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By Michelle Fish

A few weeks back, Bob and I had the honor of hosting Hector and Miriam Morales from their home in Boston, Massachusetts. Miriam is the importer of the coffee we source from her parents, Carlos and Leanna Ferrey. She is the farmer’s daughter, and is passionate about the work her parents do at the El Recreo Coffee Farm in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

We’ve spent a lot of time with Hector and Miriam, both at the Farm in Nicaragua with her parents, and at their two cafes, Recreo Coffee, in Boston. Our Farm-Direct partnership with her family has fostered a deep connection between us, the farm, and the people who work very hard every day to grow their delicious coffee. It has allowed us to illuminate the part of the supply chain that gets the coffee from the coffee tree into a BIGGBY cup. We know the workers, the pickers, and of course, the farmers.

But do they know us?

El Recreo Farm Direct
From L-R: Carlos and Leanna Ferrey, Michelle and Bob Fish, and Miriam and Hector Morales during our first visit to the El Recreo Coffee Farm in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

The Chain of Coffee

For most coffee farmers around the world, the end consumer is invisible. The farmers sell their beans to an exporter, who gives them a price based on the spot market for coffee. That price doesn’t take into account the costs of production for the farmer. Sadly, too often they are forced to sell their beans for less than it costs to grow them, or with profit margins so thin they have no way of making real investments in their production or their people.

From there, the coffee changes hands many times, and where it ends up is a mystery to the farmer, and to the workers who tend and pick the coffee trees.

One of the goals of our Farm Direct initiative is that every cup of coffee that BIGGBY COFFEE sells will be directly connected to its origin with a name, a face, and a place. We want to forge a real connection that goes all the way back to the farm and its people for all of BIGGBY COFFEE’s owner-operators, baristas and consumers.

But what if we could do that in the other direction? How powerful would it be for the people on the farm to be able to see what happens to the coffee they grow? What if we could give them a name, a face, and a place for the people who touch their coffee?

El Recreo Farm Direct

Many Hands

Just as their are many hands that touch coffee on it’s way from the field to the shipping container, there are many hands involved in roasting, distributing and selling the coffee. Not to mention the many hands of customers enjoying their beverages!

We were so grateful for the opportunity to bring the farm to the cup. Hector and Miriam joined us for a whirlwind tour of BIGGBY COFFEE cafes. They met with owner-operators and their store managers and baristas. They answered questions about life on the farm, the journey of coffee, and the kinds of projects the farm supports in the community, like the school for kids, the technical school. You can read more about that here. They also got a behind the scene peek at how a BIGGBY COFFEE cafe operates.

El Recreo Farm Direct
El Recreo Farm Direct
Visiting with Matt Corbeil at one of his BIGGBY COFFEE locations in Muskegon, Michigan. Matt travelled to El Recreo with us in December of 2019.

The Roaster

We also brought them to Paramount Coffee Roasters in Lasing, Michigan. They have been roasting all of BIGGBY COFFEE’s beans since 1999. When Miriam imports the coffee from her parent’s farm in Nicaragua, it lands in a warehouse in New Jersey, where it is picked up by Paramount and trucked into the Lansing facility. One of the most powerful moments for me happened when Hector and Miriam saw the stacks of bags of El Recreo’s coffee waiting to be roasted. They have seen those bags at the start of their journey. And now they know definitively where they end up.

El Recreo Farm Direct
El Recreo Farm Direct
Hector and Miriam meet Angelo Oricchio, CEO of Paramount Coffee.

Full Circle

Our final visit was the to the BIGGBY COFFEE Corporate Home Office in East Lansing, Michigan. There, Hector and Miriam met with the many people who make BIGGBY COFFEE run, from the marketing department, to IT, to merchandising, HR and accounting. The conversations were broad and far reaching. Erica MacLeod, BIGGBY COFFEE’s Social Media Guru, and Jaime Balazy, their Director of Marketing, conducted filmed interviews which will be sharing as a mini-movie we’ve called Full Circle.

El Recreo Farm Direct
El Recreo

On behalf of all of BIGGBY Nation, we say MUCHO GUSTO to Hector and Miriam. Nice to meet you! We look forward to them taking the stories and pictures back to the farm. From the farm worker all the way to the customer, the chain of coffee is complete and transparent to all.

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