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Changes.

Jonathan and Shelly Spirit Mountain Coffee  - Dominican RepublicThe past year has been an adventure, a wild ride we could not have planned for.  We are so grateful to our hometown Tyler and our online patrons that have given legs to Porch Culture. On our own we are just an idea or a good concept.  With you we are a business.  Bit by bit the word is spreading and Porch Culture is growing.

We are learning as we grow, working to honor both the farmers who grow our coffee and ,you, our PC Patrons.

our giving | finding sustainability 

We believe all of us have the opportunity to tell a better story through the way we live and the choices we make.  For us that means keeping people at the center of what we do.  This is why we source, roast, and deliver the way we do.  This is also why we give a portion of online sales to redemptive work.

In terms of giving we decided early on that we would rather start big and pull back than always be in a posture of waiting until we had enough to give. Our giving structure thus far has been $3/bag from online sales to one of our non-profit partners.  Over this past year we have been able to support some great redemptive work, in the DR and right here in Tyler.

However, it seems we let out the reigns on our idealism a little too much.  Our current giving model is not sustainable for the operational costs of the business.  And, in the end we want sustainability from farm to porch.  We want it for the farmers.  We want it for Tyler.  And as business owners we want it for ourselves.

Do not fear, we are not abandoning ship.  We have simply gone back to the drawing board,  We’ve come up with what we believe is sustainable for us as a business while still giving to redemptive work.  We feel both are an important part of telling a better story through coffee.

Impacting globally | Starting March 1, $1 from every bag sold online will be given to the Doulos Discovery School.

Impacting locally | We have been plotting how to let goodness run wild with our local non-profit partners. We have a few ideas up our sleeves.We need to do a little more collaborating to make sure the final decision works for everyone involved.  Stay tuned for the details.

Thank you for choosing Porch Culture Coffee and allowing us to be a part of redemptive work from farm to porch.  We will continue with our current giving structure through the end of February.  If you have any questions we would be happy to answer them: info@porchculturecoffee.com.

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Beyond measure | Thankfulness

Thanks to the Intrepid Radicals who inspire us to dream and to act

Its been about 1 year since PC Coffee became an official business.  We’ve come a long way in a year’s time and it has been a group effort for sure.

These thanks are by no means exhaustive but a start to a very long, ever growing list…

To the ones we do know

Chad and Krista who daringly and trustingly jump off one cliff after another.

Josh and Stacy who took us into their home while we learned the business.

Jim and Rafael who volunteered to teach two total strangers everything they know.

Our Parents and siblings who love and support us despite our crazy antics.

The farmers and harvesters who do the hardest, most overlooked part of coffee work.

The Doulos Discovery Family who equip and serve and impact everyday.

The early adopters whose support put legs on our business.

And the newest member of our family business.

Owner's of the Spirit Mountain coffee farm in the Dominican Republic

To the ones we have yet to meet

Shane who opened our eyes that another world is possible.

Don who helped us to tell a better story.

Michael, Eric, and Joel who taught us that our choices reflect our beliefs.

Wendell who loves his community with a fiery passion

To The One who knows us best

You lead the way.  We can only follow.

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What we mean…Relational Trade

What we mean when we use the word… 

When we started this adventure of profoundly good coffee Porch Culture had one direct trade connection from our time spent living in the Dominican Republic.  We knew that we would want to and need to expand our offerings from there which quickly brought up the questions of “How?” and “Where do we begin?”

relational trade

“Relational Coffee” is another ambiguous term in the coffee world.  Like Direct Trade it is not a certification but a subjective phrase that can vary in meaning.  For us relational coffee is the bridge that helps us cross over into more direct trade relationships.  You will notice a lot of overlap from our direct trade definition.  The primary difference being the relationship in “relational trade” involves a go-between.

Our 4 point definition is as follows.

Price | We pay above fair trade minimums and work through smaller importers or other direct trade roasters to establish price.

People | We communicate with those that have direct trade relationships with farms and ask specific questions to know both the people and the land connected to the coffee are cared for.

Quality | Its still gotta be profoundly good.  We look at cupping scores and talk with other roasters already using the bean.  In most cases a sample is requested before making a larger scale purchase.

Land | Shade grown with sustainable growing practices already in place.

Our goal is to build new farm relationships by creating connections with other roasters that have their own direct trade relationships.  Until all four of the direct trade criteria are met these coffees will be labeled as “Relational” rather than “Direct”.  Our current hope is to build 3 to 4 Direct Trade relationships, farms and/or cooperatives that we look to partner with for the long haul.  This means that only some of our Relational Trade coffees will make the transition to Direct Trade.

Those that don’t make the transition will come and go for various reasons but will always fill an important role for our business.  Before it is anything else, coffee is a crop that grows from the earth.  This means a couple different things for us as roasters.  One, there is a finite supply from each farm each season.  Two, coffee is subject to the unpredictabilities and risks of anything cultivated | drought, flood, cold snaps, bugs.  It is for these reasons that our relational trade offerings fill such an important role for us as roasters and you as Porch Culture patrons.  In addition to providing fun and variety in our Porch Culture offerings, relational trade coffees are farms/importers we can look to as trusted pinch hitters, special features, substitutes when other coffees become unavailable for whatever reason.

Spirit Mountain drying and storage from above

Our current Relational Trade offering is our Ethiopian Harrar.  The small importer we work through is committed to providing a viable, vibrant sales market to Ethiopian farmers, all small cooperative growers.  There is an established mutual commitment between these farms and the importer that is creating a great cup of coffee for you and a living wage for growers.  Profoundly good from farm to porch.

Next up on the blog | What we mean…Fair Trade

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What We Mean…Direct Trade

What we mean when we use the word…

For as common as coffee is there are a lot of processes and terms that are cloaked in mystery for the average coffee drinker.  Our hope as Porch Culture, through conversation and things like blog posts, is to pull back the veil, not to make anything more complicated but rather to make coffee more familiar, less intimidating, and more approachable.

A whole lot happens between farm and porch.  Because you have to start somewhere we will start with how Porch Culture goes about getting its coffee and why we go about it that way.

direct trade

“Direct Trade” is not a certification.  Rather it is used in the coffee world to describe a type of relationship between farmers, roasters, and small scale importers.  Where as terms like “Fair Trade” and “Certified Organic” are regulated, there is no governing body over the term Direct Trade.  All that to say there is no set-upon definition for “Direct Trade”.  Opinion varies if this is a good or bad thing.

Gleaning from other direct trade roasters, combined with our own convictions and findings, we have developed a 4 point definition of direct trade so that Porch Culture patrons like yourself understand what we mean when we label our coffee “Direct Trade”.

Price | We value the intensive labor that goes into producing quality coffee and express that in the price we pay for green [un-roasted] coffee.  Our transactions are handled directly with the producers.  We know how much money the producer receives for the coffee we purchase and that purchase price is at least 25% over Fair Trade minimums.  Direct Trade often earns coffee farmers 2 to 3 times more than the market value per pound.  Or better said, the world market value for coffee is typically 2 to 3 times under a sustainable, living wage for farmers.  Direct Trade is not a hand out it is an agreement that pays the true value of coffee with expectation and accountability of a quality crop.

People | Making things personal transforms what could be just another business transaction into a friendship and long-term relationship.  Our goal is to visit every farm that we work with.  Farm visits help to create transparency in both farming practices and worker treatment as well as confirming a commitment from the roaster to the farmer.
As a little guy it will take time for us to be able to build relationships with more producers and visit more farms.  Eventually, we plan to visit each farm once per year.  With this kind of travel, it also means we look to value quality over quantity in terms of how many farms we will source from at any given time.

2012-10-17 13.55.57Quality | Profoundly good does not just mean ethically sourced coffee it also means delicious coffee.  It is a both/and deal.  Quality is the basis of sustainable relationships for everyone involved | producer, roaster, and consumer.  Our coffee offerings are sample roasted and cupped for profoundly good taste before we consider moving ahead with a new farm relationship.

Land | How the land is treated effects every aspect of coffee.  We want our farmers to be in business for a long time, for the communities around them to thrive, and for our customers to have access to profoundly good coffee.  All our coffee is shade grown (coffee is naturally a shade plant) and cultivated with practices that consider the longevity of the farm and the health of surrounding communities.  This means some of our offerings will be certified organic but ALL our coffees are sustainable.

Our anchor coffee and very first Direct Trade relationship comes from Spirit Mountain in the Dominican Republic.  Our relationship with these guys goes back 8 years.  They not only meet but exceed all four of our direct trade criteria.

Next up on the blog | What We Mean…Relational Trade

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We are taught to tell (I mean live) good stories

If you have been following Porch Culture, you know our beginnings are in the Dominican Republic and our hearts are still very much entwined with the school and the farm that ignited the flame for Porch Culture Coffee Roasters.
Perhaps you have read the Porch Culture Story.  Today we want to dedicate a little time to telling a bit of our friends stories.  A little snapshot of each to set a foundation for the many future stories you will hear about the on goings of Spirit Mountain and Doulos Discovery School.

These guys taught us so much of what we know about telling a better story with your life.

A School

Porch Culture truly began in the Dominican Republic in 2003 when Doulos Discovery opened its doors in the mountain town of Jarabacoa in the Dominican Republic with the hope of changing lives and communities through servant leadership.
In a country mostly known for corruption and poverty, the founders of The Doulos Discovery School set out to tell a different education story based on service and discipleship.
Few believed the rich would pay to send their kids to school with the poor.  Few believed US certified teachers would opt out of paying jobs to fund raise for their income.  Few believed this project would work.
Because of those few that did believe and took the risk, Doulos Discovery is going strong with nearly 300 students, half of those on need based scholarship.
You can ready more of their revolutionary story at doulosdiscovery.org.

A Farm

If Porch Culture began at a school, then it grew into a reality on a farm.
Just 15 miles away from Jarabacoa and the Doulos Discovery School, in the mountain community of La Angostura, there is a coffee farm that hopes to change lives and communities through coffee and ecological preservation.
In an industry marked by disregarding communities and ravaging landscapes, the owners of Spirit Mountain Coffee Plantation set out to tell a different agriculture story.
The 350 acre ecological reserve not only produces a quality crop of organic, 100% arabica coffee but also follows fair labor practices and preservation through the planting of 1000’s of trees.
Spirit Mountain operates as a not-for-profit and exists to support the work of the Doulos Discovery school and the community of La Angostura.
You can of course learn more of their story at spiritmountaincoffee.com

A Roaster. 

With those 2 stories preceding us we have some big risk taking, cliff jumping, redemption loving shoes to fill.
So much of the Porch Culture story is still left to be written lived.  We hope to do our friends proud.