By: Ben Hoyer

Me and coffee are friends.

We weren’t always, but in college, a friend introduced us. My relationship with coffee started with Irish Crème breve and Mint flavored mochas and slowly evolved through lattes and cappuccinos to americanos and black drip coffee. As our friendship turned into a love affair, I happened to take a class called “Religion and Politics in Latin America.” Among several topics, we talked about the plight of most coffee pickers. Often these seasonal workers endure the lowest levels of poverty and hardships Americans don’t ever consider. Coffee only grows in a narrow little band around the globe near the equator. The higher the elevation the better chance the coffee has to be great. The best coffees are picked by hand, you can’t operate machinery in the spaces where these coffee plants grow. The people climbing the mountains in the tropics to get us our morning coffee and afternoon latte are existing in harsh conditions for little pay. For the contentious consumer, it’s a bummer.

But, I’m in love with coffee. What can I do? I buy the coffee that’s convenient and wish them well.

Some years ago, I decided I could do better and they were worth more. We usually enjoy coffee in air-conditioned spaces that are well-lit and appointed. Perfect moments for good conversation and deep thinking. Rarely, in those moments, did I think about the hands coffee passes through to get to me. But, once I did, it seemed like a real opportunity. I’m going to buy coffee, I love it. Why not buy coffee that is intentionally sourced and thoughtfully brought to me?

This happens less than you’d hope. But, by this point, I had decided that I’d like to be the sort of person who did that. Who made purchases that honored people and helped build systems to reject apathy and make an impact for good. So, I made some connections, flew to Guatemala, met some growers, partnered with folks to bring their coffee to the states and started inviting people to drink this coffee with me.

The process of connecting direct-trade coffee to, what has grown into three name-your-price coffee shops that I own and operate has taught me a lot. Perhaps the biggest lesson has been that the life you want almost always starts with steps so small they seem silly. What started as a love of coffee, grew into a concern for its production. That matured into friendship with folks who shared my concern, we made the trip to origin together and I just kept taking the next step until my whole life had been affected by the simple act of my morning coffee.

Because of that, I’ve settled on a CREDO to guide my choices. It says, “Life is worth living so I refuse to merely exist.” I’ll pursue a life of meaning, joy, and fulfillment. The world is not yet as it ought to be, neither is my city, neither am I. Yet, I reject apathy and despair. I engage the world believing I can make an impact for good. I am not alone. I push through self-sufficiency and isolation to live in an authentic community.

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