Meet Our Stellar Partner #2: James Coffee Co.

photo courtesy of James Coffee Co.

What is the origin of James Coffee Co. and what is your role?

Sarah: James Coffee Company was started by two brothers, David and Jacob Kennedy, and they started it in 2012–2013. David is in the music world, and I think it was just out of a love of coffee. They started roasting, and [David] started roasting just at home in a popcorn popper and would roast coffee and give it as gifts to people and turned into roasting in their shed on their property and getting like a small roaster, turned into a coffee cart, and turned into what is now like three cafes and then a small wholesale program down here. We’re actually working in this new space on a bakery as well so this new location will have a little bit more going on too. It will be our fourth cafe.

How did you all come to partner with Bean Voyage?

Sarah: One of the brothers, David, his wife, Carina, also works for the company, it’s kind of a bit of a family business. We’ve been working on how to be more sustainable as a business and how to be as ethical as we can be in business too. And so, [Carina] was taking some sustainability in coffee courses and met Sunghee, and through Sunghee was able to build a relationship with us, buying some coffee from Costa Rica this year, which is super exciting.

What does gender equity in the coffee industry mean to you?

Sarah: That’s such a hard question! To me it means opportunity and fairness at all levels, I think. This is like I said, the two owners, David and Jacob, are brothers, but it is a very women-strong company too. And I think on this end, it feels very like we’re quite balanced because there are lots of us and we’re all doing different jobs and have different ideas and we all play as a team, as equals. But, on the farmer level, I think having accessibility to women farmers to be able to get their coffee out there is super important and it’s not something that is traditionally seen on farms as common.

How do you see pricing as playing a role in gender equity in the industry?

Sarah: I think pricing plays a role on all levels of coffee and I think transparency in pricing is super important. With women in coffee, I think having the price transparency gives us the clarity of what’s actually being paid at farm-gate, and is it equal to what we pay for other specialty coffees at farm-gate? And maybe is the program we’re working with working extra hard to even have those prices a little bit more to try and support those farmers more and give them a leg up?

How does sustainability play into that?

Sarah: I mean pricing and sustainability go hand in hand; that’s an easy connection to make. Then you bring gender equity into it and it’s just trying to find the pathways to make that coffee available. So, sustainability only comes when the pricing is at a point where people can have a fair wage and actually make a living in which they can continue to grow [coffee]. And then women farmers in coffee might be new to it or it might be their first year of processing coffee and exporting it, so giving them that leg up and saying okay like this coffee, maybe it is a little bit more expensive than a coffee equal to it (if you want to say that way, I don’t think that’s the right way to say it because they’re all different, they all have their pros and different flavors, so it’s hard to judge two different coffees that way) but you could say that giving a woman farmer a wage that is fair and a wage that gives her a little bit extra to be able to learn and grow with and expand her knowledge and that opportunity that she has where male farmers in the industry are just given those opportunities and have this knowledge passed on generations and generations and this woman farmer is like this is their first year doing this. So, I think that pricing being at a fair point and at a point that allows the farmer to actually grow with it as well, and isn’t just like, okay I’m just surviving is also super important and I think that’s how you can sort of relating the pricing to that gender gap issue. Does that make sense?

I saw that you all have been placing a lot of importance on introducing sustainable practices in your roastery and cafés, like the Glass Jar Program. What are some existing sustainability programs in your roastery and cafes?

Sarah: Yeah, so our Glass Jar Program actually didn’t come from us, it came from Bar Nine in L.A. They’ve been doing it, for I think like, ten years like they’ve been doing it for a long time. They are the ones that I think did it first, but I can’t tell you for sure but we actually found this idea from a company called Oddly, and they’re in Kansas City. David, who’s a musician, was on tour and he just happened to go into their cafés and thought it was so cool and it would be a really cool goal for us to strive to achieve. And so we did it and it’s great!

photo courtesy of James Coffee Co.

What has been the consumer response to James Coffee Co.’s sustainability programs?

Sarah: Some people get it, some people don’t, and that’s okay!

What’s your favorite brewing method for Bean Voyage coffee?

Sarah: I’m a pour-over person all the way! I drink pour-overs at home. I’m also I’m not going to knock batch brews like we drink a lot of batch brew coffee at the roastery, and I’m a big fan of batch brew coffee. You can’t really go wrong there either so I might go hand in hand. But at home, I usually drink pour-overs.

Photo Courtesy of James Coffee Co.

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