Coffee is often times a thankless item for food service providers. Its availability is expected each second of every day across multiple locations on campuses. Even with a strong environmental consciousness on West Coast college campuses, most students just want a cup of coffee fast and hot, no matter where it came from.
When it comes to Groundwork Coffee, however, a Farm to Fork coffee roaster in North Hollywood, the origin of their beans and the communities who produced them are held in high consideration. Not only does Groundwork roast tasty coffee beans, but they also have a strong commitment to conservation and supporting communities in need.
During an October visit to the LA area, I visited Groundwork Coffee and met sales manager Sean Adler, who gave me a tour of the facilities, where they roast thousands of pounds of coffee beans each day. It was a small operation that ran smoothly and quickly. Forklifts buzzed around a huge 70-kilo coffee roaster, employees got beans from a long row of 25 tall raw bean containers or “silos,” while others examined and stacked boxes upon boxes of beans ready for sale. It was exciting to be on the floor with so much going on and marvel at some of their large antique machines.
Groundwork provides Certified Organic, direct trade coffee beans from all over the world including Ethiopia, Columbia, and Papua New Guinea, in every form coffee can be served from instant to iced and beyond. As we toured the facility, Sean explained that going organic was very important to them. Their concern was preventing top soil erosion and chemical runoff in the communities where the coffee is grown, and buying organic protects both the crops and local water tables. Their business with Bon Appétit is relatively new for them but has provided a valuable revenue stream, he said.
The most fascinating aspect of their business however, is their partnership with the Good Neighbors organization. Through their Coffee Meets Water campaign, Groundwork will fix 22 broken wells in the Sidama zone of Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. For them it was a matter of fulfilling their company’s values when it comes to community – they see clean water as a basic human right. As a coffee company, they feel they owe a great debt to Ethiopia. It was remarkable for me to learn of a Los Angeles–based coffee roaster fixing wells in Africa — but in the end, that sort of community consciousness tends to be typical of our Farm to Fork partners.