This Is Why: Ethos Roasters

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“I wish people would copy us.”

“Please copy us,” said Lisbeth, in an interview with Brandspark. In a world of patents and trade secrets, a craft roastery in Lakeland Florida has set out to be an open-handed example of how to make a difference in the lives of small coffee farmers and coffee consumers around the world.

the beginnings.

Both Lisbeth and Jolian were surrounded by coffee farms as children. Lisbeth grew up in Guatemala City drinking “cafe con leche” while Jolian grew up in Colombia’s “Eje Cafetero” (coffee-lands). Decades later, they both came to Florida where they met, fell in love, and decided to pursue a life where they could make a difference in the poorest regions of the world (who happen to have the best coffee).

It all started in 2016 when Lisbeth and Jolian flew down to a small town in Guatemala called Poaquil. They met a small group of farmers, each working hard on their own small plot of land. There, they saw a huge problem. “Coffee farmers are born into some really horrible poverty conditions that are really hard to escape. There is a lot of suffering. A lot of times just being here in America, it’s very hard to imagine the world that so many people are born into and the level of poverty,” said Lisbeth.

Children in places like Poaquil, Guatemala don’t have the opportunity to go to school. “It’s a cycle; If you are born there, your parents will bring you to the coffee farm because they are paid per pound and they need the money for the family. Once the kids are 16, they barely know how to read or write. So they end up just staying at the farm working for pennies per pound because that is all they know. And the cycle begins again.”

doing something.

Lisbeth and Jolian knew they had to do something. They didn’t want “likes” on a viral Facebook video only for people to go back to normal everyday life. They wanted to make a sustainable difference and contribute to change. So they brought back suitcases of coffee beans, raised right on the farm in Poaquil Guatemala and built relationships with those farmers and their families. “We roasted and sold the coffee right here in Lakeland” said Lisbeth. Now, they order 1,500 pounds of coffee every year from those farmers and pay them three times the market rate. The premiums they pay go directly to the farmer, bypassing corporations that pocket premiums and oppress farmers. In three short years, they have seen that small group of farmers grow from 10 members to 30 members.

Coffee production in these small towns like Poaquil drives the local economy. Ordering 1,500 pounds of coffee every year can change an entire community. These communities can now invest in more nutritious food, better schools, better healthcare, and a better future for their children. One of the conditions Lisbeth and Jolian has with the coffee farmers they buy from is that every single child has to go to school to get an education. These farmers are ecstatic to send their children to school, since they can make enough now to comfortably feed their family. Ethos believes this is key to creating a sustainable change and will contribute to breaking the poverty cycle.

brewing greatness.

Lisbeth and Jolian have a strong passion for fresh coffee made with excellence. They roast and ship the same day, something only a few roasters in Florida can boast. Every bag of coffee sold online is shipped within a few hours of roasting. At the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Market, they purposefully only make the amount of coffee they know they can sell, leaving no leftovers for the next day. When it comes to roasting the bean, Lisbeth and Jolian took us to their back room where they have high-tech machines that manage every technical detail of the roasting to insure the highest quality. Each batch of coffee is monitored closely, with every second of the process making a difference in the taste. Lisbeth is a food chemist, and spoke of many scientific processes that we couldn’t explain in a short blog post.

compounding impact.

Partnerships and collaboration is the life-blood of Ethos. Everyone from the coffee farmers to the coffee shops that distribute their coffee are vital partnerships. They partner with other cooperatives and companies to buy ethical coffee from towns in Honduras, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Brazil. They partner with local cafes, restaurants, and coffee shops to help distribute the coffee. “We’re not saying we’re going to change the whole industry, but if we can make a difference in this small town in Guatemala, this small town in Colombia… I think it compounds. I think the biggest impact we have is the example we are setting; other people around us are seeing it. This kind of thinking, if it spreads, it could actually make a difference.”

Not every company is on board with the Ethos business model though, especially with profit on the line. While the giants in the coffee industry would like people to think of them as ethical and globally responsible, Lisbeth has other opinions. “People actually think that [large coffee chains] are fair trade and organic and all these things… Less than 1% of the volume that they buy is actually certified fair trade and organic. And, I always say fair trade and organic is the least you can do. It’s the minimum. We can do a lot better than that. It’s amazing all the things they do behind the scenes, but most people don’t really want to know.”

Ethos wishes that more coffee companies and roasters would copy their business model. While most coffee producers and consumers love a good story, it comes at a cost. “We will never be the cheapest coffee you can buy; the environmental & human costs are too high. Yet, we want to combine high quality, social impact, and environmental awareness into the freshest, all-around best coffee experience money can buy!"

moving forward.

Going forward, Ethos has just one message: “We are so fortunate. Not only do we have limitless opportunities for ourselves here in America, we also have the incredible ability to make a difference in someone else's life across the world.”

Ethos Roasters truly inspired us with their passion for authenticity and integrity in business. We hope to continue to partner with them and other small businesses like them to spread authentic marketing throughout Lakeland. If you’d like to learn more, visit their website at EthosRoasters.com or swing by the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Market on Saturdays to meet them in person!