get what we wanted, when we wanted it, would have taken us several phones calls coordinating with the manufacturer and shipping company. John handled it all for us. Another thing SCG did for us was finding service technicians. Within a day, he provided several companies who serviced our area and were ready to perform initial setup and on-going maintenance.

    How much independent research did you do Vs. relying on your consultant?

    Starting out, we had a high-level understanding of coffee equipment brands but didn’t really understand the differences when it came to us considering the actual purchase of equipment. Getting ready to drop some serious cash has a way of making you more interested in the details! At each coffee shop we visited, we would note equipment being used by the baristas and often we asked how they liked working with a particular espresso machine or grinder. All the brands have several models, each with their own nuanced pros and cons. We probably spent several weeks doing independent research when you add the coffee shop visits with the internet research. A ton of hours were spent watching Youtube reviews which helped show differences in action between machines. 

    When did Seattle Coffee Gear come in?

    As we got closer to placing an order for the equipment, we connected with SCG about the purchase and found out they offered free equipment consultation. This wasn’t something we had considered or even knew about prior to them mentioning it. The team at SCG listened to our dreams and goals with the coffee shop before ever asking what equipment we were interested in. Above anything else they cared about a quality match between the shop and its equipment. Their depth of knowledge was apparent from the first conversation. It was detailed and often based on actual experience working with the different machines. Most baristas work with one or two different espresso machines or grinders, but the SCG team has worked with dozens and from their experience they shared how each would perform in a store. 

    What was one of the most helpful techniques that John used to help you make purchasing decisions?

    The biggest question they asked was “Why” we wanted each specific piece of equipment. They took the time to make sure we knew what each equipment piece could do for us. The one time we had a question they couldn’t answer, they reached out to the manufacturer and got back to us in a day or two. Our confidence in equipment selection went way up after we connected with SCG. If we had to start over, we still would have done our own independent research, but would very much preferred having a conversation with the SCG equipment team at the earliest point in the process to narrow the options. 

    How much did brand factor into the purchasing process?

    Brand factored most into the espresso machine selection. Being the workhorse of the shop, we wanted this one piece to have a solid history of reliability and, most importantly, repairability. The number of servicing technicians is limited in our market and we needed to know our machine could be serviced by someone in the area. We had brand preferences for the other pieces of equipment, but yielded to features and pricing more on those items.

    What was the hardest piece of equipment to settle on? Why?

    The drip brewer took the most thought to choose. There’s a number of makes to sort through, each with a dozen or more of their own models. Sometimes the differences were hard to spot and pricing could vary wildly. John helped us settle on one that was very programable with brew parameters like water temperature and brew time. John’s knowledge of equipment reliability helped us feel confident in making our selection.

    What equipment did you try to save some money on?

    The biggest investment for our shop was by far the espresso machine and espresso grinder. Our goal with them was to get the all the features needed to produce the best coffee possible. John at SCG really helped us navigate the different models for both those items and make a selection. John was also able to help us save money on the bulk coffee grinder by steering us away from one that would be way overkill for our size of coffee shop. 

    Where did you leave room for upgrades?

    We were a little unsure which menu items our community would want most so we left a large section of our undercounter storage area open. As we grow this can allow us to add equipment for the specific wants of our customers, whether it be with additional refrigeration or cold brew taps or hot food storage.

    What piece of equipment are you most excited to get your hands on?

    We keep referencing the espresso machine, but it’s such a such unique item and we cannot wait to get some time using it! 

    We can't wait to bring you more from Stanton, Lindsey, and Piecewise soon!

     

     

     

     

     

  • Interview: Ivania Rivera of Aldea Global

    Hey coffee lovers!

    We were given the extraordinary opportunity to interview Ivania Rivera, Head of Specialty Coffee for Aldea Global! Check out our video interview below, followed by the full transcript of the interview!

    Full Interview

    Seattle Coffee Gear: Can you tell us a little bit about Aldea Global?
    Ivania Rivera: Yes, we are a farmer’s association in Nicaragua. Right now we have over 11,00 members, total members. From those we have some vegetable producers, women who do business in rural areas. From those, 4,800 are small coffee producers. We started in 1992, and have been in the coffee industry since 2000. We are growing every year, little by little. We offer very different speciality coffees, and very different qualities of coffee.
    SCG: What does your role within the organization entail?
    IR: I do kind of everything! [laughs] But I have a lot of contact with the farmers and producers. I normally am taking care of the receiving centers, working with the dry milling process to the different preparations of coffee we have on contract. I also do the sales and contracts with importers, and follow up with roasters.
    SCG: Very cool, so kind of working in the middle area connecting roasters and producers. This is exciting for us because we don’t get the opportunity to talk much with people involved with producing. We get to talk to roasters all the time, but it’s a really awesome, unique opportunity to get to talk to someone involved with producing the coffee. How did you get involved with Aldea Global originally?
    IR: Well, it was something that I always liked, coffee. The first experience I had in coffee was I was a coffee picker on a farm. So I was wondering what’s next. What happens to the coffee cherry, where is this coffee going to? That was when I was pretty young. Then I moved to the U.S. to study agricultural business for export, then came back to Nicaragua and went to Aldea Global to see if there was an opportunity for me, and of course there was because we are coffee producers. Inotega is a region that produces 60% of the coffee from Nicaragua.
    SCG: That’s great. It’s an interesting story because we often work backwards. I worked in a cafe when I was a college student making coffee. I’ve always had an interest in where the coffee comes from. So it’s very interesting to hear the reverse of that. Someone who was involved in producing the coffee wanting to know where it ends up. It’s very exciting to bring those two groups together. So what excites you most about coffee in general, as an industry?
    IR: For me something that is really important is all of the people that are involved in the industry. It’s not only the production, but the transport, the milling, the processing, the shipping, the importing, roasting the coffee… Putting together all of the logistic people it takes to move this coffee from the producer to the final consumer. It’s a lot of hands involved. It’s a lot of work and a lot of love.
    SCG: Yea, there’s a lot of…
    IR: Passion!
    SCG: Yes! And the exciting thing about third wave roasting too is I think there’s a lot of passion all the way through. It’s not just going to a huge company doing the roaster. It’s going to small roasters that have a concern for the people that are producing the coffee too.
    IR: Yes, just imagine for example, one cup, having a cup of coffee. How many cherries does this coffee need? How many hands touched the coffee? Who was in charge of selling and buying that coffee? Who did the logistics? Who did the transportation? Who did the distribution? Who did the roasting? All of this takes a lot of effort, hands, and passion. So that’s why I’m excited about coffee.
    SCG: That makes sense to me, that’s one of the many things that excites me too! What do you think it is that makes coffee from Nicaragua unique?
    IR: I would say, for Nicaragua, for most of the producers, it’s a lifestyle. It’s something that our people are doing for a lifetime. Once you are born on a farm, once you grow up enough in a coffee farmer family, then that’s something that you will do for life. That’s something that will become the only way of income for the farm. A way of living living, that produce is paying for the whole life of the family. So something that is really unique for Nicaraguan coffee is that all of the processes and production is done by family members. 92% of the producers in Nicaragua are small producers. So they are normally doing all of the process with their family. That’s something that’s important.
    SCG: Sure, that’s really interesting and I imagine that leads to a respect for all parts of the process that maybe you wouldn’t see in a factory farming setting. That’s definitely unique.
    IR: Yea, it’s something that’s important to the whole family. Even the kids are assisting with the harvest, and they’re taking care of the quality there. Doing sorting to add quality to it. They get involved with the process.
    SCG: So something we talked about that ties into all of this a little earlier that ties into all of this is that the current socio-political climate in Nicaragua is kind of tumultuous and in flux. I think that many people here and in most parts of the Western world don’t have a great understanding of what that really means, especially how it affects the coffee trade. Do you have any thoughts on that particularly?
    IR: We had some difficulties when the situation started in April. It turned very difficult to do some shipping of coffee in some parts of Nicaragua, but in terms of the coffee producing areas, they were not affected. The producers continue taking care of the farms, continue working, and this year we are preparing all of the receiving centers to receive that coffee. So what we hope to do during this political crisis is support the farmers. We cannot say “hey I’m not buying your coffee because this is going on in Nicaragua” or “I’m not financing your coffee because this is going on in Nicaragua.” We have to support our members because if they receive the services that they require, they stay in the farm, they keep producing, and that’s the only way that we can say “we are here to support our members.” So we provide them with loans, even during the crisis, we are financing right now, we are opening our business to new members, and getting ready for shipping and sales. I know many importers and roasters are worried about whether this coffee will get out of Nicaragua, but the coffee needs to get out of Nicaragua anyway. We don’t have any reason to have the coffee sit there.
    SCG: Right, and I think it speaks to, regardless of the political climate, these are still families working these farms.
    IR: and this is the Rural areas, most of the crisis is happening in the big cities. The big cities and urban places. But the Rural areas are working. Everybody needs to produce coffee there.
    SCG: It’s very interesting, and we’re very privileged to be able to ask you directly about things like that. Because that’s something that’s hard for us to get an accurate picture of a lot of the time with the wild news cycles that we see here. It’s hard to get reliable information about this. Do you think political challenges aside, more broadly, and maybe even historically, what do you think the biggest challenge is for growing coffee in the region specifically?
    IR: Many people may thins politics is the biggest issue or challenge, but I think it’s prices. That’s the biggest challenge right now. Not the political crisis. As you’ve you seen in recent years, prices have been lower. For a producer, it takes more money to produce enough coffee. So it gets really difficult to negotiate prices when the prices are down, as they are right now. It’s a difficult time for the producers because they ask if the coffee prices are how they are, how are we going to keep producing? How are we going to invest in the farm? How are we going to pay our workers to pick the coffee? How are we going to move that coffee from farms to the receiving centers? How can we continue the process? For small farmers it’s really difficult to think “we have been working on this farm for many years, this is the only way we have money to invest in the farm, and now I’m selling my coffee for less than it costs to produce.” So that’s a big challenge right now in Nicaragua and the region. It’s hard.
    SCG: I think that speaks to the value and importance of organizations like yours too. In terms of building those alliances and trying to help provide answers for those farmers because without that help it might be even harder.
    IR: Yes, but I’m also not just talking about the 4,800 members that we have. In Nicaragua we have 42,000 coffee producers. What about the rest? What about the coffee farmers who are not part of a cooperative like Aldea Global and have to sell coffee locally? It’s difficult for them.
    SCG: That’s a definite challenge. You’d hope, as the political environment improves, that perhaps you’d see prices improve as well. Ee appreciate your time so much, did you have any other thoughts that you wanted to share?
    IR: Well something that I always encourage people in the industry to do is, if you have the chance to talk to people about coffee, it’s good for you to come and visit us someday in your life. That’s the only way you can get the real, real information from the farmers on how coffee is produced. On all the effort it takes to produce a single bean. Did you know, coffee is hand picked? Did you know coffee is hand dried?
    SCG: I bet many people don’t!
    IR: Yes! Many people don’t know. So it’s good for people who are involved in coffee to know all the processes it takes, all the people it takes. That’s something that I like to share, that I always encourage.
    SCG: Well we appreciate your knowledge and willingness to share that information with us, and we’ll do our best to try to educate people on that too. Thanks for your time!
  • Olympia Coffee's Fair For All Program: An Interview with Honor Forte

    Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. has long been a Seattle Coffee Gear favorite amongst the roasters featured on our website and in our subscription service, supplying our customers with dynamic single-origin offerings and fantastic blends. Beyond just their delicious coffee, the company has challenged themselves to provide the best working conditions and wages possible to all people involved in the creation of their product through a new program called Fair For All.

    We met with Olympia Coffee's Director of Sales, Honor Forte, to chat more about Fair For All and how it will affect those involved in the farming and processing of their coffees, as well as what customers can expect with the implementation of the program!

    Thanks for sitting down today, Honor. Can you share what you do for Olympia Coffee Roasters?

    I am Director of Sales for the company, so I help any of our wholesale partners. Anybody that’s not our coffee shops that serves our coffee, I help them through onboarding and getting connected with training. I do consulting to help people build their bars efficiently, using the experience from our own four coffee shops—soon to be five. I do outside sales. So, finding new clients and directing inquiries to become partners. And I also do daily marketing. Not so much our big marketing plans, but I do our Instagram posts or interact with magazines or publications that maybe need photos of us or whatever else.

    I studied photography and printmaking—that’s what my degree is in. I just love photography and want to do that, so I basically do that because I love talking about the brand of Olympia Coffee and I love taking photos. It puts a creative element into my daily life, which I like.

    So, you went to school for Photography and Printmaking. Where did coffee come in to play?

    I sort of got recruited for a coffee shop job. I knew the person who was hiring baristas. This was 2008, and I just had a normal coffee job. I liked it. It was fun. But it wasn’t a career path or anything like that. I don’t think I had a career path or plan or anything at that point. (laughs)

    I went to Philadelphia after going to school in West Virginia and started working at a place called Ultimo Coffee that served Counter Culture at the time. I learned a lot really fast and realized I wanted to work for a roaster, someone that was sourcing green coffee in a Direct Trade model. That was really appealing to me. At the time I thought, “Direct Trade is the name of the game in coffee right now. Who’s doing it?” That brought me to a point where I became aware of Olympia Coffee and what sort of things they were trying to pioneer in Direct Trade.

    When I was looking at where I wanted to go work, Olympia had just been bought by two of its employees—Sam and Oliver, the owners. They were moving towards a 100% Direct Trade model. Their goal was to get to a place where every single coffee they sourced was Direct Trade. They were in a small, appealing town. They had a lot of things going for them. I also really liked that it was baristas who bought the company, managed by people who came from the bottom of the company, up.

    I moved out to Olympia in 2011 and started as a barista, moved into delivery driving and sales, and now I’m Director of Sales seven years later.

    You talked about Direct Trade. Olympia is introducing a Direct Trade requirement called “Fair For All.” What exactly is that, especially for those who may just think of it as Fair Trade?

    That’s one of the first things we talked about: is this just going to evoke images of Fair Trade? We think the answer to that is yes, and that’s good. Customers are so familiar with it and think so highly of it, we think it’s okay for people to think about that.

    Let’s talk about Direct Trade. It’s this awesome thing that happened in the industry as we moved away from this idea of working with huge co-ops and having coffees blended together. Fair Trade was a response to unfair values, slave labor, and people being taken advantage of at farm levels. But Fair Trade has always been limited to co-ops, big groups of people, and also has set values. There aren’t necessarily scales that depend on how high the quality of the coffee is.

    Direct Trade is a response to that. It’s awesome. What Olympia Coffee has been doing for the last seven years is building relationships to create new coffees at the farm level and pay prices appropriate to the quality level of that coffee. That’s resulted in us paying more that double Fair Trade prices to all of our coffee farmers. We crossed a point in 2016 where one hundred percent of our coffees, including our decaf, were Direct Trade. That’s where every single coffee in our lineup is built from the ground up, with the coffee farmer, paid at more than double Fair Trade price, and with continued partnerships existing around those coffees. We return year after year to build new coffees or new systems in place to make that relationship better with the farmer.

    If you would’ve asked me two years ago—this is the dream. You know people aren’t being taken advantage of and farmers have an opportunity to grow a better quality of life through working with our company. They have incentives to want to increase the quality of their coffee to make more money.

    Oliver, our green coffee buyer, started to see a breakdown into who was still left out of this story. That’s what Fair For All answers. Fair For All is our commitment to work not just with coffee farmers, but also with laborers. This includes coffee pickers, coffee processors—any hand that has a role in creating one of our products. We want to make sure that those people are making sustainable wages.

    A really easy to understand example is that a Geisha can go for more than $50 per pound as opposed to a more traditional coffee at $2-4 per pound. But the people who actually picked that Geisha varietal might be making a less than sustainable wage at the farm. So, we’ve always incentivized farmers, farm owners, and co-ops wards to create higher quality coffee. But we’ve really left a whole group of people out of the story as an industry. So Fair For All is us creating written and verbal agreements depending on the culture and the location where we say we aren’t going to purchase coffees where people were taken advantage of in any part of the creation of that product.

    How is the quality control maintained when these farms are all over the world?

    We’ve already visited our coffee farmers for years. Since 2016, one of our standards of Direct Trade is that we visit each of our farmers at least once a year. So we’re already aware and in contact with those farmers. We will now guarantee a sustainable minimum wage to all laborers involved in the production of our coffees (pickers, processors, and farm workers), set seasonally with the farm owner or cooperative board.

    The thing that makes this possible, I think, is a lot of our exporting partners—people like Caravela in Colombia—are on the ground there to uphold the things we are requiring. They’re the ones that are there all year round saying, “Olympia Coffee wants to pay this amount of money if the people you hire are paid this amount. Can you agree to that?” They are basically upholding our vision.

    It takes a lot of infrastructure worldwide to be able to do these things. But we’re at a point now where we know all of our partners, and the seven countries we work in regularly (nine we’ve worked in during the last year), have these processes in place to ensure these systems move forward. We can say a coffee is Fair For All and know that is true.

    The other thing that I haven’t said is that we will only work with farmers who provide safe working conditions free of unnecessary danger, oppression, and violence and with access to clean water and healthy food.

    How has it been received by the people you’re working with?

    A thing worth clarifying is that we started this essentially last year. We didn’t have the term Fair For All nor did we know how to communicate it with the public, but we’re already in the middle of releasing a lot of coffees that are Fair For All. They already meet these standards because these things have already been in place. Especially in places like Colombia where there is a ton of infrastructure and traceability. It’s just a matter of really communicating our goals and what we’re looking for in places like Kenya or Ethiopia, where we are working with really big groups of people and co-ops. They are a little bit harder to trace what’s happening and I’m guessing that Kenya and Ethiopia will be some of the last coffees to go Fair For All in our program since we’re not working with as many small, individual farms. I think it’s going to be more complicated than it is “hard.” People aren’t responding badly to it, because once again we pay more than double the Fair Trade price for our cheapest coffees.

    We’re interested in really incentivizing these things so that no one feels like they are being taken advantage of. It’s not just another regulation. We want to pay appropriately for these coffees.

    I feel like I’m constantly seeing Olympia Coffee being recognized in different publications. You guys were just on National Geographic’s website, you’ve been all over Sprudge. It really shows that all of the effort that you guys are putting in to your programs is worthwhile, but that’s been happening for years. I guess a question that I have is why? Why add this next step, especially as you guys continue to scale larger? What drives you to want integrate a program like this that could be seen as more challenging?

    That’s a great question. You know—we always view ourselves as a quality of life company. Anytime we’re asking “Should we do this? Should we do that?” in any sort of planning meetings, we’re always talking about quality of life for farmers, staff, and customers. I’ve found it to be true that Olympia Coffee’s ownership, management, sales team, anyone onboard really—the decisions we make to exist the way we do come down to better quality of life for all people involved. So I really think that this is just another way that we can move forward in improving the quality of life for more people with our products. And that’s really cool to me.

    Beyond the official word, honestly I think Oliver and Sam (the owners of Olympia Coffee) really just want to create a better world and want to look at their company and know that they are making decisions that are really good for the people around them. We are ultimately a corporation that exists to thrive. We have to make money. We’re a business. But all wrapped up in that is the desire to really benefit the people that we work with.

    I’m convinced of that more and more. I’ve been with Olympia Coffee for almost seven years. The whole time I’ve been there, when I see Oliver and Sam presented with questions about where Olympia should invest itself to better specific things at the farm level, I’m always really proud of the decision that are made. Even if it costs us more. Even if it costs us profits. All I can say is that I really think they want their company to be something they’re proud of.

    Totally. What kind of changes will customers see? Will prices increase?

    They are going to see labels on our bags that say “Fair For All” instead of Direct Trade. We’ve decided to move away from using the phrase “Direct Trade” just to simplify it and give people one thing that they can trust and know exactly what it means. Fair For All encapsulates everything that we want to be. Our goal is that every single coffee that we offer will fall under the Fair For All program.

    I don’t think prices are going to increase. This is really a system of verifying what has already been happening at a lot of our coffee farms versus adding a new price level. What you’re going to have as a customer is more traceability and clarity on what you’re buying rather than a higher price.

    Right on. What exciting coffees are coming down the pipeline that people can expect to see soon?

    Our very first Fair For All coffee was roasted on January 22nd. That coffee is called Colombia Aldemar Rodriguez. It is a micro lot from a single producer in Colombia. It’s very traceable already, so we’re able to have it meet our Fair For All standards because we know this person. Aldemar has created coffee specifically for Olympia Coffee and his micro lot is fully traceable by Caravela in Colombia. After that you’re going to see a string of several micro lots in Colombia that all meet our Fair For All standards and are labeled as such. All of them from single producers. All of them scoring more than 90 points on Coffee Review.

    Beyond that our Colombia San Sebastian Resereva, which is a product we have about 80% of the year, is also meeting Fair For All standards but is not labeled as such yet—because it’s brand new. And then slowly throughout the year, we are going to add that to all of the coffees we can verify. Hopefully within the year you’ll see it in the entirety of our line.

    Burundis are here too and are also Fair For All from Long Miles Coffee Project. You might see those in coffee competitions through out the year as people often compete with our Burundis.

    Any other exciting things we should be keeping an eye out for?

    We have the two shops opening! We just opened our West Seattle location. Our Proctor location in Tacoma should also be opening within the first half of 2018. More info on that on our social media!

    Thanks for sitting down with us Honor!

    Purchase coffee from Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. here!

  • 12 Days of Coffee: Madcap Coffee Company - Holiday Fusion

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    Parents - they're hard to trust when it comes to gift giving. Sure they mean well, but if you get one more pair of Long Johns and weird argyle socks this Christmas you may just lose your mind (UGH! Stop embarrassing mom and dad!). Keep it to the classics - killer vinyl, a new skateboard, and Madcap's Holiday Fusion! The pinnacle of cool, this delicious Holiday Blend of Kenyan and Guatemalan coffees is best enjoyed while jamming out to your favorite record or in between kick flips in your driveway.

    We're excited to spend twelve days of the month highlighting delicious coffees coming from roasters near and far. All of which are available in the holiday blends section of our website! Reach for a mug and pour yourself a little holiday cheer with your coffee!

    Madcap Coffee Company:
    Holiday Fusion

    A little background on the blend from the Madcap team...

    Holiday Fusion is 50% Karinga, Kenya and 50% Agua Dulce, Guatemala. The Karinga imparts lots of sweetness and vibrant cranberry acidity and the Agua Dulce adds some nice berry qualities and even more structure, making the cup very full and deep. This coffee is very versatile and can be enjoyed in any brew method. If you are making a pourover, try a 17:1 water to coffee ratio and and shoot for 3-4 minute brew time. If you are making a v60, that time should be closer to 2 1⁄2 - 3 minutes.

    "Holiday Light"-ning Q+A Round answered by their crew...

    What is your favorite holiday scent? Pine needles and candles
    Do you prefer hot chocolate or Egg Nog? Hot chocolate
    What is your favorite thing about winter? How quiet the world is with fresh-fallen snow.
    Real tree or artificial? Real for sure
    Presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Christmas Day

    Madcap Coffee's big plans for 2018...

    As always, we will be releasing new and exciting coffees from all over the globe. Some will be old friends as well, but the coffees never get old. We love seeing crops change and improve year after year. Look for us to highlight our partners in new ways and also look out for some very special offerings toward the end of the holiday season and at the new year.

    Click Here to buy a bag of Holiday Fusion!

  • 12 Days of Coffee: Ruby Coffee Roasters - Cheers Holiday Blend

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    Ah the holidays - a time of merriment and glee! Everything feels a bit more sentimental - meals with friends and family, drives through your old hometown, Christmas movies from your childhood. Tidings of comfort and joy abound! With all this good vibes coloring the season - you need a beverage to match! Look no further than Ruby Coffee Roaster's Cheers Holiday Blend. It's the perfect seasonal offering to fill your mug with and clink to a healthy and prosperous 2018!

    We're excited to spend twelve days of the month highlighting delicious coffees coming from roasters near and far. All of which are available in the holiday blends section of our website! Reach for a mug and pour yourself a little holiday cheer with your coffee!

    Ruby Coffee Roasters:
    Cheers Holiday Blend

    A little background on the blend from the Ruby team...

    We look forward to working on Cheers every year and the fourth time around was no different. This year we decided to start with a microlot from Finca de Dios in Fraijanes, Guatemala, which has a nice cakey sweetness and some soft fruits that fit right into our vision. We paired that with Kenya Gachatha and Ethiopia Yabitu Koba to add some wineiness to the cup and take the roast just deep enough to coax out some spice notes. We’ve been brewing it on the Kalita Wave with 32g ground medium-coarse, 500g filtered water, lasting 3:30-4:00. It also makes a seriously decadent French press. Try a 1:16.5 ratio (grounds to water), steeped with very little turbulence for 10+ minutes and make sure to skim the brown muck from the top after breaking the crust. Enjoy with cherished family and friends. Cheers!

    "Holiday Light"-ning Q+A Round answered by their crew...

    What is your favorite holiday scent? The smell of Cheers in a favorite mug (lame answer, we know)
    What is your favorite Christmas movie? Jingle All The Way with Arnold Schwarzenegger
    What are your favorite winter activities? Skiing: cross-country, downhill
    White lights or colored? Colorful Coffees demand colorful lights! (but only the non-led type)
    Gift-wrap or gift bags? Wrap, obviously.
    Bows or curly ribbon? Curly ribbons if moms are the ones wrapping.
    Steady lights or twinkling? Twinkling, as long as they’re not flashing. A gentle twinkle is magic.
    Angel or star tree-topper? Classic star. No questions.
    Real tree or artificial? Only real trees in rural Wisconsin. Cut ‘em ourselves then burn in February.
    Long needles or short? Whichever is less prickly.

    Ruby Coffee Roasters big plans for 2018...

    Plenty of tasty coffee! We’ll be continuing to work with many of the same talented and dedicated producers that we worked with this year and in years past. We’re particularly excited for the coffees we have arriving very soon from Burundi--some of the most remarkable and intriguing lots we’ve tasted!

    We’re also working on a website redesign, which will create a nicer experience and add functionality that’ll help us serve our customers better.

    Click here to buy Ruby Coffee Roaster's Cheers Holiday Blend! 

  • 12 Days of Coffee: Espresso Republic - Cabin Fever Blend

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    It's winter time. And sure, it's beautiful what with the changing weather and such. But as the weather worsens, that every present fear of getting stuck inside looms - cabin fever. Breaking free might feel like your only solution - but may we offer an alternate option? Espresso Republic's Cabin Fever Blend! Forego the maddening flee from the indoors and embrace the warm comfort of the cabin with this delicious holiday blend!

    We're excited to spend twelve days of the month highlighting delicious coffees coming from roasters near and far. All of which are available in the holiday blends section of our website! Reach for a mug and pour yourself a little holiday cheer with your coffee!

    Espresso Republic:
    Cabin Fever Blend

    A little background on the blend from the Espresso Republic team...

    A phenomenal fall and winter blend from Costa Rica & Guatemala featuring notes of milk chocolate, caramel, and warm spices. It is best served with a Chemed to share with loved ones or even a French press for those who enjoy a fuller body in cooler weather; in a cabin high up in the mountains; wrapped in  fleece blankets. Who needs hot cocoa?

    To the curious Chemex home brewer:
    1:14.8 (48g coffee : 710g water) Water to coffee ratio is our ideal!

    Brew guides are also available at espressorepublic.com/education/brewing-guides

    "Holiday Light"-ning Q+A Round answered by their crew...

    Eggnog or Hot Chocolate? Who needs eggnog when you can spike hot chocolate!
    Favorite Christmas Movie? A Christmas Story
    Artificial or Real Tree? Artificial because real trees die and are annoying to take care of after
    Weirdest Gift Ever Received? Fruit Cake
    Favorite Holiday Tradition? English Christmas Crackers - when everyone wears the paper crown and reads the jokes (inside them) around the table 

    New & Exciting things coming from Espresso Republic...

    The return of our seasonal espresso for the spring time: The Illumination Espresso featuring notes of stone fruit, citrus, and vanilla bean!

    Click Here to buy Espresso Republic's Cabin Fever Blend!

  • 12 Days of Coffee: Huckleberry Roasters - Sister Winter

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    There's no doubt about it, the holidays can be a stressful time. Get anybody in a room together who have their own differing perspectives and opinions and the possibility of a Christmas themed cage match increase exponentially. Don't let the coffee you serve divide your family! Our friends from Huckleberry Roaster in Denver, CO have taken it upon themselves to craft the perfect uniting holiday blend - Sister Winter. Drop the sibling rivalries and embrace the love over a cup of tasty brew!

    We're excited to spend twelve days of the month highlighting delicious coffees coming from roasters near and far. All of which are available in the holiday blends section of our website! Reach for a mug and pour yourself a little holiday cheer with your coffee!

    Huckleberry Roasters:
    Sister Winter

    A little background on the blend from the Huckleberry team...

    Our annual Sister Winter Holiday Blend gets released as the temperatures begin to drop, the sun fades away earlier and the desire to hunker down with family & friends takes over our souls. Since we hope Sister Winter is shared and enjoyed by the whole family, we roast & blend it intentionally to be a crowd pleaser -- something that a grumpy uncle recovering from too much mulled wine the previous and your 22 year cousin with a brand new barista job can bond over, and enjoy together.  Sister Winter is a blend of two of our favorite coffees from Guatemala (Dona Lucinda from Lake Atitlan) and Ethiopia (a natural processed coffee from Guji, Sidama). It tastes of sweet chocolate, a little sweet & spice and an underlying layer of fruitcake - but the kind of fruitcake that you actually want to eat. 

    "Holiday Light"-ning Q+A Round answered by their crew...

    What is your favorite holiday treat? I'm a Dutch kid (Hup, Holland, Hup!), so I'm partial to these amazing winter/holiday treats called Oliebollen, which are sort of like Dutch donuts, but translates to "fried balls of dough with powdered sugar". I'll allow you to wipe of the drool now.
    What are your thoughts on Pumpkin spice? I don't do it often, but when i do it's spectacular. btw, what did pumpkin spice do to deserve all the hate it gets?! 
    Favorite winter activity? Play in snow with my family and then reward ourselves make boozy warm drinks (for the adults, not the kids!). 
    Favorite Holiday scent? If i could live semi-permanent fog of mulled wine aroma's, i'd be happy. and probably a little tipsy.
    Caroling or sleigh riding? Caroling with nathaniel rateliff and friends at annual top-secret holiday shows (how about that for street cred!?)

    Huckleberry Roaster's big plans for 2018...

    DAIRY BLOCK! New cafe alert! New cafe alert! It's going to big, it's going to be radical, it's going to be delicious! Come visit us in downtown Denver!

    Click here to buy Huckleberry Roaster's Sister Winter! 

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