By Michelle Fish
Bob and I have talked a lot about what OBIIS is doing… putting a Name, a Face, and a Place on every coffee we serve, finding producers that are doing the right thing for their people, the planet, and their communities.
But we haven’t spent much time talking about how we do it. The key ingredient is relationships. Building relationships. It all starts with people.
Sometimes, it’s a grower we meet directly, or are introduced to. And we start a conversation. Which leads to more conversation. And then, maybe, a “BOOTS ON THE GROUND” trip to the field. Sometimes, though, we meet people that aren’t growing coffee, but are in the industry, and are like-minded souls with whom we share deep values.
This week, we are in Honduras hanging out with some like-minded souls.
Spirit Animal Coffee
I am writing this from a beautiful café in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, named Spirit Animal Coffee. Spirit Animal was started by Kathia Irias and Paul Gromik. It’s a simple, but powerful idea that was sparked in Kathia’s childhood. Her parents were professors of agronomy in Honduras, and, as a child, she spent a lot of time with coffee farmers that were struggling to survive.
The desire that she got from her parents to do something to help the coffee producers in Honduras has never left her. After a very successful career with a Multi-National corporation, she decided to come back home and apply her and Paul’s entrepreneurial experiences to doing something. Together, they have built a business model that is providing more economic stability for growers and is elevating the profile of Honduran coffee globally.
Like us, they are searching for coffee farmers. They are specifically on the hunt for growers that are producing the highest quality, best scoring coffee, using sustainable, environmentally friendly farming practices. They are looking for growers that are not necessarily producing a lot of coffee (they’re producing what is called “micro-lots”), but what they grow is at the highest end of the specialty coffee market. Because even though those producers are growing those rarest, best types of coffee in the world, they struggle to find a market that will pay them what their coffee is worth.
Spirit Animal’s answer to that conundrum is two-fold. First, they have an international coffee subscription business. Coffee, in its raw form, is a commodity. But when you add the service of roasting the coffee, the price that it fetches in the marketplace can go up 10-fold. Most coffee is roasted near where it is sold, so the producing country never gets the benefit of those added dollars.
Kathia and Paul roast the coffee that they source locally, package it, and then sell it globally through a subscription model. They air-ship it from Honduras to Miami, where it is sent on to their subscribers every month. And they share the revenue stream directly with the producers.
The second prong of their business model is their café, serving the coffees that their partner-growers produce. It is a café in the traditional sense, but it is also an event space, a cupping lab, and a place for locals to get to know and support Honduran producers. Their concept is serving some of the best coffee grown in the world (think Paris Fashion Week) in a local environment, where all of their staff is dedicated to propagating knowledge about the coffee they serve both to locals, and to the many many tourists that frequent their café.
We had the opportunity to try a “flight” (think wine tasting) of the coffees that they offer. We sampled three coffees in this experience… their specialty coffee scores were 87, 88 and 89. Again, think Paris Fashion Week – except, imagine that Paris Fashion Week is also delicious.
The Flight Experience
They ground the coffee for us, and we had an opportunity to experience it first as an aroma of ground coffee. Then they prepared the coffee as a Hario V60 Pour Over and we had a chance to savor the scent again. Then we got to taste them.
The real special treat here, is that we had already spent the afternoon exchanging ideas with the producer who grew the coffee rated at 88 – Juan Manuel Cruz, from the Finca (Farm) Cerro Azul in the Copan region of Honduras. We spent much of our afternoon talking to him about what he’s up to on his Farm. And we had the opportunity to share our recent El Recreo Update video with him from our Farm-Direct partner in Jinotega, Nicaragua.
Then we had the opportunity to taste his coffee.
Juan Manuel Cruz from Cerro Azul in Copan, Honduras produces the 88 point-rated IHCAFE for Spirit Animal Coffee.
They are on to something
Kathia and Paul are on to a seriously great idea, here. They are teaching Hondurans, and anyone else who wanders into their café, about the exceptional coffee their regional producers are growing in Honduras. Although they’ve only been operational for a few years, they’ve already had a tremendous impact on the local market, and their partner producers.
We were excited to hangout with them because they have their fingers on the pulse on what is happening in the local Honduran coffee market. And they know some very impressive growers. People that are doing the right thing by their people, the planet, and their communities.
Tomorrow, we are going to walk the fields of some of their producer/partners. We can’t wait to get back out into the field. More to come.