INCREASE the quality of life for those involved—from tree to cup—through the commerce of coffee.
DECREASE our negative impact on the earth through responsible and proactive business practices.
SHARE our passion for great coffee through education and example.
It was 1993 and I had a new wife, a job waiting tables in Minneapolis, and a bunch of rejections from graduate school. I also had Vido, a friend from Brazil, who was trying to bring in coffee from his Dad's farm in Mogiana. I was helping him with letters of introduction and trying to craft a business plan when the stick turned blue and my wife suggested I get a "real job".
I borrowed 70 thousand dollars from my mother-in-law and Vido and I bought a container of coffee from Brazil. Then we got a business license, a phone line, a warehouse and a white cargo van. What else could you possibly need? As the coffee was afloat, there was a frost in Brazil and the market went from 68 cents to $2.70. It was great luck for us even though our first customer saw us coming and offered us 20 cents over the purchase price as opposed to the real value of the coffee.
Business was so good that we took our proceeds and bought two more containers as the near market high of $2.50. Buy high, sell low, or is it the other way around? I recognized the trouble we were in when, at about the same time, my mother-in-law was diagnosed as being bi-polar and wanted her money back. Two years later, I paid her back and was finally able to attend family functions. By then we had begun to buy and sell other qualities, found other sources of financing, and were still unloading the trucks and delivering coffee by hand from here to Chicago. I carried coffee on my back for the first five years and my back still aches when I think of sleeping in the back of that van on a bed of green coffee.
Looking back now more years than I would like to admit, I am really proud of how we have grown up. We are importing some truly special coffee from all over the world. We have a state-of-the-art cupping lab and training center in the MPLS Coffee Mill, offices in the US, Europe, and Australia, a line of credit from a real bank, a hedging operation and most importantly a terrific group of intelligent people who enjoy the work they do. We have great plans to do good things with our business and will continue to bring in the most remarkable coffees we can find. I still love coffee and hope to be working with it for the rest of my life. My idea of retirement is a small shop on the beach with a small roaster and jazz records and local art on the walls and me, roasting coffee.
Cheers! - Andrew Miller, President