At the SCAA show in Boston, I reconnected with my good pal, Allie Caran, who was bubbling with excitement about working with Toby’s Estate Coffee in New York. Allie told me she loved everything about the company, from the high quality of its coffee, to its regular customers, to the ethics of the company, which strives to do right by all the people involved in the final product—brewed coffee—from the farmer to the barista.
Allie was specifically excited about a project Toby’s was getting under way with: Moises and Marysabel Caballeros—the renowned coffee producers in Honduras who work with some of the best specialty roasters in the world, including Toby’s—recently built a school on their property for the children of their pickers. But now that the school is built, the expenses are far from over. So Toby’s is raising money for upkeep and maintenance, as well as furniture and supplies, through sales of La Escuela microlot. They want to hit a goal of $3,000.
“Toby’s Estate Coffee has been working with the Caballeros since our opening, and our green coffee buyer, Deaton, has been visiting their farm every year,” Joe Schafran of Toby’s told me recently. “Between Deaton’s trips to the farm, and Marysabel and Moises’ visits to New York, we grew to love the Caballeros and the work they do, and were able to learn about the needs and struggles of their local communities in Honduras. One of those needs involved the school they had built on their own land, and we found this to be the perfect opportunity to begin to involve ourselves in helping the communities that provide us our coffee.
“During Deaton’s trip last year, he was able to go see the location of the school, though unfortunately there was no school in session as the kids were off for a holiday,” Joe continued. “Talking with the Caballeros, we found they were in need of funds to keep the school building maintained, as well as to purchase proper furniture and materials. In terms of maintenance, the school requires a new roof, and we decided we could raise the funds they need through the sale of La Escuela, one of the lots of coffee we were able to purchase from the Caballeros.
“We wanted to get our café guests and wholesale accounts involved in the effort, as we believe it was important to involve a community in helping the Marcala community, rather than just a roastery helping a community. In that regard, our guests are able to see the bigger picture and understand the connection between the cup of coffee they drink, and the producers who begin the whole process of providing them that cup.”
A portion of the proceeds from each pound and from each cup of La Escuela sold is reserved for the school fund, and Toby’s Estate Coffee is matching the first $1,500 earned for the project.
“The real groundwork part of the project starts once we’ve met our goal of $3,000, which will go far in helping the Caballeros care for the school and the children,” Joe continued. “We intend to fly down to Honduras to present the school the money this spring when Deaton returns to buy more coffee. Marysabel and Moises will be overseeing the use of the funds in the manner that best helps the school, and will be keeping us up-to-date as the improvements are made. We also realize the importance of using the money raised within the Marcala community, and employing local craftsmen so that the entire community can benefit, rather than just the school.”
Stay tuned for news of a Field Report by Joe and Deaton in a future issue of Barista Magazine about their experience working in Honduras on this very special project.