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Get to Know Portland Coffee Roasters

Changing the game since 1996.

by Team Trade | May 15, 2020

One of the newest roaster partners to Trade, Portland Coffee Roasters' reputation certainly precedes them. This well-established roaster has been setting the standards for sustainability and sourcing in Oregon since 1996, and we're proud to share them with you today.

How was Portland Coffee Roasters founded?

"Portland Coffee Roasters was founded as Portland Roasting Coffee in Portland, Oregon, in 1996 by Mark Stell and Todd Plummer. The company began with a staff of two and built its business by sourcing and purchasing unroasted beans –– originally from Central America, South America, Asia, Africa and Hawaii — then roasting the beans and selling high-quality specialty coffees, mostly to coffee distributors locally and nationally.

Today, we have a diverse staff of nearly 100 throughout seven departments. The company has evolved from a primarily business-to-business operation into a consumer-facing brand. In 2019, we announced a brand refresh that included a name change to Portland Coffee Roasters, a new logo, website, and updated packaging. We made these changes to showcase a unique brand personality that supports our mission to create positive human connections through coffee by building a socially responsible business."

What are Portland Coffee Roasters' leading principles?

"Trust, respect, and integrity. We value our relationship with people.

We build business on these values in every step and process of producing coffee, from seeding to bringing a cup at the end customers."

Describe your overall vibe in a few words:

"Fun, accessible, creative, and unpretentious."

What do you look for when sourcing?

"Working with long-term in-country partners, like Miguelina in Guatemala and Arnoldo in Costa Rica. We have built trust over many years that the coffee is produced ethically and responsibly. Even when markets are down (such as now), we pay direct pricing to them. This is always well above even fair trade pricing and helps the farms grow even during times when many farms are taking a massive hit.

It's also important to work with long term importing partners. Similar to in-country partners, we have developed relationships with importers who we know and trust, who do the due diligence and make many trips all over the world to visit the farms we are buying from through them to ensure ethical practices as well as maintaining quality.

When possible we travel to the farms we buy from and gain first-hand knowledge of the operations ourselves. While this isn’t possible to do for every coffee we buy every year, this is why working with trusted partners helps so much since they or their team can and do travel to location.

And we're always seeking out new ways to buy. We buy coffee as direct pricing, Fair Trade pricing, and now we are working with an importer who does Farm Gate pricing. This is similar to direct trade pricing, except the coffee is purchased in parchment outright from the farmer at much higher prices than Fair Trade and all the money goes directly to the farmers. All the milling and exporting and logistics are then handled between the importer and us.

When we pay a fair price for coffee this ensures future generations of coffee farms can make a fair living off of their hard work and we can continue to roast and serve a truly special product.

Paying a fair price for coffee isn’t only beneficial to the farmers, with how volatile the coffee market has been there is real fear that people will stop growing specialty coffee for more profitable crops. When we pay a fair price for coffee this ensures future generations of coffee farms can make a fair living off of their hard work and we can continue to roast and serve a truly special product."

How do you approach sustainability?

"The word 'sustainability' can mean so many things, but for us it’s an on-going and steady effort of reducing our negative environmental impact while increasing positive social impact.

We have been following the United Nations SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) since 2003, to make sure we as a company define sustainability from a broader and international perspective.

It is not just about using recycled paper type of thing, but it’s also about contributing to reduce hunger, providing clean water and sanitation, health and well-being of people, education, promoting gender equality, and of course, reducing our carbon footprint as a company.

We have been 'carbon neutral' since 2007. Our headquarters and other buildings are supplied by 100 percent renewable energy. We’ve purchased over 423,000 kWhs of clean energy, all generated in the Pacific Northwest. That’s equal to the power consumed by 433 average Oregon homes for a year. We have been taking actions on different aspects of sustainability for over 20 years now."

Tell us about your community?

"Within our Portland community, we provide products and supply donations to local farming and educational organizations. We host a regular mobile blood drive, and participate in fundraising events with other groups of people from the food and beverage industry.

For International 'coffee' communities in the supply chain, we stay connected directly and indirectly by working with trusted partners. to Listen to what they hear in the growers’ communities — what are their needs and how can we help?"

What message would you like everyone to know about Portland Coffee Roasters?

"We’d like to let you know that you are choosing to be a part of this global coffee community, by choosing our coffee. We are committed to continue working on these projects in the future."

— Martin Barrett, National Sales Manager, Portland Coffee Roasters