When Dave Chall, of restaurant supplier Upper Midwest Gourmet, originally thought of coffee, he viewed it simply as an additional revenue stream. But now the bean arm of his NE Minneapolis operation, Flamenco Organic, is at the forefront of the local java industry. Why? Because it made an early commitment to sustainability and quality. From the get-go, the staff dealt only in fair-trade organic coffees of the highest quality. Today, the company has eight people on payroll--half are techs certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, two are full-time roasters, and the client list spans the Upper Midwest and beyond. Flamenco also took home two Calhoun Coffee Festival wins last year (and a second-place ribbon, too).
Here's a closer look inside the Northeast warehouse Flamenco calls home.
Starting Flamenco as a division of UMG meant that they could invest in great beans, education, and equipment. Jesse Grote, the company's first roaster, is fully devoted to the joe that leaves the place. "There has been a belief that FTO [fair-trade organic] coffees are not top quality, but we're working hard to change that," he says. "We use only the highest-quality fair trade and organics." Chall adds, "For example, right now people are asking us for Ethiopia Yergacheffe, but we can't find any good FTO stuff. So we're not stocking it." Recently, Flamenco started sourcing some coffees directly from the Dominican Republic and Guatemala, so that the profits all go to the grower. They also support local bsuiness Café Imports, as well as the Cafe Femenino Project, which imports coffee from rural female producers all over the world.
What does Flamenco have to say about the rise of the Twin Cities as a coffee destination? They love the fact that customers are now hip to Fair Trade and organic designations as well as a perfectly brewed cup. It means that baristas are more likely to be trained properly and restaurants are seeing the light about serving decent brews. While not quite at the Portland-level yet as far as the java itself, the group believes that this town is ahead in its sustainability awareness.
So now you want to judge Flamenco's FTO wares for yourself? Visit them at the Calhoun Coffee Fest, coming up on Nov. 20 in Minneapolis, where they will be vying for brew supremacy, or stop in at the warehouse in Nordeast.
Flamenco Organic Coffee Co.
1901 Traffic St. N.E., Minneapolis