I’m joined this week by Mary Lansden Rees-Jones (formerly Brewbaker), one of the founders and the current Managing Director at Good Grounds Coffee Co.
Good Grounds is a coffee pre-financing, export/trading company based in Congo and the United States. Mary and her husband Huw, along with their business partner Dan, have developed a sole partnership with a coffee cooperative on Idwji Island, Congo that employs former Congolese rebels in an effort to bring peace to a place that has known war for far too long.
Mary and Huw live in nearby Rwanda – a three hour drive and one hour boat ride away from where the Idwji coffee beans are grown. I got the chance to speak with Mary at length about Good Grounds, Fair Trade, and what the future holds for coffee in Congo.
Our purpose is to transform the lives of former Congolese rebels by giving them the option to lay down their guns. In Congo employment is scarce, so men join rebel groups to provide for their families. Good Grounds brings lasting change in both the short and long run by providing cooperatives with cash to process cherries and export beans to roasters and consumers in North America. We also guarantee the purchase of all the coffee we pre-finance, eliminating risk for smallholder farmers.
Rather than starting anew, Good Grounds builds relationships with local cooperatives composed of former rebels and rebel widows. Good Grounds is focused on quality because we believe in sustainable business and we know that our market demands only the best.
Now that we’re back on schedule, The Boise Coffee Podcast will be returning to a bi-weekly release schedule. Thanks for your patience!
A refreshing blend of cold brew coffee and coconut water in a convenient grab and go bottle
Loco Coco is a unique product that mixes coconut water and cold brew coffee to produce a beverage unlike any you’ll find currently on the market. They’re currently on Kickstarter, and just passed their financial goal. You can find more information about them on their website.
While they certainly don’t advertise it only as a sport’s drink, the concept of using coffee to fuel up before, or after a workout intrigued me greatly. The folks over at Loco Coco provided me with samples of their two flagship products: Original, and Black. Before I get into those, let’s take a look at the two main ingredients.
Coconut water has been touted as a miracle beverage, a great source of hydration, and a tasty post-workout drink by consumers and companies alike. Nearly 4 years ago NPR ran a fairly critical story about it, but that hasn’t stopped it from flying off store shelves.
While coffee is rarely advertised as a sport’s beverage, it shares key characteristics with energy drinks and pre-workout supplements – namely, caffeine. Caffeine is thought to be a dehydrator, yet the Army found that one 6oz cup per day has little impact on how our bodies hold onto water.
So, in theory, these two ingredients could be a killer combo. Most studies and research papers I found (like this one from Vanderbilt) showed that caffeine is one of the best ways to get a boost on physical performance; essentially you’re able to do more while feeling like you’re doing less. This, combined with the potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins found naturally in coconut water is a force to be trifled with. Regardless of your stance on coconut water’s miraculous qualities, the fact remains that it’s quite good for you.
My assessment is that Loco Coco is making a product that has all the markings of something that is as unique as it is healthy. But this is a coffee blog, and I’m all about taste. The next question on my mind: is it any good?
Loco Coco uses cold brew coffee presumably brewed in a Toddy based on their Kickstarter pictures. The only information given on their page refers to the coffee as “organic fair trade” which doesn’t give me much to go off of. This is understandable given that they may have to choose a variety of coffee roasters in order to scale their production to meet demand.
I was sent two versions of their product to review: Loco Coco Original and Loco Coco Black. I’ll be upfront: I liked them both, but I preferred Black. Here’s the breakdown.
Loco Coco Original
Their “original” beverage combines coconut water, cold brew coffee, coconut milk, and a pinch of pure cane sugar. This is a sweet beverage, more akin to something you might find from a big name coffee company appealing to the mass public’s palette. I certainly don’t count this against Loco Coco – after all, their goal is to appeal to a wide variety of consumers.
The coffee itself was heavily masked under the flavors of coconut water and coconut milk – but it was still present. I enjoyed the way all three flowed together to make something completely new, yet distinctly recognizable at the same time. The only thing I can compare this taste fusion to is caramel – sweet, rich, and slightly heavy. I didn’t hate it, but the coffee-lover in me wanted more. Thankfully, Loco Coco rose to the occasion in their other offering.
Loco Coco Black
I really enjoyed Black. It had the best parts of Loco Coco Original, and none of the drawbacks. The taste of fresh cold brew coffee shown through brightly, while at the same time accented with the crisp taste of coconut water. The coffee itself was somewhere between a light and medium roast, though the origins were hard to place.
Each sip made me nod in agreement with my taste buds, and when the bottle was finished I wanted another almost immediately. The aftertaste was bittersweet, yet with a soft edge that had to be the coconut water. I would far prefer this to something like Red Bull or Monster for a pre-workout beverage.
Loco Coco has already reached their $10,000 goal on Kickstarter, but I decided to back them anyways (if nothing else I’ll get some sweet gear!) It was an easy choice for me – I love coffee, and I enjoy coconut water. Loco Coco Black offers the best of each, and it’s a product I would really enjoy seeing on store shelves someday soon.
If you’re more into sweet things, you’ll love Loco Coco Original. According to their information page, Loco Coco is developing recipes for other sweet variations as well: Vanilla Chai, Cinnamon Bun, Mocha, and Chocolate Raspberry.
As of this writing their Kickstarter has a little more than two days until it’s complete. If you head over that way now, you can score a 4-pack of Coco Loco plus custom sunglasses for $50 – a small price to pay if you want to support some entrepreneurs who have developed a legitimately delicious product. Shipments start in October.
Can coffee and coconut water combine to make a sport’s drink? I think so. And if there’s anybody to tackle that question, it’s Loco Coco. Lord knows that they’ve made something tasty.
Passion is one of those free-radicals in life that is hard to define, and even more difficult to harness. It is often the reason, the why, behind what makes something that is great, great. While it might be hard to explain, we know it when we see it.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters is one of the biggest names in the third wave of coffee, and they are unquestionably passionate about what they do. But passion isn’t derived from a business as a whole, it comes from each individual person.
Stumptown released a video where they highlight just that: the people that make them who they are. Each person tells their story of why they love what they do, and why they think it’s important to the coffee process as a whole. Katie Berstein, a barista at Stumptown, gives a particularly powerful quote that she got from her dad. “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Check out the full video below.
And that’s it, isn’t it? Coffee is worth being passionate about because in all the details about roasting, brewing, grinding, tamping, and pouring it becomes clear that this process is a reflection of a much larger lesson. Working with others to create something beautiful is a part of the human experience that makes living truly worth it. It connects us all.
The next time you purchase some coffee and brew that first drip or take that first sip, take a moment to appreciate the many individuals that went into putting that cup together. That coffee has been hard-earned by the passion of many sets of hands.