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Coffee with Cathy: Part Three

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An interview series with Zocalo's Coffee Roaster, Cathy Davies, and Administrative Manager, Alex Aimee Kist. In part three, Cathy tells us about sourcing green coffee beans, equity in the industry, and her favorite Zocalo roasts!

Here we go again!

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So you've taught us about your journey, as well as your roasting process. I'd like to take us back even further. What do you typically look for when sourcing green beans?

This has really been an eye-opener for me and something I have been working on and hope to continue learning. We only source specialty graded coffee, meaning that it has been graded to have exceptional or very good flavor profiles off the bat. This means that any coffee we get is going to be a great tasting coffee, varying only depending on folks' tastes or palettes.

Well, that is definitely a benefit!

Simultaneously, it is important to be conscious of the impacts our purchasing decisions can have in coffee-producing countries. It can be common in the coffee industry for smaller coffee producers to be priced out of a living wage, for the environment to be negatively impacted, and for a lack of transparency or traceability in growing and exportation practices.

That is a lot to consider. What does that mean for the workers?

Historically, the majority of the physical labor of coffee production; from growing, picking, sorting beans for defects (by hand) has been performed by women. These roles often earn the lowest wages across the industry. Meanwhile, the higher wage roles; land ownership/operation, purchasing cherries, exporting, have been male-dominated.

An unfortunate fact, but unsurprising. Is there anything we can do to shift the balance?

When I am sourcing coffees, it is important for me to learn the story behind how the coffee is grown so that we can create a positive impact at origin. Since 2019, we have used sourcing criteria that help ensure our purchasing decisions are not contributing harm.

Can you tell me more about that?

I look for coffees that are direct trade, farm-gate, traceable, grown by women or small-holder cooperatives. I love to highlight coffees that guarantee above fair trade minimums and utilize organic and regenerative growing practices. I love a certification if it is available, but have learned that sometimes the cost of certifications prices out smaller producers.

Now I look for certifications that stack with our sourcing criteria without standing on the certification themselves. Our coffees may be priced a little higher, but those higher costs translate to supporting initiatives at origin that provide access to education for women and children, healthcare, and housing and encourage working in tandem with the environment.

I hope that in this way, I work towards more sustainable and equitable purchasing practices and a brighter future for more than just large coffee corporations.

Is there a coffee you're particularly proud of at Zocalo?

The coffee on our menu that ticks all the boxes for me is Flourish, our coffee from Santa Elena, Honduras. Flourish is our direct trade coffee, meaning we purchase it directly from the producer, Alfonso Hernandez who is one of more than 400 small, family-owned coffee farms in the region. Hernandez works with Catracha Coffee Company, whose core mission is to boost the capacity-building opportunities for the people of Santa Elena, cutting out coffee middlemen, and connecting farmers directly with the specialty coffee industry.

In this way, the profit margins are controlled by producers rather than the folks exporting the coffee, and the producers are guaranteed an above fairtrade minimum price for their coffee. Catracha Coffee also builds additional initiatives into their coffee which fund training in regenerative and best growing practices for producers, a thriving women’s trade and artist collective, arts program and beautification of Santa Elena, and youth education programs and opportunities. Flourish is a delicious coffee on its own, but it also builds a foundation for the community that grows it to thrive.

There is something really special about working for a company that thinks about its impact. Especially with all that's happening in the world, I at least know I can be proud of where I work.

I feel the same way.

Well, Cathy, thank you again for your time. This has all been incredibly insightful!

For our readers, make sure you catch up on our past interviews! You can also follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter at

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