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There are many places to get a good cup of coffee in Boulder County. But at Ampersand Coffee in Gunbarrel, you can get a cup of coffee that does good.

The small tasting room is just a slice of what Ampersand does. The company, which moved to Boulder from Glenwood Springs in 2015, only opened a public coffee bar last year, mainly to serve as a living laboratory for the coffee they roast and sell wholesale to coffee shops, offices and breweries.

Roasts are always changing, but they will all have one thing in common: Nearly every batch of coffee is grown on a farm owned or managed by women.

We sat down for a cup of espresso with the three men running Ampersand — the two women on staff were running the coffee bar — to learn more about the business:

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

1.) Why do you source your coffee from women co-ops?

M. Jason Westenbrook, roastmaster: Most coffee is already grown by women (according to the International Trade Center), but most of the women aren’t in a position of management or ownership.

Kurt W. Hans, CEO: Doing 100 percent fair trade, organic coffee got the attention of some of the importers we were working with, because outside of Boulder, it’s really unique. The importers told us about these co-ops. Then we did the research about how impactful it is to invest in women.

Women will re-invest more of the money they make back into the family. (According to the U.N., when women work, they invest 90 percent of their income back into their families, compared with 35 percent for men.) Kids become better educated, so you have a better economy. With a better economy, environmental conditions become better. So the issue of women empowerment can actually help create a better economy, getting people out of constant poverty, helping the environment, helping the world lift itself up. It’s the best way to start the upward spiral.

Westenbroek: We’re focusing on areas that need the most attention. Colombia has the largest group of independent women coffee farmers but they have a huge infrastructure so they don’t need our investment as much as, say, a place like the Congo or Rwanda. We want to invest in places we can build that infrastructure and help break the cycle of violence and lack of education.

We could buy high-quality coffee from speciality importers, but we’d only be making a rich coffee company richer. We pay a premium for that coffee, but the money is going back to the farmers. You’re never going to see me buying a Blue Jamaican or true Kona. Even Kenya, they have beautiful, beautiful coffees, but they have such an infrastructure, so they probably don’t need my investment as much as Rwanda or the Congo or Cameroon.

2.) So every coffee you have is female grown?

Hans: We do make exceptions now and again. There’s probably one in 10 or two in 10 bags that are still 100 percent fair trade organic, but they have a different cause.

Westenbroek: The only two coffees we have right now that aren’t women-farmed are the Honduras and Daterra. I bought it because it’s one of the most eco-friendly coffee plantations in the world. It’s very rare to find anything like that in Brazil, so I wanted to support them because they’re setting an example.

Hans: The Honduras is Smithsonian-certified Bird Friendly, which is a really hard certification to get.

Westenbroek: You have to have a certain number of native plants, a certain number of native trees, a certain number of migratory birds. It’s not just about stopping deforestation of the rain forest along migratory bird routes, it’s also about maintaining biodiversity.

3.) The coffee market is crowded in Boulder. How has your distribution worked?

Hans: We owe a lot of thanks to companies in Boulder that took a chance on us. Full Cycle is one of them. We designed their coffee bar (in the Pearl Street store) and we’re doing the coffee there. New Hope Natural Media we do the coffee in their office. Now we’re doing Neptune Mountaineering. We just helped them with food service application, we designed their bar, we sold them most of their equipment or sourced it for them and we’re training them as well.

We don’t charge a premium for the coffee, even though we pay more for it. We just take less of a margin. For somebody to be able to buy our coffee and have a cause behind it is really amazing. It’s high-quality coffee, fair trade organic and women empowerment and it’s the same price, so it’s a no-brainer really.

4.) Do you always help your clients with more than just selling them coffee?

Steve Cassingham, director of marketing and development: We invest a lot of time and effort in our clients. We visit our clients at least once a week, we’ll give extra training to baristas.

Hans: As a small business owner, you’ve got yourself in a silo. It’s nice to get as much help as you can. We’re a coffee roaster, but we use our retail shop as a demonstration space.

Neptune’s a great example because the owner is from Australia, and he likes Australian coffee drinks. We put some Australian coffee on the menu,and we’ll coordinate with a roaster in Australia to figure out how to make those drinks, then we’ll use our tasting lab to calibrate them before they go out. We’ll run them in specials here so we can train baristas.

Cassingham: And we’ll have the data that we can give to the client. We’ll be able to say, ‘based off our knowledge, this is what sells,’ and they’ll say, ‘OK I’ll take 5 lbs. of this.’

If you need a sign that says here’s what we’re serving, we’ll make that sign, pay for it, deliver it, install it.

5.) What’s the grand vision for Ampersand?

Cassingham: We have this 10-year goal. Haiti is one of the areas of the world that used to grow coffee a long, long time ago. Today they grow coffee, but they used to be one of the biggest and the best. Now it’s not. So our big goal is to build a sustainable coffee farm that is women-owned and operated.

Westenbroek: The International Women’s Coffee Alliance has already volunteered to send agricultural experts from Nicaragua and Guatemala to help get the plantation off the ground.

Hans: Our greedy goal is to try and get some great coffee out of there, the quality of the Jamaican Blue Mountain or Kona.

Cassingham: This is a 10-year goal because coffee takes six to seven years to yield consistently after you plant it.

Westenbroek: We hope in the next three years the coffee is in the ground, so in 10 years we’ll have a producing plantation.

Cassingham: And if that model works, it’s on to the next

Westenbroek: Yemen and Papau New Guinea are the other two on our list.

Hans: In the meantime, we’re just going to have fun with this business. The Haiti project is still early stages. But we’re all really excited. And it’s possible. All you have to do is try.

Shay Castle: 303-473-1626, castles@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/shayshinecastle



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