12/6/2012 10:13:00 AM Coffee roaster's business grounded in philanthropy
Catholic Sentinel photos by Clarice Keating
Sister Krista von Borstel and Mary Hunter flank the coffee grinder at Rain Drop Roasters.
Sister Krista helps Hunter by pouring beans into the hopper.
Clarice Keating Of the Catholic Sentinel
When Mary Hunter does business, it’s not your average daily grind.
The Ridgefield resident and owner of Rain Drop Roasters carefully researches coffee bean growers to be sure their product is certified organic, fair trade and the proceeds are benefiting the women and children who grow and harvest the beans.
But beyond responsible buying, Hunter uses her product as a mechanism for doing good in her own community, too. She is working with Sister Krista von Borstel, director of CYO and Camp Howard, to roast a specialty brew. Proceeds from sales will benefit Catholic youth involved in the organization’s programs.
No stranger to coffee, Hunter has been working with the commodity since she opened her first coffee shop 17 years ago. She even met her husband over coffee.
“It has been a love affair with coffee from the get-go,” she said.
Most of Hunter’s coffee is sourced through the Café Femenino Coffee Project, which helps women in Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru earn incomes through the production and sale of coffee. According to Café Femenino, 30 percent of the world’s 25 million coffee growers are women, and they are responsible for producing 75 percent of the world’s coffee.
“Harsh gender inequality, poverty and abuse are rampant in these coffee production regions,” says the company’s website. “Most women coffee producers have no rights, no income and are abandoned by their husbands.” Purchasers pay a premium above the fair trade price, but they are supporting more than 1,500 women in rural areas around the world.
“When you drink coffee, think about how many hands have touched those beans,” Hunter said. “They sacrifice their lives.”
One of the first organizations to benefit from the coffee fundraising structure was the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, which received proceeds from Hunter’s “Refuge Roast.”
“Everyone drinks coffee – it’s the second largest traded commodity in the world,” Hunter said. “Why not use it as a way to promote CYO and the mission of CYO?”
Sister Krista plans to create “Bean Teams,” consisting of leaders who distribute 8-ounce bags of coffee to be sold by team members for $10 apiece. For every bag sold, $5 will go toward camp facility upgrades and experiences for CYO youth. First up is the purchase of a cover for the camp’s basketball courts so youngsters can play outside even when it’s raining.
Hunter sees coffee as an instrument to give back to organizations that are doing right by their communities. She says, “Why not drink great coffee that’s doing great things?”
The Camp Howard French roast is from Peru. Sister Krista, a dark coffee lover, helped consult on the flavor, which has undertones of caramel and semi-sweet chocolate. Flavor profiles are created in part by the soil or climate where the beans are grown, but mostly by how long and how hot the beans are roasted. Together, Hunter and Sister Krista are working on developing a limited edition “campfire” roast that will have notes of graham, chocolate and marshmallows.
At the roasting facility located in a remodeled barn on her family’s property in Ridgefield, Hunter roasts 3,000-5,000 pounds of coffee per week. Between 20 and 30 pounds can go in the hopper at once, which tumble around and roasts for approximately 15 minutes. “First crack,” which demarcates a light roast, sounds like popcorn popping and begins at 400 degrees. Second crack indicates a point between medium and dark roasts. Roasters use those sounds to predict the roast’s smell, color and taste.
To get involved with a Bean Team, contact Sister Krista at 503-231-9484. For more information about Rain Drop Roasters, log on to raindroproasters.com.