Good Morning Costa Rica!

I submit that there is nothing that a cup of coffee and some cinnamon buns will not fix. Coffee is a good deal like wine. Certain cups blend themselves well to certain foods. One of the Ethiopian varieties that we’ve tried, for example, does very good with blueberry muffins because the blueberries in the muffins make the hint of blueberry in the coffee so much more noticeable and enjoyable… [Read More at monroepostcoffee.com]

What's Going On: 10 O'Clock Contemplations

You may have wondered where I have disappeared to recently. Maybe you haven’t. I secretly wish that you did miss me. What have I been doing for weeks without posting an amazingly entertaining blog post? Well…we have been a tad busy around here lately. I’ve also gotten into some writers block. I know! Crazy! Out of amazing ideas! Nevertheless, I’m back tonight. Thought I would deliver you some updates and some changes.

WHAT?
Wow were getting so close to having the coffee shop open. Cleaning and a final inspection to go and we’re ready! I honestly don’t even know what to say about it all as I am so overwhelmed with emotions. This has really been a challenging and exciting time for us as a family…but it’s been hard and we are ready for a break…a break in manual hard labor that is! No more drywall, paint, plumbing, digging, or cleaning. We are ready to just do the business work! Which does lead me to the announcement of a few things. In just a few days we will be launching our very own eCommerce site for coffee. Wanna sneak peek? Visit MonroePostCoffee.com and poke around 😉  We’re not accepting orders quite yet…but we will be very soon. With that we also have the ability to ship orders to anywhere in the country. Woo! It also means we have to deal with pesky things like taxes. Just part of the package. So that’s the nitty gritty’s. Lemme move on to more emotional topics.

WHY?
I have found myself asking myself (as I am sure others have wondered the same)…WHY? Why are we doing all this. Pouring our heart and soul into a business…swiping the card endless amounts of time at Home Depot for yet another few parts and materials. Why is a good question. One I am not sure we can fully answer right now. We have been dreaming for many years about the idea of starting a family business. The first reason is because we love coffee…we always have. We got passionate about the organics and fair trade industry and wanted to make a difference. We also were passionate about connecting people with missionaries in foreign countries through the use of coffee. We began Coffee with a Mission at church to bridge this gap. It has really grown from there. The second reason why we wanted this business is to pursue self-sustainability. While it seems a far fetch of a dream that this business could actually support our family entirely without Alex having to work away from home, we cannot make any progress towards that goal unless we are willing to take some steps in that direction. Thirdly, the feeling of “making the dream happen” is such a satisfying experience and we wish everyone could experience it. So that’s the nutshell.

HOW?
How have we been able to do all this? Afford all this? I’m going out on a limb here…pure honesty. I struggle with feelings of guilt and unworthiness. How was I so blessed to even have this ABILITY to begin such an adventure? Deep down I am afraid of making others feel bad or jealous. I hate that feeling. If I could just give all the coffee away I would (although my husband would surely come after me). I want to be real though. We have NOT done this alone. While we have followed in God’s leading of taking a leap of faith, it has certainly been very backed by supporters. Our parents have been generous supports both in work and financially. We literally could not have started this journey without them. The help and hands they have provided over the past months has been invaluable. With three young children running around, it would have been near impossible…scratch that…IMPOSSIBLE to ever accomplish this single-handedly. We have been very blessed with hardworking parents who are willing to lend their skills & child wrangling abilities. We have also had major support from close friends who have offered their help and encouragement along the way. This has kept our head above water, esp when times got hard and tried to pull us under. So all this to say- we’re really trusting God through this process and letting Him guide the next steps. This is not the result of some ability of ours…but rather the Grace He is pouring out. My mom wrote me a beautiful letter and I love the verses that she wrote.

Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. John 4:36

I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor. John 4:38

Those who have sowed into our lives will be blessed just as we are being blessed. There have been those who have gone before us and worked hard in order to help us now. We are reaping the blessings of our parents and grandparents’ hard labor. We are so grateful and full of joy. So when I start to feel those lies creeping in of guilt or fear…I just recall the Grace which He has lavished and rejoice that we get to share that with YOU through the practical means of coffee. Man that’s a win-win. So…that How. That’s how we did it.

Alright ya’ll deep thought for the night are shuttin down. Gotta put the brain to rest! We have a big business conference we are attending tomorrow! Stay tuned!

Coffee Biz Update: Plumbed & Painted

Hey ya’ll thought I’d give you a quick update…we have been SWAMPED busy here lately…which is probably why the blog has been rather quiet as of late. Whoa life is busy. But good…mostly good.

Where we at? How are we doing? We are getting SO close. These past couple of weekends we have knocked out the final huge project of bringing plumbing into the space. We had to dig yet another trench…about 80 feet worth. It was terrible, miserable, curse-worthy work. I helped, so that gives me permission to complain. OK…sorry, no complaining here, we don’t do that. Let’s just say that was definitely NOT the highlight of the project. We were blessed to have some help from a friend and we got all of the plumbing in and tied into the septic system. Yikes! I would really like to re-iterate God’s blessing throughout all of this. We got a quote from a plumbing company on how much they would charge just to tie into the septic system…no digging included…it was going to cost us $1,200. Wow, yeah no. Thankfully we have a very skilled plumbing friend who helped us FO FREE…well some labor bartering and Mexican food. Come on, who can pass that kind of wage up? 😉 Thank you friends.

In other news, we got all of the drywall up, plastered and painted…with free paint mind you. 😉

So what’s up next?

1. Get plumbing inspected.

2. Install crown molding (high class, I know!) & base molding.

3. Trim out windows

4. Install flooring (linoleum)

5. FINAL INSPECTION!

We’re getting super super close ya’ll! This is so exciting. Do we really have any idea what we are doing?! No…not really. We are just trusting God and His leading. He is always faithful to light the next step. I am quick to doubt sometimes…and really scratch my head thinking “what in the world girlfren, you done gone crazy.”

Well, crazy or not, were here, we’re moving forward. Another step towards the dream. Thanks for following. 

Coffee Biz Update: I've Got the Power

You read that right. Oh boy…we have been waiting for this day for a LONG TIME. I can’t even remember when we started running power to the garage…but I am pretty sure it was last fall. Wow. That took a.very.long.time. But as of August 30th, 2014, HOUSTON WE HAVE POWER!! Big thanks to my Dad, and Paul for getting this thing DONE. Phew. My dear sweet husband can now plug in his table saw in the garage without having to run a 75′ extension cable from the house. If you can’t tell I am beyond excited about this. We have LIGHTS in the garage (no longer hanging flashlights from the rafters to work in the dark.) Doesn’t everyone work in their garage after dark…or is that just us crazy country folks?

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So…that’s big news on the coffee front too! Means we can actually power our roaster, run an a/c unit, turn on a light, and listen to music…ALL at the same time. Like whoa. Ok, I’ll stop with the dramatics and the all-caps. In case you are wondering what kind of crazy electrical set-up we gots going on out there…I might have to leave that post to the Wise One. It’s something like a subpanel with 60amp circuit, with like 220v plugs…or something. I’ll stop now, lest I make myself look entirely dumb.

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We have also finished all the insulation…eww, thanks Alex’s Dad for handling that bear of a job. Finally, we got the ceiling dry-walled. I actually helped with that. I’m not trying to brag or anything, I am just making a note that I did help. And it was hard. Really hard. Not sure my arms have ever burned so hard trying to hold something heavy above my head for that long. Someone sympathize for me, please…I know my husband won’t…He works this hard all the time! Nevertheless, ya’ll better believe I was soaking in my Epsom salts that night.

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I think that’s about the round up for this week. Power, insulation, drywall. Tons accomplished! We have been blessed with so much help…but there’s always room for more! And, we pay in beans!

What’s next? Plumbing. This is going to be a bear. (As if the other isn’t!) We have decided to do a sump pump instead of the above ground gravity fed pipe like we originally considered doing. This means digging a big trench, jackhammering part of the concrete floor, etc. Thankfully, we are blessed with talented friends and family so we are escaping all of this without the cost of hiring anyone.

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I look over these things…sometimes I question why are we doing this? For us, it has kind of been an Abraham journey. We don’t see the big picture and how this is going to go. God has lit the path only for the next step. We have big dreams for this business, but they all seem so overwhelming in light of where we are and how far we have to go. In the meantime however, we are taking steps in faith in the direction of FORWARD. The journey has taken a lot of courage, but we are confident that He who has begun a good work will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).

Check out more in the Coffee Biz Series:

Starting a Biz in NC

Water Works

Walls Up

Coffee Biz Update: Walls Up!

We have begun! As many of you know we are trying to get our coffee business up and running. It is a very exciting prospect but one that requires a lot of hoops to jump through. We decided to take the plunge and go for it despite hurdles. We have been cleared by all agencies to begin renovation!
RoasterReno (1)
The section in the upper left hand quadrant will become the “roasting room”. We have had some exciting finds through Craigslist and thrift stores and have not paid full price for anything yet! We got all of the stainless steel sinks we need (3 of them) for $30! I have found doors, flooring, countertops, & ac unit for 50% off or more. A few more things to hunt down and then we are pretty much stocked!

This past weekend we had a wonderful bunch of help and the guys were able to get the walls up and most of the electrical work done. It feels somewhat surreal. I never would have dreamed of starting and owning a business. It’s crazy! However, things just keep coming down the pipe for us that helps us to confirm that we are on the right path. We already have some prospects of small shops and stores that are interested in selling our coffee. Anyways, it’s a wild journey, but we are hanging on for the ride!
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It always shocks me how projects take longer than I expect. We have a long way to go, but hey at least we’re goin! If you want to come help give us a shout! Hey, we might even be able to hook you up with some of the good joe.

Other posts in this series:

1. Tips to Start a Business in North Carolina
2. Coffee Biz Update: The Water Works

Coffee Brewers

Erica and I love our coffee and we frequently get asked what type of coffee equipment to get, so here are a few good ones. A few recommendations if you will.

Pour Over (~$15 on Amazon, retail ~$20)

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a coffee brewer to make good coffee. This is my defacto recommendation for most people: Get a pour over! They make great coffee, are inexpensive, and you are in total control.

Amazon: An example pour over

Bonavita 8 cup coffee brewer with thermal carafe (~$135 on Amazon, retail $180)

Certified by the Special Coffee Association of America (SCAA), quick to start, brews at just the right temperature, and so simple to even my four year old daughter can use it. It is more expensive than a Black and Decker, but if your looking in that price range stick with a pour over. This has been our trusty brewer for two years now and we love it. Highly recommended.

Amazon: Bonavita 8 cup coffee brewer with thermal carafe

They sell another model without the thermal carafe, but I absolutely recommend the thermal carafe! A good insulated carafe (like this one) allows you to brew the coffee and keep it warm without burning it on a hot plate. Granted, if you immediately brew and serve it right away this feature may be of little benefit and you can save a few bucks on the glass carafe, but I’ll stand by my recommendation of the thermal carafe for most folks.

 

Technivorm Moccamaster (~$300 on Amazon, retail $320)

The Technivorm is a great unit certified by the SCAA. When we are in the market two years ago it was a top contender. It was one of the first quality brewers in the US market and from personal experience it brews a solid cup of coffee. Just like the Bonavita, it also brews at just the right temperature and starts up quickly. I didn’t find the Technivorm terribly intuitive, however, as it had a number of parts and pieces that had to be aligned just right. It was cool, don’t get me wrong, it made me feel like I was making something extra special, but I wouldn’t trust my four year old barista in training with it just yet. You are reading this blog post, so I assume you are older than four and therefore feel confident that if you prefer the Technivorm you will find this a minor drawback.

Amazon: Technivorm Moccamaster with Thermo Carafe

Brazen Plus ($200 retail)

This is a brand new brewer certified by the SCAA’s home brewer program. I read an article about it here recently, but haven’t gotten a chance to try one (anyone want buy us one!?). The specs look great, but what really caught my attention was the ability to customize the water temperature, add a pre-soak cycle for the grounds, calibration for higher altitudes, and more tweaks. Brew wise I am confident that this will product a great cup of coffee along the lines of the Technivorm and the Bonavita, but with the added benefit of being able to customize things to your taste for that geeky-coffee-artistic-touch. It is more expensive than the Bonavita, but it is less expensive than the Technivorm. Did I mention it has a thermal carafe?

Amazon: Brazen Plus

Conclusion / Suggestions

Until you are ready to invest in a coffee maker, go with a pour over. Even after you invest in a coffee maker, buy a pour over if you don’t already have one. Never get rid of your pour over, he will be your stalwart companion until one of your children knocks him off a shelf and you hold a funeral and maybe have a little cry.

Still reading? OK. If you are ready to invest in a brewer because *maybe* you need something to handle the dangerous aspects of handling near-boiling water in the morning before that first cup of coffee has fully awaken you to the danger of second degree burns… What then?… What would we recommend for your health, safety, and sanity?

If I was in the shoes that I imagine many of you wearing, first I would hope they were at least size 10 and 1/2 or I would be uncomfortable, second I would lean heavily toward the Bonavita for its simplicity, price, and ability to make a great cup of coffee. If was in my shoes, the shoes of a coffee geek, I would seriously consider the new Brazen Plus for those same features and it’s tweakability (thats a word right?).

Coffee Biz Update: The Water Works

Well we have officially gathered as much information as we need to move forward in building the coffee business. In my last post about starting the business, I mentioned the need to meet with various inspectors, etc. I won’t go into the nitty gritty but here’s where were at.

  1. We MUST have plumbing into our coffee roasting area (which is going to be a portion of the garage sectioned off by walls).
  2. This plumbing must drain into our existing septic tank.
  3. Drain to septic tank must be gravity flow
  4. 3 sinks are required in the structure (hand washing, utensil, and sanitizing sink). Utility sink in house will serve as “mop sink”.
  5. Hot AND cold water are required to the sinks.

Wham. Wham. Wham. Geeze o’ pete. That’s a lot of requirements to run an operation that basically generates no mess and uses no “utensils.” Alas, rules are rules. We are not entirely intimidated by them…except for one. The gravity flow issue. Yah. You see our septic tank is pretty far up, I guess due to the water table or something. If you have seen our backyard, you know what I’m talking about. It looks bojangled. The garage is sitting downhill from the septic tank and therefor there is no water gravity flowing in that direction. Rats. Our only option here (unless we wanted to spend like 10 grand) is to put the plumbing line above the ground. We would then bury it, but it would leave a nice hill in the backyard. Not terrible as we already have one of those “hills” from the line that comes from the house. It’s hard to explain. Nevermind, I’ll post a picture someday. For now, we can make it work…it’s just a pain in the boot.

However, we have been cleared by county zoning, the health department and the local FDA…so we’re good to move onward. We need a plumber however, that can help us connect to the existing system. Preferably one that would take coffee as payment, or perhaps a load of zucchini. Lol.

We also have to make some major renovations to the garage in order to get this all to work. So we’re now accepting applications for those who would like to donate their manual labor. Hey we might pay you back in beans.

 

Tips to Start a Business in North Carolina

Welp. That doesn’t sound like a very exciting title now does it? Bear with us. My goal is to have this information stored in someplace other than my slightly over compacted brain. Also, in hopes that maybe someday it will help someone else!

The Short: We are wanting to take our coffee business to the next level. We recently have invested a good bit of money in a larger roaster (missed that post?) and we are able to meet many more demands for coffee. We are so thrilled to be moving forward, however, we felt that in order to keep ourselves protected and be able to sell online, we would pursue making this an actual fo-real business.

This process is not unfamiliar. When we began dreaming years ago about homesteading, gardening, country life, etc it took us a long time to get here and there were many hurdles to overcome. If you missed the crazy adventure of our finding land and building a house those sagas and triumphs are in the archives. Nevertheless, there was many a things that had to be overcome in order for us to find ourselves where we are now.

Anyways. So with no further ado, let me document where we are so far. Also, please note…some of this may sound like I don’t know what I talking about. Well. I don’t. I didn’t take business courses in college…I took psychology courses. I can read people like a book, but don’t ask me business questions. So…hopefully you’ll have grace for me and point me correctly. I apologize if my verbiage is wrong.

1. Decide on a business. Haha. I know it sounds obvious. For us we have always had a passion for coffee…like we chose our Honeymoon spot based on our love for coffee (Seattle). There are many avenues to pursue the love of coffee. I mean, I could have been a latte artist if I wanted to! Or personalized coffee sleeves. Or…Well, enough…you get my point. For us we decided that the most important thing for us was to supply people with coffee that had meaning. It’s also a big perk that we can do this out of our home (more on that in a minute) and thus I can help out the business being a stay at home momma.

2. Meet with a business counselor. This was a huge resource for us! Many of our questions got answered in this meeting. In North Carolina we have a fantastic resource for small start up businesses. Through the Community College system they provide small business counseling for free. If you are in North Carolina check out the Small Business Center Network. In addition, we have an excellent compilation of forms, FAQS, and resources available through another website. These are excellent resources.

3. Decide if you want to become limited liability company (LLC) or sole proprietorship. We are going with LLC due to the fact that we are selling a consumable product and need the extra covering.

4. Make sure you are appropriately zoned if you wish to start a business out if your home. Also find out if you need any special permits. Your county zoning officer would know these answers. Thankfully for us, we are zoned for a home business and only need a $25 permit. Since we are running a food operation (yes apparently roasting coffee falls under food) we have to interface with the Department of Agriculture and FDA. I’ll admit that made me shake in my boots a bit. The business counselor gave us the contact information for our county inspector.

5. Meet with local FDA inspector to discuss what needs to get done in order to get space accommodated for business purposes.

6. Cry after you met with inspector because he gave you so many things that seem so impossible to accomplish. OK, I kidding on this one. Maybe. Sorta.

7. For us, the main things that we need to accomplish is to renovate the garage to make a small roasting room. It needs to have a sink attached to the septic system (BIG HURDLE). We also need small window A/C unit and a few other odds and ends. We are meeting with a plumber to see about the septic system tie in costs. That could be a deal breaker for us. Ah, country life.

8. Wait patiently for God’s timing. He alone knows how all of this will actually work out. In the meantime, we are not anxious about anything but asking for revelation for His will!

 

Opportunities

Opportunities. There are so many to be had. What do you do with an opportunity that presents itself? Well, recently for us we made a big leap of faith! We jumped on an opportunity to grow our coffee business!

Well, this cat has been out of the bag for a while now, but as normal, I am just getting around to updating the blog. We bought a larger coffee roaster! It is not our dream coffee roaster, but it is a step towards it! With our smaller home roaster we were just not able to keep up with the demands for coffee and really wanted to expand our business. We found this roaster and for the price, we just couldn’t pass it up. We are now able to much better accommodate our personal needs for coffee, our church coffee ministry and also friends and family!

So what does this mean for YOU? Opportunity! It means you should put an order in for some coffee. We are working (even if slowly) to get this coffee business off the ground. We have lots of hopes and dreams. But we need your help! Spread the word and share the bean love.

For us, coffee is more than just a quick cup of morning wake-me-up Joe. I mean, thats a good bit part of it (come on-mom of three littles can’t lie here)…Coffee is a passion of ours. For something so humble as a cup of black liquid, the significance it has on so many lives is incredible. Unfortunately, like many things we eat or drink, we have lost the personal aspect of it. We have lost the heart and soul of the cup. Most coffee on the market has no traceable origins. I will not name call here, but we all know the popular brands, and there is no way that you will ever know where those beans came from. It would be like trying to find out what farm the wheat was grown on to make our beloved American boxed treats. But it is this way with most things isn’t it? Even the clothing on your back has no name or face attached to it. It’s really a sad reality. Someone, somewhere, is working (and probably highly underpaid) to grow the crops that are needed to make OUR clothing (I can take blame here too). I can never say thank you.

I love the Spring and Summer time when the farmers markets are in full abundance. Not only am I gifted with the loveliness of fresh produce, but I am given opportunity. Opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for growing these for me to enjoy. Even my own garden provides opportunity. I can partake in one of life’s greatest miracles…the ability to watch a seed grow into something magnificent that nourishes my body. Thank you. Now if only I could grow a coffee plant…

Back to coffee. Lest I make you feel guilty for drinking the unmentionable named coffee, I’d like to offer you our alternative. We make the changes where we can. We move ever so progressively as we are given knowledge and resources. Buying local allows you to make those connections and meet a face associated with a product. It’s unbeatable. We do our best to order coffee from suppliers that give us a face. We want to know about the farm where these precious living plants are growing. Who is tending these for me? How are those persons being treated? Thankfully, we have found a few suppliers of green coffee beans that can tell us a little bit about the farms where the coffee is grown. This information is very comforting. I know that I am buying a raw product from someone who can verify that the farmers are being paid fairly. We are not in a position at this point yet to import our own coffee (as import costs are very very high and you have to order in mega quantities), but it is great to have connections to those who share our same conviction-that is to treat every individual with integrity. We also feel strongly that coffee should be grown without the use of chemicals. The land that we have been given to tend deserves to be treated with respect as well. Many organic coffee farmers are very skilled in their trade and put in countless hours tending to their crops to ensure a safe and incredible tasting bean. That being said, some farmers choose not to label organic since it is such a rigorous process and costs so much. Nevertheless, they use the same principals and we don’t mind supporting those farms either.

Green coffee beans
Green coffee beans

So. That’s a lot of blab to digest. The point of all of this is to hopefully encourage you to want to buy some coffee that you can feel safe about drinking. You can know families in other countries are being given a fair wage and are being encouraged to continue in growing coffee in a way that nourishes the land and in return gives you and me a healthier cup. AND you are supporting a local roaster which helps fund our little homestead. Seems like a win, win, win to me. Haha. Ok. Enough of my shameless plug.

Oh you want the details?

We sell by the green/unroasted pound (which comes out to 12-14oz roasted) for $10-12 depending on the variety. Our current stock will be listed in the Coffee page…Or if you want to check now, click here.

Opportunities are plenty. We hope you decide to share in some of ours!

Thank you. 

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