Fire. It refines gold and galvanizes steel. It can chew an entire forest into ash. It can sustain our livelihood, give us warmth, and provide light. All of it's life-altering power starts with a single small spark, and as it grows, nothing that it touches is ever quite the same. Such a spark can be found down a non-descript residential street in Mt. Healthy - the humble headquarters of Deeper Roots Coffee, as well as their life-changing non-profit, Deeper Roots Development.
What started as a desire to provide the customers of Rohs St Cafe with a quality cup of coffee has grown into an operation that enables coffee farmers throughout the world to rise above poverty, providea sustainably-produced premium product, invest into the Midwest's coffee culture, and build a business that provides premium roasts to cafes and homes. In 2005, founder of Deeper Roots, Les Stoneham, thought it might be interesting to actually meet some coffee farmers in order to better understand the product he was serving his cafe customers. He tagged along on a friend's trip to rural Guatemala and was struck with a question: How can we improve the lives of Guatemalans while providing a top quality coffee to the United States?
The resulting answer came to fruition in 2006, when Deeper Roots Development established a direct trade partner in Guatemala. By educating, outfitting, and empowering a group of local coffee farmers using non-profit funds, Deeper Roots is now able to pay the highest possible price for processed fruit that were previously sold as fruit for pennies to local "coyote" merchants. Deeper Roots plans to duplicate the program across the world in locales ranging from Columbia, Mexico, and Ethiopia. Back home in the states, Deeper Roots passionately continues to provide premium beans for purchase. In instances where they don't yet have a direct trade partner, fair-trade, organic (or similarly certified) beans are selectively imported.
At their facility in Mt. Healthy, green coffee is roasted into 10-12 different products, 8 of which are single origin. Their coffees are sold throughout the US to premium cafes and shops. Meanwhile, a portion of the proceeds are funneled back into their "Development" wing to continue the mission of developing direct trade partners and improving lives throughout the world.
If the soil is properly cared. If the coffee cherries are harvested at just the right moment. If the beans are prepared with the best technique. If the roasting process is flawless. If the beans are stored in just the right elements, and the cafe purchases all of the best brewing equipment - none of it will translate to a great cup of coffee if the Barista uses the wrong technique. High-level training courses are available in New York, Los Angeles, and - soon - Cincinnati, OH. Under construction in the roasting house is an educational facility for training and development programs aimed at improving the brewing skills throughout the Midwest. Deeper Roots will seek a certification from the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), and if awarded, will establish itself as one of the premier educational coffee facilities in the United States.
Lead Roaster, Adam Shaw, gave us a tour of their roasting house, providing an insider view of the flame that just might change the world.