Investing in Young Farmers with Frankie and Tim Volkema

Most coffee farmers are in their mid-50s. Frankie and Tim are creating a new avenue that celebrates young farmers.

  
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When Frankie Volkema and her father, Tim, decided to become Q graders, they didn’t know how much that single decision would influence their future.

The Q grading certification is a coffee education and tasting test meant to standardize how professionals judge coffees for defects, flavors, flaws, and other traits, in order to make growing and buying decisions.

Frankie, at the time, was 13 years old. She would become the world’s youngest Q grader. She’s 15 now, and still holds that title, but the Q grading class also introduced her to a very important fact about coffee: The average coffee farmer is in their mid-50s, and if we don’t make farming viable for young people to pursue, the future of coffee is in jeopardy.

Frankie and Tim started Joven Coffee, a line under Tim’s existing coffee brands, Schuil Coffee and Sparrows Coffee, that showcases coffees from young producers. All the farmers that Frankie and Tim work with are under the age of 35, and together, they’ve created a specific market for their coffees.

Buying coffee from Joven means directly supporting the next generation of farmers. In an industry that easily veers toward the esoteric, Frankie and Tim Volkema haven’t just raised important issues, but have presented them in a way that’s easy and digestible for drinkers—and that’s never been more critical. Here are Frankie and Tim Volkema:


Ashley: Every now and then we have more than one person on the show. We have two people joining me today. I was wondering if we could start by having Frankie introduce herself.

Frankie: I'm Frankie Volkema. I am the youngest Q grader in the world. I became a Q grader through spending a lot of time working with coffee. [My dad] and I did that as a bonding thing to become Q graders together, me and my dad.

He can probably tell you more about Schuil Coffee and our coffee companies, but I'm also the founder and brand ambassador of Joven Coffee, which is a line under Sparrows Coffee.

Ashley: And then Tim, if he could take it from there.

Tim: Sure. So I'm the owner of Schuil Coffee, Joven Coffee, and Sparrows Coffee. I got into the coffee business almost five years ago and I came in through an acquisition of Schuil Coffee, which is a 40-year-old coffee company that was started by Gary and Gladys Schuil. I have a kind of boring business background before that.

Ashley: I think it's funny that you say “boring,” but I'm like, “What did you do before?”

Tim: I'm happy to go into it if you want.

Ashley: I would love to hear that. I think those things are super interesting to me.

Tim: I came into coffee directly from Amazon, actually. That was my most recent employer prior to coffee. Right out of undergrad, I went into finance consulting. I did mergers and acquisitions for Deloitte. Then I went back to business school at Kellogg, which is Northwestern's business school, just outside Chicago.

Then I went to Kraft Foods for five years, and then I started, with a partner, an Indian version of Chipotle called Kasa. That's in San Francisco and that still exists. My partners now own it and operate it. I went to Amazon and then we moved back to Michigan for family reasons. My wife's family and my family are both from here. We both grew up here and then left for a long period of time and came back.

That's when I was looking for my next thing. And just looking at a bunch of different opportunities, and Schuil was the right kind of company at the right stage in its transition. It just sort of worked out, and I'm super grateful that it did.

Ashley: I'm eager to hear both of your different experiences with this question. This is a question I ask almost everybody when they come on the show, so I'll start with Frankie: What was it like growing up with coffee in your life? Do you remember coffee from a young age?

Frankie: My parents have always drank coffee since I've been alive, but I never really paid much attention to it. It was just always an adult drink. I never tried it really until my dad bought Schuil. And then I was around it a lot.

I just heard about it a lot. My parents started to get really into it, and looking at different origins and different [roast] levels of coffee. I learned more about it through kind of eavesdropping and just being around Schuil. There are a lot of posters up on the walls about where coffee comes from and how to produce coffee. So I've kind of learned through that, and that pretty much sparked my interest for coffee.

I didn't really know much about coffee or really cared about it until around sixth grade, around age 11. But then after that, my interest for coffee really grew and I started to learn a lot more about it.

Tim: And you were sort of trapped at Schuil because it was like, a babysitting thing.

Frankie: I couldn't get anywhere. You had to watch me.

Ashley: And you became the youngest Q grader at 13, is that correct?

Frankie: Yes, that is correct.

Ashley: Did you pass the Q exam the first time?

Frankie: In the first week that we were there, I passed all the tests except for one of the cuppings. Then I had to go travel a couple months later to a different class, to just pop in and retake the cupping—which is a coffee tasting—afterwards. That's when I passed the Q, but yeah, it was a couple months later than the first class.

Ashley: That's wild. That's so cool. We'll come back a little bit more to how you two started taking the Q grading exam together, but Tim, I was wondering if you grew up with coffee in your life?

Tim: Not really, to be honest. My parents were never big coffee drinkers, and I don't think … I'm always amazed at how young people nowadays get into coffee. I don't think I had my first cup of coffee ’til after college, actually. I distinctly remember it was at a Starbucks in Chicago because it was right before an interview that I had coming out of college and I was like, “I should probably—I'm like an adult now, I should probably try this.”

It came to me later in life. Then as I lived in these other larger, bigger cities, obviously there was like, a really amazing coffee shop on every corner. [That was around when] the third-wave coffee movement was taking place as I was getting through my 20s and 30s.

I got really into coffee as a consumer, but really didn't know anything behind the scenes. I had no idea what scoring was. I really didn't know why I liked what I liked. I just sort of went with—I just tried a bunch of things and I was like, “Oh, I think I like Blue Bottle,” but I couldn't have told you why.

Ashley: I think something that you said, Frankie, that's really interesting that I want to go backwards a little bit on is: Tim, you buy Schuil and obviously you have your kids around. I was wondering what it was like to have a coffee business, but also have a family and have children grow up in that business.

I don't think that we have a lot of examples of that in the coffee industry right now. So I wonder what it was like for you to have this business that's maybe not a family business, but at the same time, you're like, “Well, this is my family business. They're always here all the time. The people around me are growing up around it.”

Tim: I guess it would have been like any kind of business that we were in. It was just our circumstance that we have three kids and they all have different schedules. We used the business as a dropping-off point where Frankie would come after school and she would do homework and whatever and watch Netflix.

At some point though, we were doing a cupping and I was like, “Why don't you just try this?” I think you said, “I don't think I want to.” And then you did and you were really good at it.

We were working with another person, David Poole. He's a longtime coffee person who lives in LA, and he was helping us. When I first came into the business, I recognized that I really didn't know anything about coffee and I better get smart about this if I'm going to do a good job at it. We have a mutual friend from Equator Coffees—Helen Russell—and she introduced me to David.

David would come in periodically during the beginning, especially helping us evaluate our green [coffee] program. He was really our green coffee consultant at the beginning. And he was pretty surprised at your ability to pick up notes and articulate them at your age. He was, I would say, a catalyst certainly for your interest in this idea that you might want to get your Q.

Ashley: When was that?

Tim: You were 11?

Frankie: Probably 11, maybe 12.

Ashley: Do you remember this Frankie?

Frankie: Yeah, I do actually. I don't know if it was the second [cupping] I did or the first one, but I just remember one where—and it was in, we had a remodel at Schuil since then, so it was in the old Schuil cupping lab, which is also the break room.

We had the cups set up on a table and I was really nervous because I was like, “Oh no, they're going to judge me if I don't know what I'm doing.” I know it was just supposed to be fun, but I know I put some pressure on myself like that.

I remember everything and thinking like, “Oh, this is so fun that I get to be with all these adults.” And I remember tasting one of the cups and being like, “This is really woody. I feel like I taste some wood in there,” and they were like, “Wow, that's a great tasting note, Frankie.” I was like, so proud of myself. I remember that specifically.

Ashley: That's wild that at 11, you were able to articulate the term “woody.” Maybe when you're 11, you're closer to an age where maybe you put your mouth on a tree or something—maybe that's where that comes from [Laughs]—but that's still pretty impressive to be able to make that connection.

You mentioned that at that cupping that's when people identified like, “Oh, hey, Frankie can really taste these notes.” At what point did you two decide to take your Q grading exam together?

Frankie: It just started out of curiosity. We weren't like, right after that coming for more like, “Oh, let's take the Q together.”

After that [cupping], my dad was like, “Do you genuinely enjoy doing the cuppings and coffee tastings?”

I was like, “Yeah, I think it's fun. It's cool that I a little bit know what I'm doing.” So we looked into it. And we talked to David too. We said, “Is there an age limit? Or could this be a possible thing for us to do together?” That's when we started looking into it.

As we learned more about the Q and about what it entailed, we started to get more excited about it as a possible thing for us to do together and a way for us to learn a lot more about coffee in general. So I feel like it was probably a month later that we decided to sign up for the course and started tasting coffees more and preparing for that course.

Ashley: So you two take this course together and you learn some pretty transformative information during that time, right?

Frankie: Mhmm.

Ashley: Tell me about that.

Frankie: The course was six days—three days of classes, and then three days of testing. The classes consisted of a lot of general coffee knowledge to tell us about coffee processing methods, about producers, about the coffee plant itself.

We did tastings and we talked through the tastings and what things to look for [with] certain scores. We also did the practices of the tests that we would be taking in the last three days. The majority of the chunk that was just general coffee knowledge was really informative because we learned all about the processing methods, like I said, and things that will help us connect with coffee and actually help you in the tests later, because then you can think about like, “Oh, what region is this coffee from? What kind of notes would it have? What kind of defects or imperfections might be common in this coffee?” and just things like that.

Tim: And they went off-script a little bit, which was nice just to talk about the supply chain—the farmers and the co-ops and the exporters and the importers. That was also helpful. And that's what sort of led us into this discussion around the aging farming population, especially in Central and Latin America.

Ashley: Frankie, can you speak a little to that—about age and coffee farmers?

Frankie: When we were in that coffee course, one of the main things they told us was that there was a problem in the coffee industry, and that was that the average age of a coffee farmer was about 55 or 56, and that was too old.

There weren't enough young people that wanted to take over their parents’ or family’s business, because they didn't see it as a viable career option. They didn't think they would be able to make enough money.

We heard about that and we were like, “That's a problem.” We want to help get more young people in the coffee industry and then make sure they can also make enough money.

Ashley: So you take this Q grading exam and you learn this information, and then I imagine you go home—what do you do with that? How does that ruminate in your head?

Frankie: At first we just talked about it a lot. I remember being at the course and saying, “Well, that's really interesting. We never heard about this, as coffee consumers, and as a coffee roasting company, we had never heard about this issue.” We didn't really have any means to do anything about it at that point and I hadn't even gotten my Q yet since I failed the first time, since I failed one of the cuppings. So then I had to finish it, but we wanted to do something about it, but we really hadn't formed an idea yet.

Later we were invited to go on a trip to Colombia to talk to young producers and to talk to young farmers and taste our coffee and see coffee farms. That was a confirmation that we're actually going to do something,

Tim: I would say it was a progression too. So it was more of just a side comment at the Q, and then once you've got Q, we started connecting the dots a bit later—on that you would be a really good person to have this conversation, because of your age. So it came together, I'd say, a little bit later, but the seed was absolutely planted probably when we were at the Q.

Ashley: It's interesting that you mentioned that being not necessarily a throwaway comment, but just something that was mentioned as a fact about coffee—that the average age of coffee farmers is in their mid-50s, and that's going to be a problem because young people aren't taking over farms.

Obviously what makes you stand out is that you took that information and you took action. So at what point did Joven start to really formulate as a concrete idea?

Frankie: I would say that the idea of Joven formed a little bit before we went on our trip to Colombia in November of 2019. We had an idea that we wanted to do something, and that something would be some form of our own line of coffee, or something that would support these young farmers specifically.

So I went down to Colombia to talk to a certain co-op that we knew had a young producers program, so we knew about that before we went down, but then the name for Joven and the exact thing—we're going to have a line and we're going to have only coffees produced by this criteria, by [farmers] ages 35 and younger, and it has to score an 84 or above—all came a little later, after we had solidified the first group of young farmers.

Ashley: What's your elevator pitch for Joven? When someone asks you, “What is Joven?” what is the response that you give people?

Frankie: I'll usually tell people that Joven is a line of coffee that celebrates and showcases young coffee farmers’ talent. We sell coffee from farmers ages 35 and younger to ensure that young farmers are getting paid for their coffee. We only buy coffees that score 84 or higher to make sure that it is high-quality coffee, so that the farmers get a good price for their coffee and can make a living off of coffee farming.

Ashley: What is it like when you tell people about Joven’s mission? Because I know for me as a coffee professional, I've read that statistic before—that there's a problem in coffee with people not taking over farms, that farmers are getting older and older—but as you said, that was new information to you at the Q grading exam. Also, I can't imagine that most consumers know that. So I imagine that part of your mission is almost like a public awareness campaign.

Frankie: Yeah, that's a huge part of it because the only people that really know about that statistic and this issue are people already in the coffee industry, and even some roasters don't even know about it.

I think especially in the U.S. and on the consumer end, it's something that nobody knows about and that's mainly part of our goal: to get people aware of the issue and what's happening so that we can get more people interested in, more people to buy coffee from us, but then also other roasters to be like, “Hey, I want to get in on this issue. I want to help out. I want to start selling coffee from young producers specifically,” and have that become a bigger thing that people want to support and want to become more of a widespread thing that people want to donate their money to.

Ashley: So most people buy coffee—you’ve mentioned grading, you’ve mentioned scores. Most people probably buy coffee based on those scores, they cup a coffee, they give it an 84, 85, 86, whatever … they'll make buying decisions that way.

What was it like when you first approached the importers that you were working with and said, “Hey, we actually have kind of a different goal. We want to buy these coffees from young producers that score this amount.” Was that a question that they had ever gotten before, or had anyone ever asked about young farmers?

Frankie: I think when we went to Colombia and we talked to these co-ops, they gave us the impression that [it was] not very many roasters. We were one of the first roasters that had ever specifically asked for coffee from young farmers and was specifically interested in this issue.

They were really excited about us being there and we're really excited to showcase their coffee. I think just to answer that question, yeah. We were like the only people that were really interested in that specific issue.

Tim: This is a problem they're obviously well aware of. They have these programs where they're training young farmers to produce better coffee so they can get better pricing. And that's amazing, but to develop a market in the U.S. that was, like Frankie said, I don't think that, to our knowledge, has been a priority for any other roasters up to this time.

Ashley: Yeah, that's a good point, what you were saying: that this is an issue that many people in producing countries are well aware of, and we can certainly treat it from that level, from the producing end and encouraging more young people to get into farming on that end, but there has to be a market for it as well. So I imagine that's where Joven kind of thinks about—not only are we buying these coffees from young farmers, but we're also creating a whole new market for them as well.

Frankie: Exactly.

Ashley: That's something that I find really interesting just about your business model in general, with Schuil and Sparrows—is that you have experience in branding things for different audiences. So was that something that felt intuitive or natural for you folks to do?

Tim: Did it feel natural for you, Frankie?

Frankie: Yeah. My goal was always to push the young farmers thing. I guess it felt natural for me to be like, “This is my purpose. This is Joven’s purpose.” If you are somebody who cares about cause-based things or wants to help a certain cause or secure the future of coffee and make sure you have coffee to drink in the future, then you'll like our product.

Tim: I say for me, it did feel natural, especially because coffee is segmented in a way that you're seeing in other coffee companies, really large ones, be very specific in their messaging.

So one example I would use is Death Wish where they have Robusta [coffee] and it's highly caffeinated. That's the message that they push now. Is that going to speak to me? No, it won't, but there is a segment of coffee drinkers that it really does speak to, and they've had great success there. So we're like, “How can we use that same sort of segmentation and specific messaging to reach an audience for this purpose?” That's really how we thought about it.

Ashley: I love that because I think for a lot of coffee roasters, we kind of focus on a singular message of quality—not to say that that's bad, that's obviously a good pursuit, but quality involves a lot of buy-in.

It involves a consumer already having a base knowledge to understand what quality is, especially when we're facing consumers who probably come into coffee shops and they're like, “I just want a cup of coffee.” So can we segment people in a way that matters to them.

I can imagine making a decision about coffee as a consumer, if I don't know a lot about coffee and saying like, “Okay, I don't know the difference between this Ethiopian coffee and this Colombian coffee, but I understand that I want coffee in the future and I want to invest in coffee's future. So I go in to buy this coffee that supports young farmers.”

Frankie: What's been really interesting for me, what I've seen of the consumers of Joven, is that it's not all just people that are really into coffee or that go to Madcap every day and want that super high-quality coffee.

It's a lot of people that hear about the story and are really interested in it and have never—they always drink whatever coffee in the morning. But since they've heard about Joven and about the issue that we're pushing, they have been drinking our coffee and have been like, “Wow, this is really good. I've never had coffee this good before, and I've never appreciated coffee for what it is and for the farmers that are producing it.”

I think that's just really cool to see people that have never thought about coffee in this way before be transformed because of Joven’s mission.

Ashley: Right? You've almost given people an accessible point for them to engage with your coffee, but then it opens up the door for another experience. They're able to say, “Oh, I bought this coffee initially because of this, but now I'm learning so much about how coffee can taste—let me take that next step.”

You're almost bringing in the next wave of coffee drinkers in a way.

Frankie: I would say so.

Ashley: I think you are!

What does it feel like, being the spokesperson for this brand? Because I mean, part of the brand is that you are a young person. Are you excited to be that spokesperson, that front person?

Frankie: Yeah. I love it. I love being the person that people ask me questions about Joven. I love being the person that people are like, “I'm so happy. I'm so proud of you with your coffee. And I love your mission so much.”

I love to be able to share that too, because I've always been a public speaker. I've always liked public speaking and doing speeches and talking in front of groups of people and stuff like that. So for me to also use that talent that I have to share this message and to talk about what I'm passionate about and make sure that people know about it has been a really cool experience for me.

I'm really grateful that I have this opportunity. And yeah, it's just really exciting for me.

Ashley: I was about to say, I was thinking about when I was 15 and I was like, I don't know if I could do this right now, be on a podcast. So that just landed for me—how well you do public speaking, which is awesome. It makes sense that that's something that you're passionate about.

How do you folks talk about the future? Because you obviously do Joven, you work with these farmers, but I imagine part of the business model is always thinking ahead.

Frankie: I would say that our main goal for the future is to get this awareness of the issue of young farmers out there, and to get more consumers interested in it, and to also get more roasters to support that issue and start selling coffee from young farmers and to create this market for this young talent.

[We want to] make that a more widespread thing, that a lot of consumers know about and that more people want to support. We’re not trying to be selfish and like, “We want to be the only coffee company that sells young farmers’ coffee. We want that to be our thing.” We want everybody to know about it and for everybody to start supporting it so that we can all support the future of coffee.

Tim: Specifically we would, along those lines, like to essentially force the hand of more co-ops and importers to sponsor projects like this.

We started out buying, you know, not a small percentage, but less than half of this co-op’s—Cafe Norte—output of their young producers program, and heavens, I mean, it's not all of it, but it's almost all of it now.

Frankie: Like 80% or something.

Tim: The more that we can do that, the more demand there is for this, I think it's going to be really great when we start to see more of these programs pop up, because they know that it will get purchased.

Ashley: I think what you mentioned earlier—getting more roasters interested in this project—is really, really pivotal. It seems like you folks think about this issue from a really multi-faceted level.

Tim: We’re trying to. Certainly, and again, as Frankie's said earlier, we're a business—we want to be successful of course, and spread the word about this issue, and sell coffee along the way. But that's not really the reason we're doing it. We're not trying to be this enormous—Joven's not really designed to be this enormous company.

It's more designed as the front-runner on the education side, and then if it gets larger, that's great. If other roasters follow us, that's also great, it's not really about trying to build this one entity into as big as it can be. It's more about trying to get this issue out there.

Ashley: Right. Exactly. What's it like working with each other?

Frankie: I love it. For me and my dad to bond over this is a really great thing because I mean, he has other things with my siblings where he can bond with them and spend time with them. But for us to have this thing where we traveled to Colombia together, that was super fun. We do cuppings together and to have this thing to connect over, especially since he's busy with work, I'm busy with school, so it's easy for us to not be able to spend any time together or just to be like, “I'm going to hang out with my friends, I'm too busy for you or whatever.”

It's nice to be like, “Well, now we're doing this thing together.” So we have to spend time together and then we can bond. And I don't know. I really like it. For him to be kind of my boss or my mentor, I guess, and be really good at cupping and for us to be able to talk through that, it's just a blessing.

Ashley: I'm always really into how people work together. I think it's really interesting that you're obviously father and daughter, and you have this one very specific relationship, but then you have this other way that you connect with each other that's totally independent of that, but still is obviously informed by your father/daughter relationship.

Tim: Yeah. I love it because there's only so much detail a teenage girl's going to go into with her dad on how her day was, you know? I'm just being realistic here and saying that it's nice to have this additional stream of content that we have in common, that it's helpful for us to, or it just facilitates more time spent together, and it gives us a good excuse to travel together. Selfishly, that's been a really cool part of it.

Ashley: What would you count as some of your biggest successes?

Frankie: I think my biggest success is Joven for sure, because it's me being able to take something that I'm good at—coffee tasting and being a Q grader—and being able to take that and use it for good and use it to better our world.

I think that's a success for me, even if Joven doesn't grow as much or we or I don't end up doing coffee for the rest of my life, since I still have a lot of it left. I just think it's already a success that we've been able to reach this many people through Joven and hopefully more. Yeah, that's my biggest success.

Ashley: What about within Joven? Are there any particular relationships that you've fostered or any coffees that you've sold that you've been like, “Yeah, this is cool.”

Frankie: I think it's amazing that I was even able to travel to Colombia and meet some of these young farmers whose coffees are part of Joven, and to talk to the people who are in charge and to see a whole different culture.

I’d never been to South America before, and it was just so cool to see how people lived there and how coffee was such a huge part of their community. I was just so glad that I got that experience to see. I think that's amazing. I would like to go back to Colombia and back to South America and to other countries that we get coffee from. But I think that trip specifically was very eye-opening and really, really amazing.

Tim: Just the idea of this value chain from coffee cherry all the way to its end product. All we're doing as roasters is cooking the beans. It was very apparent and, as relates to coffee farming in general and not just to young farmers, but it's so much work on the front end. That was just so eye-opening I think, for you, Frankie, and for my first time, to see how much goes into the production and processing and sorting of coffee by the time we get it, literally most of the work's been done.

Ashley: Right. That's a good point. I think something that's come up a lot on the podcast with some other guests is the idea of risk, and how roasters can take on more risk for farmers.

I think this is one example of that—it’s identifying an issue on a farm and saying, “We're going to specifically make this a thing that we focus on and we're going to make a market for this,” and assume—not necessarily assume some of the risks, but we're going to make the investment worth it. We're going to say we think that this is important and we're going to make a funnel for it, essentially. Maybe funnel is not the right word, but you see where I'm going with that.

Tim: I think to your point, we will forward-contract this coffee, so we'll do it before it's done. And so there's by creating—

Ashley: Explain that a little bit. Just what the idea of forward-contracting is.

Tim: Sure, so not to be confused with the C-market futures. Forward-contracting would just be that we commit to—let's say, I want a whole container of this Cafe Norte youth coffee. We'll commit to that before it's ever produced.

So before the crop is harvested, they know that we are committed to buying a container. We sign a forward contract with whatever importer you're working with on that—that would be facilitated typically by the importer. You'd sign a contract to say, “I'm buying X number, let’s say 300-some bags of this particular coffee. And I will take it between this time and this time.”

That's a commitment that we make as a roaster and then that trickles down to the farmer and they know that they already have a source for that at a given price. They ship a pre-sample and we have to approve it. They can't not deliver the quality we're expecting, but at least they know that that coffee is already sold.

Ashley: That's something that comes up a little bit throughout the show, which I would love to get more into—obviously not at this time, but the idea of contracts and how contracts are often formulated, and what a contract actually means.

Something that I've heard from some producers, actually also in Colombia, was that during COVID-19 a lot of people found ways to get out of contracts which is a big deal, which is a big problem. So being able to say, “I am going to buy this coffee at this price, and this is promised or ready before you can produce it,” is a really big deal.

Tim: Absolutely.

Ashley: What would you want people to know about Joven that maybe gets glossed over or maybe doesn't get talked about as much?

Frankie: I think probably the one thing that we don't emphasize as much is that coffee itself is a very complex drink, and the fact that—and like my dad said, the value chain just has so many steps—and for the farmers at the beginning to do so much of the work, it makes sense that we need to be able to pay them a fair price so that they can make a living.

I think that it's also just important for consumers to understand that coffee is a complex thing and it's not just fuel in the morning—it's okay if you drink it for fuel or you drink it just to have a caffeine boost, but also it is something that is just more than that. [I’d want people to] understand its nuance a little bit.

Ashley: I feel like you folks are doing this really important and intricate work because you're tackling a really big issue in a broad sense, but also doing it in really, really specific ways and on a multi-faceted level.

I wonder, since you're in this work, do you think that in the next five years, people are going to be trying to catch up? We seem to know that there are problems with the supply chain of coffee. We know that climate change is an issue. We know that the age of farmers is an issue. It doesn't feel like enough roasters think it’s as imminent as it is. What do you think the next five years will look like?

Tim: Well, if not a lot changes that average age is going to creep up past 60. I know the climate change thing. That's so multifaceted and complex. I hesitate to even comment. I'm not an expert in that area, but it's…

Ashley: Let's just focus on age.

Tim: I agree with you. There are not enough. I feel like this is an under-talked-about issue for sure. It is relative to its importance and significance at origin. I do hope yes, that other roasters will catch up because I think it will become a bigger deal, and it could take five years to just cross that threshold into a more mainstream understanding of it. I hope it doesn’t take that long, but it might.

Ashley: I feel like, I mean—I don't know, obviously it's hard to predict the future and all you can do is really try to work to make it better, which kind of seems like what you folks are doing.

Frankie: I mean, that's our hope, is that what we're doing makes a difference and that we can actually raise awareness and be like, “Hey guys, this is a big deal. This is actually a big deal. And we would like you to join our mission and help us out.”

Tim: And to be honest with you, we should get props to one of our main partners in this—Trade, the copy subscription company.

They're a huge source of volume for us, for Sparrows, but Joven as well. That's one thing we can do. We're not really putting our full resources into Joven, into marketing. We've been focused on some other things. We've been putting the message out there, but there's more we can do on the digital marketing side. In 2022, we're planning to push that a little bit harder on our end.

Ashley: If somebody was listening to this and they were like, “Yeah, I'm going to go buy some Joven coffee right now,” where would be a good place for them to start on your menu?

Frankie: You can go find all our offerings at jovencoffee.com. You can also follow me on Instagram at @kidqgrader, or there is a @jovencoffee on Instagram.

Ashley: What's your favorite coffee right now?

Frankie: We're about to launch a coffee from Guatemala and it's with Coffee Kids. It's delicious and I'm very excited about it. That's my favorite one right now because it's our new one and it's a nice, balanced coffee, a nice everyday drinker. I'm excited about that.

Tim: We just got our annual shipment of our Ethiopia Dimtu Tero and that's on the Sparrow side and it's tasting ridiculous. So that's been my jam lately.

Ashley: Thank you both for taking time to chat with me. I really appreciate it.

Tim: It's been great. Thank you.


This Boss Barista episode is brought to you by Urnex.

One of Urnex’s latest advances is a range of environmentally friendly cleaners called Biocaf. Biocaf products are made entirely from plant- and mineral-based ingredients and are fully biodegradable. They're available for both commercial and household coffee equipment.

Urnex is also partnering with coffee pros—like me!—to highlight some of the best sustainability efforts in the industry with the Biocaf Sustainability Series. You can read my most recent piece on Onyx Coffee Labs’ switch to oat milk in their latest café, and learn more about Biocaf here. And be sure to read the dozens of pieces focusing on sustainability in coffee and beyond.

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