Java Pura helps small farmers sell to the World
The low, brown brick building in Houston’s Gulfton neighborhood isn’t especially welcoming.But, like the adage about not judging a book by its cover, it’s best not to judge the anonymous industrial storefront until you step through the door with the discreet Java Pura sign stamped on it.
Because inside, you’ll find yourself surrounded by an entire world of coffee—quite literally—and welcomed by a team of passionate coffee aficionados, ready and willing to tell you what they do and why they do it.
Formed in 2008 as a partnership between Richard T. Colt and Fielding L. Cocke, Java Pura seeks to offer the freshest, locally roasted coffee possible. They travel the planet, seeking community collaboratives and local farmers who offer a superior product in small quantities. For Colt and Cocke, the upside is two-fold: they get great coffee and they help small producers get exposure for their product.
“Sourcing is one of the most critical aspects of this operation,” says Colt. “If we don’t start with the best beans, we’re never going to end up with the best coffee, from our point of view.”
Being “the best” and carrying “the best” coffee is more than just another aspect of Java Pura’s business practice—it’s the only aspect. Colt, Cocke and master coffee roaster Ken Palmer are obsessive about finding the perfect beans. And they refuse to carry a coffee style simply because it might be expected. The day I visited, just back from my trip to Hawaii, I was told in no uncertain terms not to expect any Kona—the team simply hadn’t found any they were interested in roasting.
What they did find was a delightfully hearty Cerra Paldo Honey roast from Don Teofilo’s farm in the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica. The rich flavor was an entirely different coffee experience than any I’d had—which is how Java Pura intends it to be.
“We bought the entire crop of this last year,” says Cocke, who travelled with Colt to Costa Rica to meet the farmers behind the beans. “They invited us for lunch, they showed off their coffee mill (where the coffee beans are processed and readied for export or sale), it was a real family experience.”
Both Colt and Cocke agree that’s one of the best things about their business, the opportunity to connect with the small growers they represent. These personal relationships mean they are not only helping small farmers get their product to a larger market, they’re taking a personal interest in how the coffee in their clients’ cups gets there.
The process is intense. Nearly four-hundred man-hours go into producing one 152-pound bag of green coffee. The Java Pura team systematically evaluates every aspect of the green coffee beans they consider buying for defects in color, density, smell, or any other oddities and imperfections. They then roast these samples and cup them (a ritual akin to a wine tasting), evaluating acidity, body, brightness and flavor. If a coffee meets their high standards, they buy it. If not, they move on, looking for something else.
Ten different regions, from Costa Rica to Sumatra, are currently represented in Java Pura’s lineup. All of them come from smaller farms, and the team knows every producer behind each bean.
“Building relationships is essential to what we do,” says Colt.
Java Pura sells its coffees both on its website, www.javapura.com, as well as through its coffee catering service. All coffees are roasted to order and shipped within 48 hours.
“Coffee you buy in a coffee shop is often old by the time it gets to you,” explains Cocke. “Because we order smaller amounts and roast to order, ours is fresh.”