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3.19.2016

From Farmer To Cup With VEGA Coffee

If you have ever wondered who or where your beans came from while sipping your morning cuppa, VEGA Coffee may just be the answer to your caffeine-induced prayers.

The movement for socially-conscious coffee has been gaining momentum in recent years, and Vega Coffee is looking to reinvent the coffee supply chain with their direct farmer-to-cup business model, bridging the gap between the farmer and the coffee enthusiast.

Producers of fair trade and organic coffee still operate within the traditional supply chain, with the coffee going through the hands of as many as 20 middlemen over an average period of 6 months to reach the end consumer. While consumers are happy to pay a high premium for artisanal coffee beans, the farmers lack direct access to the market and still only make about $1.30 a pound (or $700 a year).

VEGA's supply chain is audaciously simple- the same farmers who plant and harvest the coffee are also trained in the full spectrum of coffee production, including quality control and bean selection, cupping, roasting, grinding, packaging, and order fulfillment. This streamlined process empowers the farmers with skills that will benefit them for a long time to come and cuts out layers of middlemen, generating more income for them and their communities.

To start this venture, husband and wife Rob Terenzi and Noushin Ketabi uprooted their lives and took their savings and moved to Nicaragua in 2014 to establish VEGA's first roasting center in the city of Estelí, while Will DeLuca remained in New York city to head up VEGA's online and marketing operations.
VEGA is available through a subscription service at $15 per 12 oz. bag with free shipping to the US, and customers can choose from four different roasts (light, medium, dark and espresso), grinding methods (whole beans, fine, medium and coarse) and frequency of delivery (every 2 or 4 weeks). I did not need any convincing to sign up for 6-month subscription, knowing that a much bigger share of what I was paying was going into the pockets of the farmers. 
In an interview with Darling Magazine, Noushin mentioned that over 90% of their farmers-roasters are women, and the company is deeply invested in "promoting gender equality and women's empowerment at every step of (their) supply chain". She describes their beans "a labour of love" that are subject to a rigorous selection process which ensures that only the very best make their way to the discerning coffee drinker. 

The day after I received my first shipment from Nicaragua via VEGA's Manhattan office crosstown, I eagerly ground the beans for my morning brew, and I was impressed with how smooth and balanced the coffee was. I loved that my bag of coffee came personally signed by the roaster (thank you Nordia!), instilling in me a deeper appreciation for the hands that prepared the beans. 

I also had a chat with co-founder Will, who shared with me that Nicaragua is just the beginning for VEGA, and their ultimate vision is to open VEGA roasting centers in every coffee growing region of the world. This will allow customers to be able to select from a wider variety of beans across the globe, and also enable them to ship to coffee lovers outside the US and Canada more quickly and affordably.
It takes a combination of vision and action to make a difference in the world, and I am truly inspired by the team at VEGA who are doing just that. 
Good news - VEGA is generously offering 50% off your first subscription shipment with code NIHAONY!
Where do you usually buy your coffee?
What do you think about the VEGA farmer-to-cup model?

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