On Sunday, Three Story Coffee co-owners Tony and Sarah Anderson gave away a bronze medal they won at a national coffee competition last month. The recipient was Mario Valiente Jr. and his father, Mario Sr., the owners of the El Salvador farm that produced the coffee.
Mario Jr. teared up during a Sunday ceremony at the coffee shop's Dunklin Street location as Anderson told a small group how his shop started sourcing coffee from the family when it opened in 2012.
"It was amazing," Mario Jr. said afterward. "That's why I was crying. I was emotional."
He said he will display the medal on their farm for all the workers to see the results of their labor. Making high-quality coffee, he said, is a chain that must have strong links from the grower to roaster to barista.
His family's farm, Calera, employs 20-30 people throughout the year, and more than double that during harvesting season, he said.
The Valientes, along with farm manager Jose McEntee are in the United States visiting some of the coffee shops they supply.
They operate a roughly 100-acre farm. Mario Jr. said it's getting harder to make a living growing coffee because the international price has dropped to less than $1 per pound. His farm is still profitable because it produced high-quality beans and is able to get a premium price from shops like Three Story Coffee, he said.
"I started to sell coffee in the U.S. thanks to Tony," Mario Jr. said, adding he previously sold his beans to Italian roasters.
The Andersons source their coffee directly from the growers in half a dozen different countries. When they opened the shop, that was the plan from the beginning: build a relationship with the farmers. That allows them to get the quality they want while letting their customers know where their cup of coffee originated.
"For me, it's the best way to get awesome coffee," Tony Anderson said.
The couple entered the Golden Bean Coffee Roaster Competition, winning bronze in each of the three varieties they entered. One variety was from El Salvador, one from Sumatra and one from Ethiopia. The coffee was judged using specific criteria such as mouth feel, acidity and body.