Seattle's Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting is expanding
Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting is buying more coffee beans directly from growers from around the world as a result of its One Pot project dinners.
Seattle Times business reporters
Michael McConnell, the founder and majority owner of Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting, has a lot on his plate.
He opened Pike Street Fish Fry this spring with his friend Michael Hebberoy and is about to open his third Via Tribunali pizzeria this month in Georgetown.
Still, McConnell finds time to host dinners for employees, customers and friends when he and Hebberoy return from trips to coffee-growing countries.
The pair have traveled to Guatemala, Brazil and Ethiopia during the past year. As part of his One Pot project that is based in Seattle, Hebberoy organizes dinners with coffee farmers and others involved in the coffee industry.
"We bring people together for conversation and coffee and food," said McConnell, whose cafe empire includes a roasteria on Capitol Hill, four coffee shops in Seattle and one in Olympia.
The result is that Caffé Vita buys less coffee through importers. About a third of its coffee now comes directly from farmers or brokers working with farms that Vita knows, up from about a tenth before the One Pot dinners started last year.
Unexpected connections happen during the trips, like an itinerary change in Guatemala after they met a coffee grower at one of the big dinners they held.
"We headed straight over to Alex Keller's farm and are now receiving four containers a year from him, depending on the harvest," Hebberoy said. That's roughly 200,000 pounds of coffee a year. "The birdsong on the coffee farm was deafening. It felt more like a forest than a coffee plantation."
In Ethiopia, they were invited to someone's house for a three- to four-hour traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. "It was cool," McConnell said. "There are pictures on the Web site."
Two sites document their travels, and both are linked from CaffeVita.com. One of the sites is VitaOnePot.blogspot.com, which is written by Hebberoy, who used to own two restaurants and a private dining room in Portland.
One restaurant went bankrupt in 2006, and Hebberoy was publicly raked over the coals by one of his former chefs and others. He says he has paid off his debts from that time.
Now, through One Pot, Hebberoy writes about food, holds food-related art exhibits and helps McConnell host dinners bringing together coffee roasters, growers and customers.
— Melissa AllisonTidbits
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Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or email@example.com.
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