Andrew Miller, Cafe Imports Founder and Partner
To bring to the global market the highest-quality green coffees in the world by sourcing, developing, and innovating at origin, while providing sustainable economic development for small-holder farmers with price premiums, traceability, and long-term partnerships.
To consistently exceed customers’ expectations of the specialty-coffee buying experience with exemplary service.
To spread our passion for great coffee and environmental stewardship through accessible education and example from the farm to the roaster, retailer, and ultimately to the cup.
To be engaged and foster creativity in a dynamic industry through a focus on exploring every facet of coffee. To be honest, ethical, and respectful, and remain teachable in the ever-changing world of coffee.
- INCREASE the quality of life for those involved—from the tree to the cup—through the commerce of coffee.
- DECREASE our negative impact on the earth through responsible and proactive business practices that emphasize environmental sustainability.
- 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 $70,000 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 $0.68 to $2.70. It was great luck for us even though our first customer saw us coming and offered us $0.20 over the purchase price as opposed to the real value of the coffee. Buy high, sell low, or is it the other way around?
Two years later, I paid back the loan from my mother-in-law 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; offices in the U.S.A., 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, Cafe Imports