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Coffee Relationships

Coffee Labs Roasters is exceptionally proud to offer a variety of what we like to call Relationship Coffees. Relationship coffee is more to us than just buying green coffee from farmers at origin, it's about forming real friendships with people all over the world. We do business with these people, but we also break bread with them and we know some of their families. We get to know a lot of them pretty well, and we strive to visit origin at least one or two times a year. It's not just about inspecting the farm and tasting the coffee, it's about people.

Mike and Farmer Bryan Orellana near his farm in Santa Barbara, Honduras

What we do at Coffee Labs was, and still is to an extent, referred to as "direct trade". Unfortunately, the phrase "direct trade" was never and currently is not a legally protected term. Because of this, hundreds of companies have begun marking their products with "direct trade" stickers or language. While some of these claims are true, there is no way to prove they are. The overuse of the term has resulted in the term becoming watered down, which is why we use the term "relationship coffee" instead.

World famous farmer Aida Batlle of Finca Kilimanjaro. Read more about her in The New Yorker article Sacred Grounds.

We don't do that at Coffee Labs, which is why any "direct trade" we do is just that, direct. But, because of the co-opting of the term "direct trade" we have started to use the phrase "relationship coffee" instead. We feel it more adequately conveys what we do as a company. Over the past ten years, we have been growing our relationships with farmers, and we usually have at least five relationship coffees on our menu at any given time.

Rony Herrera and Don Caesar, owner/operators of Finca Herrera

Coffee Labs Owner Mike Love and Jorge Rivera, owner of the two time Cup of Excellence winning Finca Santa Rosa in El Salvador

Right now, we have coffee relationships with award winning farmers and coffee projects in Burundi, Nicaragua, El Salvador, ColombiaHonduras and Hawaii. Not only do we visit the farmers, they also have come here and visited Coffee Labs to see this end of the business and to share how coffee is grown with our customers and the local community.

Mike, Alicia and the Rusty's Hawaiian Coffee crew on the farm in Ka'u Hawaii

Relationship coffee benefits the farmer and the roaster. The farmer is able to pay themselves and/or their workers a fair wage. They have a commitment from a roaster to purchase beans year after year. This relationship dynamic helps ensure quality. We work together so everyone can be successful. Because of these relationships, we are able to acquire some of what we think are the best coffees in the world, and some of the best people too!


Dona Gladys, owner and operator of Villa Gladys'