They say bigger is better, at least here in America, where the rush to be the biggest double XL full-sized King Kong permeates so many aspects of our culture. But one company is out to challenge that notion: Cafe Imports, our longtime friends and partners based in Minneapolis, who are helping push the green coffee game forward by launching a new division dedicated to all things small, accessible and boutique.
Meet La Bodega Small Bag Specialty Green Coffee. You can think of it as the quality-focused micro division of Cafe Imports, but it comes with a fresh brand identity, dedicated staff, and an all-new website, launching today. Whereas green coffee buying has long been tethered to large-format purchases—typically 150+ lbs of coffee at time—La Bodega is focused on offering 50-lb microlots of select coffees from the Cafe Imports global portfolio.
The potential implications for this new program are huge, and we see it as dovetailing neatly with the rise of small-scale, quality-obsessed micro-roasters popping up around the world, challenging the most established brands in coffee. It's never been easier to get in the game as a micro-roaster, and La Bodega seeks to be a one-stop shop—hence the name—for micro-roasters looking to buy small-format, high-quality green coffees.
To learn more about the program we spoke with Omar Herrera, Manager at La Bodega. “We couldn't be more excited about La Bodega,” he tells Sprudge co-founder Jordan Michelman. “It is a new way to get some incredible coffees from some inspiring farmers in the hands of many more quality-focused roasters in the US.” The new brand goes live today, and you can learn much more following this interview by cruising over to Bodega.Coffee.
This interview has been edited and lightly condensed for clarity.
Hello Omar Herrera, and congrats on launching La Bodega. First off: why is Cafe Imports launching a boutique division?
La Bodega is a means to create greater accessibility to exceptional green coffee. Now, more than ever, we are seeing people getting into the craft of roasting with a wealth of information and resources at their fingertips. In recent years, the US Office of Café Imports has seen an explosion of new micro-roasters who are just starting out and find it a little daunting to buy 150+ lbs of coffee at a time, these smaller bags give them easier access to those exceptional coffees.
La Bodega’s 50-pound ‘bags you can lift’ were born out of that need to provide access to not only great coffees, but educational resources, transparency, traceability, and a simplicity of ordering that new start-up roasters genuinely need.
While La Bodega is leveraging the sensory, sourcing, and logistical expertise of Café Imports, it will operate completely independently, with its own staff and resources.
Who is this for? Who is your ideal client?
Everyone! But we expect the market for La Bodega to be these new and smaller market roasters that want to roast and serve coffees that embody a level of quality unmatched by other options. Elaborating on the last point, access to smaller industrial roasting equipment has increased significantly in the US. Our good friends at Mill City Roasters, for instance, offer a wide range of entry-level roasters (equipment) with service and support that is focused on the smaller roaster (person).
What kind of coffees will be featured?
La Bodega’s starting lineup will feature a full menu of exciting coffees, including some really cool processing and variety experiments, new emerging origins, and excellent supporting workhorse coffees. With our focus set on providing small 50-pound bags to entry-level roasters and beyond, we want to feature a wide range of coffees across different quality levels in an effort to really aid in the growth and development of our roasting clients.
How can a roaster buy this coffee?
It’s easy and everything is done right online! Prospective buyers can start by registering for an account and viewing our offerings at BODEGA.coffee, sorting through our offerings by origin, process, certification or program, flavor notes and more. Each coffee will have its own unique profile that will provide the score, pricing, and any available traceability information. With one click, you can add a sample, or a 50-pound bag to your cart.
An invoice and shipping info will be directly emailed after checking out. Shipments will go out within a maximum of 48 hours after ordering (usually faster) and will ship for free in our 50-pound GrainPro-lined jute bags via FedEx Ground—the option for expediting shipping is available with an added cost.
We’ve designed the user experience to help our customers easily find the right coffee for them. Our transparent scoring system and ability to order samples will allow our customers to understand what a particular score means to us, and over time, the trust that is developed between us and them will make the process even more worry free. Shipping is included for free on both 50-pound La Bodega bags and 1-pound samples.
Will there be a minimum order?
There is no minimum. All La Bodega bags are neatly shipped for free, 50 pounds at a time.
Will customers be able to sample the coffee?
Calibration between us and our roasting clients is key. We want to make sure our customers understand what our scores and notes mean to us, and how it relates to them on the cupping table. For that reason, we offer 1-pound samples to purchase, which also include free shipping.
Will there be exclusive La Bodega coffees on offer?
Working in tandem with Cafe Imports means that we are leveraging nearly 25 years of sourcing expertise. With that comes many profound producer-partner relationships and the ability to work with those producer-partners to create exclusive coffees based on what our customers want. At launch, our offerings will closely resemble Cafe Imports’ offerings in an effort to make a variety of those coffees more accessible to new and smaller roasting companies.
Can home roasters get involved?
La Bodega is a green coffee wholesaler, so a valid EIN is required to buy from us. Essentially, you have to be a business or in process of establishing your business to buy.
Any big name coffee farms involved at jump? You know, award winners, the big cheeses.
For our starting lineup, we really wanted to highlight the hard work and innovation that producers pour into their coffees to make them excellent. The menu will included notable producers such as Don Sabino of Finca El Jordan and Jhonnathan Camacho of Finca Zapote III out of Costa Rica. From Colombia, we will feature coffees from groups such as La Asociación Los Naranjos de San Agustin, the group Aromas del Sur, and Huila Best Cup contestant Amparo Moncayo to name a few. We’ll have some well-known farms represented from Brazil, as well as notable washing stations in Ethiopia and Rwanda.
Does this project supplant your current “ACES” program, or supplement it? In general, how do you see La Bodega fitting into the wider offering at Cafe Imports?
Because La Bodega will act as a separate entity from Café Imports, it won’t affect ACES offerings. ACES was a program developed to highlight the best of the best lots and sell it in 20-kg bags. While La Bodega likely will also have a best of the best mark and program, we are not launching with one in particular, although several lots are near or above 90 points. Stay tuned for that, and follow @labodegacoffee on social media for updates.
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.
All photos courtesy of Cafe Imports.