From our inception, Kickapoo Coffee has been driven by a twin-focus: great tasting coffee and fairness to farmers. That dual passion stems directly from our co-owners--Caleb Nicholes, whose background in boutique wines and the culinary arts translated well to the world of specialty coffee; and TJ Semanchin, whose studies in sustainable development throughout Latin America led him to a life in coffee. At our core, we are committed to making coffee better and making it better for all parties involved.
That pursuit shapes the conversations we have every day. As a friend put it, "fair trade isn't always direct and direct trade isn't always fair," so the path to better coffee and fair compensation is often challenging. That said, there are a few things we've found that seem to be working. We're proud members of Coop Coffees, an importing cooperative that has allowed us to work directly with farmers since 2005, and each year we source coffees that win awards for quality and respect the delicate micro-climates that produced them--this year, 97% of the coffee we sold was certified organic.
We are also committed to another, perhaps slightly hair-brained, belief: the belief that work can be a source of joy and wonder. As we see it, people spend a good chunk of their lives at work, and there's no reason that time shouldn't be purposeful and fulfilling. Because we've been intentional about attracting a team that shares our values, we're surrounded by folks who work and play hard. Which means joy is never too far off--and when you're tasting world-class coffee, wonder never is either.
As we've grown, we've looked for ways to dig in deeper to our core values. In 2013 we moved from the little train depot that had been our home for years to Viroqua's Food Enterprise Center. We now share a building with a number of other culinary entrepreneurs who are committed to local economies and sustainability. Last year, 2015, was a landmark year for us in that we became the country's first solar-powered roastery. In the years to come, we look forward to building stronger partnerships with growers, initiating more dynamic engagement with the coffee industry as a whole, and continuing to develop some of the world's most stunning coffees.