The Growers Alliance CafÃ© & Gift Shop on Anastasia Boulevard in St. Augustine isn’t just a business for owners Martin Kabuki and Purity Gikunju – it’s a way to help coffee growers in their native Kenya.
Children of coffee farmers, the partners know the hard life of the people who harvest the beans for drink.
While working as a dishwasher at a Panera Bread in Jacksonville and studying business at the University of North Florida, Kabuki found that Americans were willing to pay a lot of money for good coffee.
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Help others through coffee
“I was like, wait a minute, I’m from Kenya. We have very, very good coffee and Americans love coffee. I realize Americans are willing to pay $ 3-4 for a cup of coffee. “Kabuki said. “And in our country, the coffee farmers are very, very poor because they only get paid a tiny fraction of that amount. So I decided to start a business where the coffee farmers would be paid more.”
Having started slowly in Jacksonville over ten years ago, Kabuki and Gikunju moved to St. Augustine and now import four shipping containers per year of raw coffee beans directly from farmers in small villages in Kenya to the region where they are. have grown. Then they roast it, grind it and package it for sale.
âEach container holds 20,000 pounds of coffee, so four times, or about 80,000 pounds a year, so that’s a lot of coffee,â Kabuki said.
More than a company, a mission
âThere are a lot of other countries that grow coffee – for example, Colombia and Brazil – but none of them have a climate like Kenya due to the high altitude, so the coffee comes out very, very good. That’s what makes us different, “Kabuki said.
The company has two missions, according to Kabuki. The first is to give farmers a better price for raw beans, sometimes up to 10 times their normal price.
âWe believe in paying a salary just because there is so much work they do,â Kabuki said. “Coffee is very, very laborious. You have to pick it on the farm. You have to dry it in the sun. You have to remove all the impurities by hand. It’s very, very manual.”
The second mission is to use part of the profits of the company to help their communities of origin.
During return trips to Kenya, partners paid for water wells for villages and helped fund a community hospital in Naivasha town with a 16-station dialysis clinic; they bought school uniforms and primary school supplies; and they installed electricity to a cooperative society of coffee producers with 300 members.
The Growers Alliance sells hot and iced coffee and authentic handmade Kenyan pastries to pay for charity work, including a donut called mandazi and samosas stuffed with chicken, beef or vegetables.
Their menu also has sweet offerings, such as lime pie and chocolate cake.
Their ground coffee can be purchased at the boutique, online at growersalliance.com, at the St. Augustine Beach Farmers’ Markets on Wednesdays and at the St. Augustine Amphitheater on Saturdays, and at select Publix grocery stores.
The cafe is licensed for beer and wine, seats 60 indoors and outdoors, and features live music on weekends.
On sale in the Cafe’s Dining Room, which is a converted gas station built in the 1960s, are handmade Kenyan crafts, including baskets made by women who harvest coffee in the months before the beans are not ready to be picked.
Growers Alliance CafÃ© and Gift Shop
Hours: 6 am to 8 pm Monday to Friday; from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday; from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday
Address: 322, boulevard Anastasia, Saint-Augustin
Ancient City Eats appears every Thursday in The Record. If you know of any restaurants or chefs that should be featured, contact Colleen Jones at 914-494-1238 or [email protected]