Taking an aging retail coffee brand and enticing loyal customers to ride the third wave in coffee consumption, while launching a coffee roaster to serve those retail stores and build a wholesale coffee program is a business and cultural adventure. It is also the Ladro Story. Caffe Ladro opened in 1994 with a café and bakery on top of Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. Our focus was to provide a quality cup of coffee and a venue for our neighbors to gather and forge local community relationships. Our growth began with our second café just down the hill, followed soon after by our locations in West Seattle and Fremont, along with a move to expand our scratch bakery.
The next phase of Ladro’s development, in the early 2000’s, included the development of more cafés in Seattle, our ever-expanding craft bakery, as well as a mindful shift at the core of our business and ideals. In 2002, Caffe Ladro decided to offer only organic and fair-trade certified coffees. We continued with a sense of environmental and social responsibility, while still providing the highest quality product possible. By opening an average of one new café each year between 2002 and 2008, and another expansion of our bakery, Caffe Ladro was able to share our coffee and pastries with more neighborhoods in and around Seattle.
After all that growth, we looked inward. We found that while the organic and fair-trade systems were great steps toward responsible farming and coffee production, both models came with potential problems. We looked at our practices and our suppliers and decided that to provide the best and most ethical product, we needed buy and roast coffee. In 2011, Caffe Ladro launched Ladro Roasting. Ladro Roasting serves 14 Caffe Ladro cafes in addition to restaurants, cafes and offices in the Seattle area and across the country (from Boston to California).
We believe that profound service improves the world. Our goal to provide profound service extends beyond our customers and the coffee and baked goods we supply. We strive to contribute to the neighborhoods in which our cafes are located and to the farms at origin with which we work. Telling the stories of the coffees and the people who spend their lives working to put it in our hands is important to us. The best way we know to do this is to travel to the farms, create relationships with coffee farmers, and share those experiences with our customers. When possible, we host farmers for events at our stores to help education customers about issues facing the coffee farmers and how coffee customers can positively impact the lives of the people who produce their coffee.
Now 70% of Ladro coffee is direct trade. We trace our coffees from farms of origin, through production and to the hands of the consumer. We work with farms that provide higher wages, day-care, school, food, and lodging during the harvest. We encourage careful land stewardship, water conservation, erosion prevention and soil health. Roasting enabled us to control all aspects of our coffee production, from the content of our blends, the micro-lots we offer, and roast levels for each coffee.
While developing our wholesale program, we also built a world-class barista training program for our staff. Each cafe has a Coffee Educator who provides monthly coffee education and training. At the heart of all our work is the desire to serve and make the communities in which and with which we work better.
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