Today I want to share with you a company that I think is absolutely the bee's knees. I got to spend a afternoon with Daniel and Amyie Kao of Mariposa Coffee Roastery as they did a coffee cupping session (for quality control) and it was amazing! Honestly I'm not a huge coffee drinker (be known that this post is from Ely, not Ryan-- he is a huge coffee lover) but hearing their story and passion for a quality product was inspiring. But even beyond that, the heart behind their product is to have a socially minded company that has a positive global impact and social justice. A portion of Mariposa's proceeds go to partnering with Water4 to help give people access to clean water, specifically in the regions that their coffee beans are grown. Amyie recently gave a Ted talk and one of my favorite things that she said was "local actions can have a global impact." I love this way of thinking, and I love Mariposa's goal, in their words, "to honor the hard work that is poured into every every single coffee bean that's gone before us."
Name: Daniel and Amyie Kao
Business Name: Mariposa Coffee Roastery
Favorite Dessert: Amyie: Depends on the season and the occasion, maybe a meyer lemon sorbet during the summer and creme brûlée in the winter
Daniel: Homemade Chinese Egg Tart. Brings me back to the memories of my childhood.
Favorite Artist/Album: Amyie: This one is tough—all time favorite? I’d say “Winter Trees” by the Staves? Since it’s the holidays maybe a compilation of She and Him and Sufjan Stevens.
Daniel: Never thought I’d say it, Elton John. His Tumbleweed Connection album, definitely an all-time classic.
When did you start your business? 2009
What inspired you to start it? It was serendipitous, really. Daniel was fascinated with how far each bean traveled, the transformation of taste during roasting, and the endless tinkering that came with crafting specialty coffee.
We were just two broke college students, really. He didn’t have money for an actual roaster so he used an old-fashioned popcorn popper and later built one from a barbecue grill. In the beginning, we planned to use our passion for coffee to fight injustice and both ended up falling in love with the very art of craft coffee. Plus, we discovered that there is much injustice that is tied to specialty coffee alone. So we are focused on doing life as responsibly as possible. We’ve just sold our house and have gone back to renting and our hope is to do business as responsibly as possible and stay true.
We are dedicated to supporting our local and global community as well as crafting the perfect cup for each person we serve.
One of the things that I love most about Mariposa is its social consciousness. Can you speak a little on what things you do to make sure that your company is having a positive global impact? In the beginning we rotated different causes and then we realized that there was so much unmet social responsibility within our own industry. We were shocked to find that our number 1 ingredient and the very tool we use to curate the very best handpicked coffees (in the world!) were often not available to the very people picking coffee cherries and I think we were heart broken. So ever since we discovered the overlap between economic water scarcity and coffee growing regions, we haven't stopped advocating and saving funds to build wells. We're a tiny operation and so we've only managed to put one well in but are working towards our second in Rwanda. Here's a link to some pictures and videos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.618903774788220.1073741824.117870724891530&type=3 and some blog posts: http://mariposacoffeeroastery.com/blog/2014/3/13/more-than-a-beverage http://mariposacoffeeroastery.com/blog/2013/8/17/coffee-with-a-conscience http://mariposacoffeeroastery.com/blog/2013/8/16/community-passion-justice
What would you say was your biggest challenge to overcome? Financial resources and space.
Our parents came to this country with nothing of their own (Amyie’s parents were refugees) and we do not have the wealth or space to slowly renovate. We have dreams of cultivating a enchanting cafe but will have to grow slow and roll with our coffee trailer for now.
Who/what was your biggest encouragement and why? When people from our very own community and those who we do not know but enjoy our coffee become advocates of the way we craft our beans and do life—when they catch our vision and become advocates of Mariposa.
What is your favorite part of your business: For us, coffee is more than a beverage. Endless hours of labor and sweat are poured into the cultivation, harvest, and processing of each coffee bean. Then these beans travel millions of miles before even reaching us. Locked within each bean, are delicate flavors and aromas waiting to be released. We hand craft each small batch with the hope of honoring all the hard work that preceded us.
As craft roasters, we value the art of coffee and are fascinated with curating each coffee through a variety of brew methods. We love how the same coffee can illicit memories and inspire creativity. We love that a single origin coffee can be so different from season to season. The terroir of the coffee: soil quality, altitude of growth, origin, and roasting technique can all bring out the finer details of flavors hidden within a coffee bean.
If you had advice to anyone who might be starting a business like yours? Carve out time for rest, and enjoy the everyday adventures living life! (Amyie)
I’m (Daniel) going to get sappy. You will never truly know how passionate you are about something unless you sacrifice every ambition to run after it. This may sound intense but I look back at our ambitions, and all of them have been shelved for Mariposa. Was it worth it? Absolutely, it’s made us know better who we are as people. It’s necessary to have a life outside of business and intentionally have relationships in your life other than those tied to the business. For me, when I leave the roastery, the work will be there the next day. That’s not necessarily so for people - particularly my family. We all age and we’ll miss out on moments of our children growing up. Will my work be there every Christmas and holiday the same way families enjoy each other? The answer is obviously no, so it’s a necessity for me to cherish every moment with my wife and child(ren).
Anything else about your small business that you’re passionate about? Enjoying coffee is in many ways, a universal experience. It wakes us up on weary mornings, transforms the atmosphere of gatherings and, warms us on chilly days. There’s something magical about stories shared over coffee and the traditions that include it. We believe coffee is a key component in building community and encouraging creativity. We love identifying the roast profile of each coffee and highlighting taste notes that spotlight its origins. When these delicate notes reach our palate they get us going. I think I can go on and on, but, it truly warms our hearts when our coffee becomes part of those storied traditions and gatherings.
Thank you so much Daniel & Amyie for being a part of the series. Your small business reminds me of the way little things can create an impact if you step back and look at the big picture.
So if you guys love good coffee, good people, and doing good things for others check out Mariposa's website to purchase beans for your own brewing, or you can find them at Bleu Garten through the holiday season (see schedule here) and say hi to the Kao's for me! Also, check out Amyie's Ted talk, it really is inspiring.
We hope that this SBS post has inspired you to remember not only to give to your friends and family this holiday season, but also extend your heart and reach to those that could use a blessing. To give directly to those who need clean water, check out Water4 based out of OKC, or Second Mile Water who are dear friends of ours who are doing great things. Some other places to think about giving or volunteering are the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, the City Rescue Mission, United Way and so many more. If you guys have more ideas please feel free to post in the comments!