Coffee Business Booming in Houston Since Port of Houston Was Named Green Coffee Port
by: Ed Mayberry, March 3, 2008 6:03:00 am
Clancy Rose works as a roaster at Cuvee Coffee on Louetta in Spring.
"So this green coffee storage. We have bags of green coffee. On the skin of coffee beans, it's like, it's kinda like the skin on peanuts. Comes off during the roasting process, and gets collected into the chaffe collector..."
Coffee roasters and distributors like Cuvee benefit in part because the New York Board of Trade designated Houston as the nation's fourth green coffee port. That makes the Port of Houston an approved delivery point for the coffee "C" futures contracts that trade on the board's Coffee, Sugar and Cocoa Exchange. That means tax incentives for storing unroasted coffee at the port. That's leading to more jobs in the processing industry. Jan Lawler is with the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region.
"Now we're the nation's top-ranked port for imports of coffee traded on the New York Board of Trade specifically. Now we are seeing the growth of coffee retailers and other parts of that economic commerce in our area, and we have been holding a symposium we've had three in the last 36 months--where we have probably about 200 small business owners coming in and finding out 'what is the basic thing that I need to know to be able to get on the train with this coffee?'"
Greater Houston Coffee Association president Carlos deAldecoa says there's been a trickle-down effect.
"Most of the warehouses are on the east end. Maybe seven warehouses in Houston that are certified for storage of coffee. A little bit of a boom, you could say, in the number of coffee-dedicated businesses--not just actual retail of coffee, but even in supplying and servicing the major manufacturers in the area."
Mike McKim started Cuvee Coffee, and regularly travels to meet with farmers in Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador who are willing to change some of the ways they operate.
"Not necessarily the growing part of it. I mean, they know growing coffee way better than I do, so I would never tell them how to grow coffee. This one farm in El Salvador they work with, they do five pickings during the harvest cycle so that they can pick only the ripest cherries. The problem with that is obviously you're paying somebody five times to do the same job versus paying them one time." Ed: "But you get to follow the sort of quality trail from the very beginning in going down there." "And it all filters down. You know, the farmers that are successful creating quality coffee, it turns into financial success for them, obviously, because we pay more money for that coffee. And then, that money flows to their workers and then into their community, and it's a really cool trickle-down effect."
Cuvee has doubled its business in each of the last three years with almost no marketing. McKim didn't even have a business card until last year, and he expects to break the million-dollar mark in revenues this year.
Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.