It was just over a year ago now when I began to see some posts from other friends in specialty coffee sharing about a roaster I had never heard of before. This is why I continue to love the specialty coffee community, because in as much as I feel like I have a keen awareness of many great coffee roasters there are always more to discover.
And because of other friends sharing about Theodore’s Coffee Roasters it got me connected with them and it wasn’t much later that I got my hands on some of their coffee. I even made a fun Coffee Roulette Brew REEL. So this past year we have kept in touch, and I have come to appreciate the work Theodore’s is doing to grow the specialty coffee community in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
So to wrap up 2022, I am thrilled to share the story of Theodore’s Coffee Roasters as our December Coffee Roaster of the Month.
Hey Theodore’s, so great to get the chance to connect with you! So, tell us a little more about yourself. What’s your backstory in specialty coffee?
Theodore’s coffee was founded in early 2013 by Darwin Pavon. Theodore is Darwin Pavon’s grandfather’s name. Pavon in Spanish is Peacock, which is what sparked the concept of the peacock feather for our logo.
Darwin is a Honduran native who spent most of his youth in the farms in Honduras. As an agronomist, he began developing customized fertilizers for coffee, melons, bananas, and sugarcane farms through Honduras-based AgriTech. Due to his success working with these farms, he earned an overseer position on a coffee-specific team that covered over 600 farms from Mexico to Colombia which allowed him to create long lasting relationships with the farmers he met along the way.
This is how Darwin met Israel Ventura. Ventura and his son, Lurvin, own and operate Finca El Playón between the sub-regions of San Marcos and Mercedes in Ocotepeque, Honduras. They’re one of only a few independent farms with a license to export in the country, distinguishing them from the major exporters that would primarily buy coffee at commodity price.
Through his new friendship, Darwin was able to encourage coffee producers to seek direct-trade partners and export their coffee through Ventura’s rare license. This opportunity for selling to clients directly, and at a higher price, made a major difference in the lives of many farmers.
In early 2013, Theodore’s Coffee was created and we started roasting coffee from Darwin’s friends and partners. The skills and connections formed through Darwin’s career in his role as a farm consultant have been an integral part of our approach to roasting. We aim to provide all of our customers with the amazing coffees we source directly from our friends.
So how did you get started in all of this?
Well this is quite the story!
So I was in California years ago, and found that a huge coffee roaster was carrying coffee from Victor Ventura, La Fraternidad ($66.00 for 8oz) and this is about 12 year ago. I knew that Victor had talked to him and sadly he got only $0.50 per lb. So I made a promise way back then that if I ever did something with coffee that we would absolutely buy his coffee!
Fast forward a few more years and in 2013 I opened Theodore’s Coffee. And I have upheld my end of the deal and since then we buy 100% of Victor’s coffee, as well as 24 other growers in Central America.
We began roasting on a 5kg USRC and we have experimented on various other machines since then. We are now representatives for COFFEETECH ENG one the best roasters I have had the chance to use. This is a phenomenal machine and I enjoy getting to install them all over the place.
So here this year we are celebrating hitting our 10 year milestone this January. This past year as been difficult for a number of reasons but we are still alive and kicking and hoping to have a turn around soon!
Your site mentions you having grown up in Honduras. Can you share more about what that was like? How did that help to prepare you for a career in specialty coffee?
In Honduras your breakfast (when you come from the lower end economically) is a piece of bread and a cup of coffee even if you’re one year old! So I’ve had coffee in my system for quite some time! Growing up there, I worked in farms and was fortunate enough to go to college which less than 2% of the country is able to do. I went to Zamorano University, known as the Harvard of Agriculture in Honduras.
The most amazing job I had back then was working as a production consultant for AgriTech developing and enhancing coffee quality and production in all Latin America. Understanding from the roots how to make a cup better fertilization, management of shade, water and so on!
So tell us a bit about the history of Theodore’s Coffee.
Theodore is name of my Grandfather, and the feather you see is from a peacock because like I mentioned earlier, our last name PAVON means peacock in Spanish. Honouring my grandfather was an idea for the coffee businesses name.
Can you share a bit more about what equipment you roast on?
I alluded to this earlier but we currently roast on a CoffeeTech Ghibli15R one of the most efficient and perfect machines we have had the opportunity to roast on. After training roasters worldwide and trying other roasters-big and small-that we could get our hands on, we have found to really love this machine and that’s why we chose also to be distributors for CoffeeTech. On average, we can roast batches in 9-12 minutes without very little lag time, and we have increased our capacity of roast.
You indicate that you purchase 90% of your coffees directly from growers in Central America? In your opinion what is so special about this growing region? Does this relate closely back to your upbringing in Honduras?
I am sure that we are ONE of the very very few roasters that are doing DIRECT TRADE AND FARM DIRECT. We avoid using importers, stamps and such things that we feel are not necessarily helping growers. We pay our growers directly, 3-4 times more than the C-market and any other importer. We often feel like we are one of the most underrated roasters in the US.
We do this because we have seen lives changed and opportunities created under this model. If you trace any coffee backwards you will find out that many times, growers are getting $0.50-1.00 max for the 85+ and up coffees. Imagine how this model we champion can help the growers, and their families!
Being from Honduras, I really try my best to help more growers, even sometimes that means committing to import more than one container full of coffee. 40,000kg’s is the least we import and we have gone to 120.000kg’s in a good year. That means more growers get more money and they keep their production and passion there. We see this really as a win-win.
Now that you call Grand Rapids, MI home, can you tell us a little bit more about what the specialty coffee community is like there? What do you love?
There are about 15 or so coffee roasters in this city, but sadly or gladly we don’t actually sell any of our coffee in-town. Our market, at the moment, is almost exclusively online across North America and Worldwide.
There are a few coffee shops here in Grand Rapids that use local coffee roasters, but it seems like at least 50% of them use coffees from roasters out of state. So it feels like a very competitive market. I would love to see something like a caffeine-crawl or competitions but nothing has come about yet. We have a few roasters in the state that we are happy to support such as Coffee By Steph in nearby Grayling, MI and a few others which partner with me to get some coffee from our favourite Honduran farmers.
Grand Rapids has one fairly well-known roaster that many know and follow. There are a few very good roasters in town but to me it feels like many are struggling due to the hype. So what have focused on, personally, is our coffee, the quality of it, and flavour that people can enjoy at home.
You recently just launched brand new coffee bags (that I think look great). How did that come about?
No comment! Sadly, this felt like a HUGE mistake. Unfortunately we hired a marketing firm that failed to really listen to us, made things without giving us creative-control and we lost a lot of money. It was a hard lesson to learn, but we are focussing now on making lemonade out of these lemons. So you may see differently designed coffee bags being sold on our site, and being enjoyed by our customers. But what we can promise you is that it’s what’s inside that counts!
So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
Geisha Emperador from Honduras! Yummmmmmmm! This is an incredible coffee. All of our coffees score 85+ or more and I believe they are tasty and delicious! You’ll find more than 20 options on our website to choose from. We are also now offering a subscription service for people to save some money, and enjoy at home what I am brewing here each week in our roastery!
You speak a lot about core values of QUALITY, PEOPLE & INTEGRITY. Can you share more about why you chose those three things to focus on as a company?
Quality: We focus on coffee and the very best of them. We take pride with each bag, and each batch is roasted to achieve it’s optimal flavour, and guarantee the enjoyment of it! I have traveled all over the world and I appreciate when I get a really memorable cup of coffee!
People: We love everyone, and so we treat everyone with the utmost love and respect.
Integrity: We seek to do business with other business that our like-minded and that share our ethics. We strive to keep our pride and integrity in all our operations, business and relationships.
Thanks so much for sharing about Theodore’s. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
For each bag of coffee we sell, we provide a child in Honduras with a hot meal through an organization called CDI El Buen Samaritano. Through this organization in Honduras, my sisters cook and prepare meals 2-3 times a week for over 180 children. We are so thankful to be able to be able to help make a difference in so many kid’s lives.
Find their beans: If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-store for what they’re currently roasting.
I just want to say a huge thank you to Darwin at Theodore’s Coffee for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in Grand Rapids, MI. Check out his site, grab yourself some beans and enjoy!