Category Archive: Partnerships
Gabby is an employee of Utopian Coffee, a recent graduate of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and an avid comic book connoisseur.
What was your first awesome experience with coffee?
When I was in England I went to the London Coffee Festival with a friend who was much more acquainted with coffee than I was. There was a lot more technology than I ever thought there could be! A group from a local college was testing sensory perception using different frequencies!
What coffee do you recommend from Utopian right now?
The Ethiopian! Every time I open a bucket or a bag of it, it smells like strawberries, which is just awesome! There’s more flavors going on in one bag of the Ethiopian than almost any coffee you can buy anywhere. It’s definitely a coffee that makes you think while your drinking it.
What kind of stuff do you do at Utopian?
I work mostly on shipping and fulfillment, but I do a lot more than that. I also oversee inventory as well as operations in the back of house. If you’ve received a bag of coffee recently I was involved in some capacity!
What coffee producing country would you like to visit and why?
I’d just love to go to the rainforests of Sumatra. Because it’s an island the landscape is so different compared to other coffee-producing countries. Though I would be worried of being eaten by wild animals-it’s the rainforest and I won’t see it coming.
If you’re going to a coffee shop what are you ordering?
Usually a cortado or cappuccino-something small. I like to increase my chance of getting latte-art, and if I go to a really great cafe I know a cap will have some awesome latte art. I enjoy cortados because the ratio of espresso to milk is much more even. I used to always order lattes, but being in the industry has changed me!
What do you love about working at Utopian?
As part of a small, growing business, I can really make an impact with my position. I have the opportunity to really improve within my role, and thus improve overall flow. We’re also a company that’s making a global impact and that matters–I’ve always wanted to work for a company that is socially, economically, and environmentally responsible.
If you had an entire weekend to do whatever you want with no financial restrictions what are you doing?
I’m driving straight to Chicago and eating everything. I would just take a weekend to tour the city’s best restaurants and cafes.
I recently wrote about my time at the Hingakawa co-op, a female-owned and operated coffee initiative that has brought opportunity and restoration to a community devastated by violence and war in the 1990’s. Part of what makes the chance to work with these women so special is that they are innovators, they are survivors, and they are hard workers.
When we get to know our partner farmers, we care for them.
When I say we care for them, that doesn’t mean that we only care about the quality of the production of their specialty coffee, but we truly care of their goals and their mission. When we heard about their goal to build and create a center for sewing, we were excited to see and learn more. Not only would this provide a source for extra income between coffee harvests, but it would allow for younger women to learn a new trade, a skill that can be used wherever they go.
As we spent time with Corette, the president of the Hingakawa coffee co-op, she walked us back to the little plot of land that has already been purchased (with proceeds from the coffee farm) for the sewing center. They have already met with a construction team and know the costs, have architectural drawings, and even some 3-D renderings.
One major difference between the US and Rwanda (and nearly every other developing nation) is that you cannot get financing for projects like homes. This means that you must have ALL of the money up front, which is very different from we’re able to do here in the US.
This project creates a wonderful opportunity for us to further partner with these incredible women, not at all because it increases coffee production or makes business sense, but because we’re having a positive impact on these people and their mission.
As I was sitting down with a new gentleman we hired last week, we were welcoming him to the team and walking through our vision statement and core values so that he understands our expectations and why we are doing what we are. As I read our vision out loud, it solidified our desire to partner with Hingakawa and the incredible women who work fiercely to make better lives for themselves, the loved ones around them, and even their former enemies. Our vision at Utopian Coffee is to:
Deliver an exceptional experience, with uncanny service, to people who enjoy and appreciate craft coffee, while making a positive and sustainable impact in countries of coffee origin.
And we consider ourselves beyond fortunate to be able to do exactly that. We’re honored to partner with the women of the Hingakawa coffee co-op and look forward to keeping you updated on their progress.
As I sat in the restaurant surrounded by green and yellow painted concrete walls, I was hit by this wave of feeling.
It was a combination of excitement and optimism. I had the pleasure of eating with Corette Nakabonye, the 61-yr-old female president of the Hingakawa coffee cooperative. Her coffee story and that of Hingakawa is not a simple one, but it is certainly a powerful one. There is a lot of history that sets the stage for this unfolding play, and this blog post cannot do it justice, so I will simply talk about why Hingakawa was formed and how it is transforming lives.
The Hingakawa co-op, set in the hills about an hour outside of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is a beautiful place.
And the physical beauty is just a small piece of what makes this so incredible. The real story is the redemption that has resulted from women recognizing their shared pain in humanity above all else. The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 that arose from ethnic conflict created many widows. But instead of letting those differences create further division, these women came together to form this coffee co-op to recognize their similarities and to support one another. And through this support and tremendously hard work, they have been producing excellent specialty coffee.
We are honored to be partnered with them, and thrilled to be able to share their story….and the fruit of their labor, the Rwanda Hingakawa coffee. You can find it in our online store and give it a try by clicking here.