Back at the end of May, Jeff Taylor of PT’s Coffee posted a blog about Finca Santa Maria, a farm he was going to be visiting. This farm had recently been taken over and destroyed by a group of bandits. Luckily no one was hurt, but the farmer, Armando Benavides, and his family suffered substantial theft: furniture was stolen, including the motors he used to process his coffee as well as the coffee he already harvested this season. Without the motors Armando cannot process the coffee he harvests, and that is where Jeff and the PT’s family wanted to help: PT’s wanted to help Armando’s family and farm rebuild after this travesty and invited the rest of the coffee community to join in and help raise funds to get this family back on their feet.
According to the blog, Jeff had a goal of $1,000 to give to Armando and his family. About two weeks ago he sent down the first collection of donations, a whopping total of $1,700! Jeff told me that he was Skyping with Armando and that he was too emotional for words and the tears began to fall because the enormous generosity of those who gave. While this was happening, money was still coming in from the link on the blog (to which you can still contribute until the end of this month).
In Springfield, Missouri, an idea started forming. Mallory Roth and Tom Billionis of The Coffee Ethic came up with an idea to host a latte art throwdown at their shop. Tom says as soon as Mallory heard about what had happened at Finca Santa Maria, she immediately wanted to do something to raise support. Tom said, “The throwdown-benefit concept seemed like an easy bridge to get all the people of coffee together while uniting behind something good that we could accomplish together.” They came together and created a Facebook event and started inviting all of the coffee community in Springfield as well as those in the surrounding cities such as Kansas City. As soon as the news made its way up to Kansas City, the coffee community rallied to collect money to take to the throwdown to show support for the cause.
A group of baristas, including myself, made our way down to throwdown Sunday evening. Three hours later we arrived to an empty coffee shop that would soon be filled with baristas, roasters, and coffee fanatics. Soon after we arrived Jeff and his wife, Maritza, pulled up with four baby Geisha saplings, and coffee for the raffle table. The space was set up to allow for space for prizes donated by the coffee community for a raffle, as well as a keg from Mother’s Brewery, and a side espresso bar. At this espresso bar.
People started to trickle in. Everywhere you looked, hugs were being exchanged, high fives slapped out, and smiles all around. Everyone was excited to be there to throwdown and to support a great cause. Twenty-eight competitors entered and waited for the brackets to be made. Tom stood to announce what was going to be happening then introduced Jeff and Maritza to the crowd, where they explained a little bit more about the situation and to refresh our brains about why we were there. As they were explaining, everyone was engaged in what was being said and realized that it is about more than just coffee. It is someone’s livelihood, growing this coffee that we drink daily. It clicked in our brains that this coffee effects more than the community that we live in, but also the community where the farms are located. Jeff explained that gorilla situation in Colombia has dissipated greatly, and Armando paid his pickers higher than most others because he was wanted to help his community, and keep the young people out of harm’s way. Jeff and Maritza stepped down and Tom went back up to explain was about to go down.
Competitors started lining up at the Nuova Simonelli to do a practice pour, then waited for their names to be called to compete. The first round was free pours and I was up against Nate Murphy, who use to do coffee up in Kansas City. I got knocked out of the first round. Second round was tulips, third round was rosettas, fourth round was cappuccinos, and fifth round was a surprise. It ended up being macchiatos. Half way through the throwdown, there was a break to call out winners of the raffles. Everyone was having fun and being great sports. Handshakes and hugs were given no matter who won or lost.
The throwdown got down to the final four. In fourth place was Natalie from Hebrew Coffee in Springfield. In third place was Isaac Miller of the Hub in Springfield. In second place was Jason Strother from Hebrew. In first place was Nate “the Great” Murphy of The Coffee Ethic in Springfield. Jason and Nate took home some Finca Santa Maria coffee from PT’s as well as a subscription to Barista Magazine.It was great night. Everyone had an awesome time. I talked to Mallory and Tom about what they had expected to raise during the event. Tom said if they had raised about $500 they would have been happy. “Thanks to the generosity of our attendees and the efforts of the baristas who made the trip down from Kansas City, we were able to far exceed that. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”
How much did the event raise to support Finca Santa Maria? They raised just over $1,200! That’s amazing. I am sure that Armando will once again be speechless to this generous donation, and will hopefully be up and running shortly.
It is events like this that make me fall more and more in love with the coffee community. Our hearts are larger than we are. We love coffee and it shows. We love our community and that shows, as well. Oftentimes we hear about tragedies that hit our local communities such as the Hurricane Sandy in New York, where we are buoyed by the community support that arises to help the victims. For Armando and his family, the Kansas City coffee community came together to raise money and spread awareness. We care about the community we live in, but also those in distant, producing communities, and it shows. It is great to know that if anyone is in need, we are caring people that are willing to step up to the plate and help.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Clark has been working in specialty coffee since June 2011. She is currently the head barista of Homer’s Coffee House in Downtown Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City. She is actively participating in anything the Kansas City Coffee Community organizes, from latteart throwdowns to triangulating. She really loves coffee so much that it inspires her to do art based around the beloved fruit.