New organic coffee hits fair trade market
Valerio Coffee Roasters buzzes into organic free trade market
Anthony Valerio has introduced Valerio Coffee Roasters, a specialized brand of organic fair trade coffee.
LOWER PROVIDENCE >> Many local java enthusiasts are already well acquainted with the renowned varieties of Café Excellence, founder Anthony Valerio’s micro coffee roasting enterprise in Audubon.
Now that Valerio, who refers to himself as Chief Bean Officer of the company, has turned his passion for the world’s favorite form of caffeine to certified organic fair trade coffee, naturally he needed a new name for the specialized brand.
And so Valerio Coffee Roasters was born.
“This was a good way to expand our business, and I wanted to do this brand so that we could actually do more for the farmers, and that’s why it’s a fair trade. I wanted the business to give back, to do more than just provide me with a living and this was one way of being able to do it. Using my name was a way of saying there’s an importance to this,” Valerio said. “I didn’t want these coffees to be grouped in with Café Excellence, which makes flavored coffees and other specialty coffees.”
In developing the new line, Valerio worked with the nonprofit Fair Trade USA, an independent certifier of fair trade products, which refers to a system of buying and selling goods and commodities.
In the case of coffee beans, it ensures that the local farmers who toil at cultivating and harvesting beans are paid a fair wage, regardless of the current
global price being paid for their product.
“Fair trade protects them and when the market goes down they still get their money,” noted Valerio, who works directly with some farmers and also with their brokers. “When it’s based on the commodities market there is no protection for the farmers; they will get whatever the market will bear at the time it is sold. The farmers who grow coffee are the most gracious and humble people you could meet, and they’re not looking for a handout. Fair trade doesn’t just give workers a higher wage, it also provides for community needs like schools, wells, and roads. Fair trade means that 20 cents per pound is a premium paid on top of the organic coffee price, and that goes back to the co-op. So, once a year all the farmers decide what they will do with the money. It’s a market-driven approach,” he added. “The farmers are getting more money for their crops, so therefore they’re taking better care of the product and the quality of the coffee is much better … and it’s not a charitable thing, so it really intrigued me.”
Valerio has been eager to embrace the organic coffee trend for years, he said.
“The quality just wasn’t what it needed to be until the last few years. Organic coffee now is a big improvement over what it used to be. They’ve come up with organic fertilizers and different ways of helping the plants flourish, so the product will flourish.”
Valerio Roasters coffees are strictly single origin, specialty beans, grown at high elevation — more than 2,000 feet above sea level, with only the ripe coffee cherries being harvested in Peru, Honduras and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Zeroing in on just the ripe beans for a good harvest is an art in itself, Valerio allowed.
“Just like your garden tomatoes don’t all ripen at the same time, the coffee picker must go back to the tree several times during harvest to ensure we get only the finest specialty coffee. Add the fact that one tree typically produces just a single pound of coffee per year, and you start to understand just how precious great coffee is,” he said.
In late September the season is ripe for Peru beans to start flowing into the Park Pointe at Lower Providence facility to undergo the meticulous roasting process that will ultimately land them on the discerning palates of Valerio Coffee Roasters customers, including Swiss Farms in Delaware County, White Dog Café and McCaffrey’s market, as well as those who patronize the on-site retail store in Audubon.
“More and more people have an interest in our coffee, and more and more restaurants are focusing their menus on fair trade organic or specialty coffee, and we’re more of a fit for them now. The consumer is really driving it,” Valerio said. “They’re sitting down to eat and they want lettuce that hasn’t been sprayed with something, and the organic coffee fits in with that.”
Anthony Valerio showcases the new Valerio Coffee Roasters line at the roasting facility’s retail store in Audubon.