Whether it be your coffee maker at home, a quick brew you pick up on your way to work, or a trip to a third wave coffee shop with your friends, coffee has become the go to beverage of many. Coffee shops that are focused on the small business model and support the local community have emerged all over the country. The US Congress defines “local” as “less than 400 miles from a product’s origin, or within the state in which it is produced.” Coffee beans cannot be placed under this definition unless you’re in Hawaii or certain parts of countries in Central and South America or Africa, for example.
So why do many places claim to be “local?” Local coffee shops rely on different aspects of local, such as sustainable production, distribution practices, length of supply chain and level of community outreach. Albuquerque has grown further out of the typical Starbucks coffee scene, with dozens of cafes popping up over the last few years.
The first third wave coffee shop in Albuquerque, NM is Prismatic, located in the Sawmill district just north of Old Town. It is owned by Loren Bunjes, and is part of a neighborhood complex with mixed businesses that explore diversity and create a wider community within a single location. Apart from their coffee, they also have stroopwafels, a European (Dutch) pastry, made in house, with the milk and butter purchased from a local dairy farm: Rasband. They sell equipment to other coffee shops around town and host events with local breweries like La Cumbre and Boxing Bear. Loren says he thinks it’s important that the owners live within a few miles from the coffee shop itself, because this creates a strong producer to consumer relationship. Loren also mentions that they would like to sell nationally – but continue roasting in Albuquerque – to uphold the concept of local coffee, but spread the word around the country.
This coffee shop is one of few in Albuquerque to have a direct relationship with the coffee producers, because their business has grown from childhood memories to a family business. I talked to barista Alexis, who explained to me the story behind their local coffee shop: Two brothers from Cali, Colombia had to flee because of the escalating guerilla warfare and moved to the United States. They had grown up on their family coffee farm and decided to bring their roots to the US by being involved with the coffee industry. They named their coffee after their aunt, Villa Myriam, and grew it into an actual location, The Brew. Their business is focused on the value of family and friends and culture.
A customer had overheard our conversation and approached us to give recognition to The Brew, where they know his name and his usual order. He thinks this adds to the factor of local as a very personal and traditional manner based on cultural practices. Alexis mentioned that the story behind the coffee appeals to customers and employees by “making me feel like I am home,” and that “everyone is family.” And their employees are being “[taught] a recipe” instead of just working a machine. Apart from their close community outreach, their coffee is distributed to other local business like Rebel Donuts, Los Poblanos, Range Café, and Standard Diner, which grows a partnership of business, and cuts down on travel miles. Their social media appeal has something that others don’t because they use #farmtocup to inform people of their unique connection to their farm and business.
Zendo opened in 2013 by New Mexico native, Pilar Westell, and is dedicated to creating a welcoming and open space for the community. They have a large focus on promoting local artists by hosting art shows the first Friday of each month. Zendo works with other community businesses by providing baked goods and food from Burque Bakehouse, Planty Sweet, and many more. Pilar expressed her thoughts on being a local coffee shop by saying, “one of the things I love the most about Zendo is that we live here, we are part of this community and everybody that comes in here gets welcomed into this community.” Having a local business can be difficult but is still a “humbling experience.”
Local coffee shops have grown immensely and “today the grass-roots coffee movement continues to row with the increase of small independently-owned cafes boasting sustainable, locally roasted, fair trade beans.” Albuquerque has shown this through more than a dozen local coffee shops spread out throughout the city. Each has a different story and unique value that characterize them as local.
-Posted by Sam