Just Love Coffee Roasters
We recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Rob and Jason from Just Love Coffee Roasters  - our current featured Coffee Roaster Partner! Check out the interview below to learn more about their story and how they combined their love for specialty Fair Trade Certified coffee and helping orphans and adopting families.
How was Just Love Coffee Roasters  started?
Rob: I grew up in the coffee business, and for years have dreamt of roasting my own specialty coffee. In the spring of 2009, my wife Emily and I decided to adopt 2 children from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. While preparing for the adoption, we immersed ourselves in the Ethiopian culture by reading, talking with Ethiopian-Americans, and learning Amharic- the most widely spoken language in Ethiopia. We also found out that many adopting families like us were frustrated with the lack of a good fundraising model to raise funds for the 5-figure expenses that come with an adoption. Being immersed in the culture of Ethiopia and in the adoption process kindled an idea that began to take shape. Combining my passion for coffee and helping orphans and adopting families, the idea for Just Love Coffee was born.
What is unique about Just Love Coffee Roasters?
Rob: The Just Love Coffee Roasters fundraising program allows adoptive families and non-profits to host their own online storefront through our domain, justlovecoffee.com. The family or organization uploads a photo, inserts a message, and promotes the website to their supporters. Once a supporter makes a purchase, Just Love Coffee will process the order, and return $5 per 13oz bag of Fair Trade Certified coffee. Through this model, Just Love Coffee has helped raised $250,000 for adoptive families and non-profits in the last 2 ½ years.
When and why did Just Love Coffee decide to roast Fair Trade Certified coffee?
Rob: Fair Trade coffee was mandatory from the day I decided to start the business. Our passion to help orphans and the price we pay for our product are connected. I could not in good conscience price shop coffee and then try to help adoptive families and the cause of the orphan. I have always wanted to pay at least a fair price so that the families who work the farms can take care of themselves and their children.
What was the first Fair Trade Coffee you roasted?
Rob: We started with 7 coffees and to this day, one of our most popular coffees is 1 of the original 7. African Skies is a blend of Fair Trade Rwandan and Fair Trade Guatemalan. That was the first Fair Trade coffee I recall roasting on the 1lb sample roaster before the Probat arrived a week before the company launched.
How has roasting Fair Trade Certified coffee affected your company and community?
Rob: I think the biggest effect has been awareness and education to those who know nothing about Fair Trade products. We have been a source for conscious consumers who are looking to make sustainable purchases. We always explain why we buy Fair Trade coffees to our customers.
Jason: I think it added integrity to our young business. Customers were pleased to see that we were not only concerned about the quality of the beans, but also that the farmers received a fair price for the product. The community where we are located in is a growing small city that is surrounded by rural families that have a heart for local products. While coffee is clearly not locally grown in the lower 48 states, local growers have an affinity for their international counterparts and are pleased to see new businesses sharing that concern.
What lessons have you learned, and what message would you like to share with other Fair Trade Certified roasters?
Rob: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you should LOVE what you do. Your work should have purpose and meaning well beyond a paycheck. The team that you hire should share your passions, both professionally and philosophically. It’s fun to go to work every day. The reason it’s fun is because I love the endless struggle to perfect our product, working with our team of incredible people, and knowing that maybe we’re making the world just a tiny bit brighter by what we do at Just Love Coffee Roasters.
Jason: We learned pretty quickly that the amount of fair trade coffees on the market is smaller than conventional coffees, and if you want to ensure a sufficient supply, maintain good communication with your brokers and contract out your bags early and plan for growth in sales. We spent about four days early on waiting for some Rwandan coffee to become available and we had orders backed up for a week before we could fulfill them.
What future aspirations do you have for Just Love Coffee and the Fair Trade Certified coffee movement?
Rob & Jason: Just Love Coffee Roasters is planning to grow our wholesale market share as well as grocery market sales. We hope to get ourselves into a larger roaster sometime next year to expand production. Jason Smith, our Roast master was part of the winning team at the 2011 Roasters Guild Retreat Tri Style Roast Challenge. We also had a successful Groupon promotion where we offered a bag of coffee, a travel mug and a tour of the facility. We will continue to offer tours of our facility, public cupping events of our coffees, and classes on brewing methods. Discussion about Fair Trade coffee is always a part of our ongoing education to the public since it is central to our company’s mission.