When Ladro launched its roasting division in 2011, the management team had already met and worked with coffee farmers in partnership with our then coffee supplier. Focusing on a relationship coffee buying model seemed like a natural place to start. With staff who had extensive experience roasting and coffee buying, the company made the transition to roasting for our cafes rather seamlessly. We built a team to manage the warehouse and future wholesale accounts. Shortly thereafter, Scott Baldwin joined the team to grow Ladro’s Wholesale division.
Since then, Jack Kelly (CEO) travels annually to coffee origins to source green beans directly from farms and co-ops worldwide. The relationship model permits Kelly to more keenly internalize how Caffe Ladro’s green coffee dollars concretely impact the farmers and millers with whom he does business. He explains, “We communicate directly with them so they learn what it is we are looking for. When they improve their quality we pay them higher premiums which dramatically affects their lives. The journey of coffee is long and it’s rewarding. It’s very uncommon for farmers to experience the roaster and cafe owner perspective.”
When possible, Kelly delivers Ladro’s roasted coffee back to the farmers to sample and enjoy. He works with farms that provide higher wages, day-care, school, food and lodging during harvest times. He encourages careful land stewardship, water conservation, erosion prevention, and soil health as he tours farms and chooses coffees. Kelly describes visits to coffee origin as, “incredibly humbling.” Each year, Kelly returns to Seattle with stories of the coffee farmers and millers to share with Ladro customers. Some of our favorite stories come from Jack’s trips to El Salvador. There we work most closely with our friends at Fincas Natamaya & Talnamica.
Roasting Division Head
Current Head Roaster, Ryan Rabaca (a 5 year Ladro veteran) recently returned from an origin trip to Guatemala, where he participated as a judge in a coffee competition for the CODECH Cooperative. The team of Eight judges from around the United States took 59 competition entries, assigned scores to rank the coffees, singling out the top 10. Ladro embraced the opportunity to purchase 3 bags of the top ranked coffee that we will be releasing later this year. Of this origin experience, Rabaca shared, “Meeting the farmers we buy coffee from made roasting a more personal experience for me. I came back from Guatemala feeling more connected and aware of how what we do in the states impacts the farmers in countries that grow coffee. All of our decisions matter.”
Roasting Division Successes
As we continue to find amazing coffees from around the world, we have had the opportunity to enter some of our favorites in to some roasting competitions. We have had great success in recent years at the globally revered Golden Bean Awards. A shining moment came in April, 2019 when we were awarded a Good Food Award for our roast of an organic Ethiopian Limu coffee. Attending the awards ceremony and surrounding events inspired us greatly, as we learned the depth of commitment and passion for sustainability and justice that drives the Good Food Foundation. We look forward to continuing to compete for their awards, and delving deeper into what they do.
The roasting division of Ladro continues to expand in wholesale. We have long time customers like Duke’s Seafood Restaurants, and the Chow Foods group. We are always adding new partners like our most recent restaurant – Ben Paris at the State Hotel. The emphasis on relationships we have with coffee farmers extends to relationships we build with our wholesale customers. We work hard to build and maintain trust, and business partnerships that will last for years to come. Other exciting developments in our wholesale expansion include branching into broader grocery distribution in our region. Keep your eye out for our signature Mango bag on more and more grocery shelves. This availability includes Town & Country Markets, Whole Foods, Metropolitan Market, QFC, Safeway, and Haggen stores.