Local coffee roaster visits Peru to connect with growers
By Kalea Hall
Matt Campbell went to Peru not just to get some good coffee for his coffee shops, but to also create relationships with the coffee growers.
“The awe of getting to meet the [coffee farmer] families and have dinner with them – it was emotional,” Campbell said. “It was almost a sacred experience.”
Campbell, who owns Branch Street Coffee Roasters in Boardman and Generations Coffee Lab in Columbiana, traveled to the coffee farms in the mountains of Jaen, Peru, near the Ecuadorian border for six days in August with Farm to Roast Coffee, a Pittsburgh-based importer whose goal is to connect coffee roasters with growers.
Campbell received some Peruvian coffee from Farm to Roast at the end of last year and knew there was something special about it.
“It was tremendous,” Campbell said.
Farm to Roast’s Peruvian coffee was “exploding with flavor.”
“From my first roast, I immediately knew what we had,” Campbell said.
Good coffee and a business model Campbell connected with made for a natural partnership between Farm to Roast and Campbell.
“We are trying to build sustainable relationships across the coffee chain,” said Chris Griffin, founder of Farm to Roast. “I went over and talked to him [Campbell], and he was exactly the target customer we want to work with. He is very passionate about his trade and interested in where the coffee comes from.”
Campbell told Griffin he wanted to go to Peru to meet the farmers.
“Any serious roaster wants to meet the people behind the coffee,” Campbell said.
In six days, Campbell went to five different farms. He was shown the process of coffee growing all the way through, and got to partake in some farming.
“It’s a very complicated process that they are doing with very rudimentary means,” Campbell said. “A lot of it’s done through generations of knowledge being passed down through families.”
Branch Street and Generations will bring in coffee from three of the farms Campbell visited. One of the farms placed sixth in the Peruvian Cup of Excellence, a premier coffee competition.
The coffee should be in by the end of October.
“After meeting with the families and really forming a relationship with them, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the coffees will go directly back to the farmer to make sure that as we grow this relationship year after year, their quality of life is improving,” Campbell said. “It’s an upward cycle.”