Fair-trade. Direct-trade. Free-trade. Noble, yes, but let's be honest: all these bells and whistles are a lot to keep straight, especially when most of the time, if we're reaching for a cup, we really just feel like this. But one local coffee shop is at the forefront of the growing mission to source coffee responsibly—so responsibly, in fact, that the proprietors pretty much went above and beyond all those aforementioned labels and came up with a new one. It's called "seed to cup," and it's what Java Vino's been doing for years. Indeed, we know and love the little Poncey-Highland shop for its yummy baked goodies, wine selection, cozy neighborhood vibes and, yes, tasty coffee. (Oh, right, and its Scoutmob deal.) But what we didn't know? It's some of the most sustainable, responsibly sourced coffee one can get in ATL.
“Latte art is great and all, but we’re more concerned with what goes into making each cup," co-owner Steve explained to us. He and his wife Heddy Kühl opened Java Vino seven years ago, and ever since, they've been using their cafe as a way to impart a little change in a seriously dirty industry. "By its nature, coffee is grown by the poor and consumed by the rich," says Steve, who adds that about 80 percent of the coffee served in the United States is considered exploitative. "By making the right choices, you actually can make a difference." And until talking with Steve, we had no idea how much of a difference Java Vino is making. To wit:
1. The house coffee comes straight from the family farm—and it's been in the family for six generations. Heddy's family has owned and operated Selva Negra Farm, located in the highlands of Nicaragua, since the late 1800's, when a wave of European immigrants trekked across the pond to get in on the developing coffee industry. Now, Heddy's family operates the farm in Nicaragua, growing Java Vino's coffee and shipping it up to ATL for Steve and Heddy to roast. Sounds about as direct-trade as it gets.
2. Java Vino funds an entire village of men, women and children in Nicaragua, providing over 1,200 people with education, healthcare, electricity and more. "People don't know how much good they can do by simply buying coffee," Steve told us over a steaming mug of the shop's Dirty Nekkid roast, explaining that they even provide higher education outside of Nicaragua for some of their employees' kids.
3. They've been voted the most sustainable coffee in the world—and they've been doing the whole "sustainable" thing since before it was cool. The family gave Selva Negra a head-to-toe eco-overhaul back in the '80s, long before reusable grocery totes were hip. Consider this handy little statistic from the website: on average, Selva Negra (and all of its residents) produces less carbon dioxide than 10 North Americans.
4. When working with farms outside of Selva Negra, owners Steve and Heddy first visit and inspect each and every one. For them, factors like working conditions and chemical treatments are just as important as altitude, shade and varietals. Which means, if you happen to be curious about what exactly goes into that cup of Sumatran Kebayakan, Steve can probably tell you not only what sort of shade it's been grown in, but also what life is like for the people who grow and harvest it.
5. It's totally sloth-friendly. Everyone's favorite lackadaisical tree-dwelling mammal is one of Selva Negra's many non-human residents, along with over 250 species of birds (like this guy!) and dozens of reptiles and amphibians. Certified by the Rainforest Alliance, Selva Negra works hard to protect the many acres of virgin rainforest and its adorable three-toed inhabitants. A friend of the sloth is a friend of ours.
And there you have it: just a few of the reasons why Java Vino is a whole lot more than just a cozy place to snack on croissants and sip a caffeinated beverage. Or, in Steve's own words: "People can come in here and know they're supporting a business that helps people." We'll drink to that. And to the sloths.