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Small Business

Small-town Coffee Roaster Brews Kindness in Every Cup

As children, most of us were taught the golden rule: to treat others the way you want to be treated. During the difficult times of the past several months, it was easy for some people and businesses to forget that lesson, but one small Middlebury, Vermont business, nestled between an organic creamery and a family-owned carpenter, still remembers the golden rule.

Vermont Coffee Company believes it is their duty to be good neighbors in their community. Their saying “Coffee Roasted for Friends®” is more than just a motto. In April of 2020, the small coffee roaster raised $142,000 for their local homeless shelters and food shelves. And their “Be a Friend, Feed a Neighbor” campaign also raised over $10,000 during the month of September to put food on over 200 food shelves of the Vermont Foodbank. 

With so many people depending on donations to help fight hunger, this support couldn’t have come at a better time. In addition to keeping the shelves stocked, the team at Vermont Coffee Co. also helps build food security in communities by connecting Vermont residents with their local farmers through their work with Salvation Farms. They also support local charitable organizations helping to lift people out of poverty and providing temporary housing for those without a home. For four decades they’ve been closely tied to their community and the folks around them. “Before there was Facebook,” Paul Ralston, president of Vermont Coffee Co. told Burlington Free Press, “We had our friends’ wall.”

The folks at Vermont Coffee Co. don’t just put a roof over people’s heads and food on the table, they’re committed to sourcing only the finest, organic coffee from around the world from organizations that treat their coffee farmers fairly.  Raulston told Middlebury Co-op, “We believe farmers who are paid fairly can afford to grow quality crops, and that has been our experience.” The quality of their crops is evident in the bold taste of their daily-roasted, shade-grown coffee. They’ve been perfecting their “slow-roasting” technique since 1979 when they first opened up in Bristol, Vermont. Their technique develops and brings out the deep chocolate and caramel tasting notes of their fair trade coffee.

With over 41 years of experience, they are veterans of the independent coffee scene, but they still approach the art of roasting coffee with an eye on innovation. Sometimes you need to be forward-thinking to be a good neighbor. The energy used to power their facility comes from 100% renewable energy in the form of wind power and biogas. “Our electricity comes from local dairy farms that operate anaerobic digesters to extract methane gas from cow manure and convert it into electricity (known locally as Cow Power). The energy powering our coffee roasters is biogas generated by a landfill built specifically to recover methane from organic materials” they share on their website. Although this renewable power costs a little more, they don’t pass that added expense onto their customers. They feel it’s just something they have a responsibility to do as a company.
Maybe that’s because Vermont Coffee Co. is made up of neighbors and friends that love the work they do. “We are parents and grandparents, artists and musicians, quilters and knitters, welders and carpenters. We are sugarmakers and volunteer firemen,” they say. “During lunch, we work on jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles together, and annually hold Yahtzee tournaments.” The small-town roaster is run by friends and neighbors dedicated to doing business well. Although their cafe is currently closed due to the pandemic, they are looking forward to serving their community soon. You can still find their coffee in independent and regional grocery stores. So if you’re looking for big, bold coffee brewed strongly and made by people who treat others the way they want to be treated, look no further than the Green Mountain State.

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