AUGUST 29, 2019/ BY OLIVIA RAMIREZ
This September, we’re launching a (delicious) new partnership with Eleva, a sustainably-sourced coffee brand with a big impact. Through the partnership, we’re proud to provide Eleva coffee to our coworking space members 24/7 while supporting the company’s mission of giving back to rural farming communities.
We sat down with Eleva founder Emilio Baltodano to learn about his background as a coffee entrepreneur and the company’s work improving hygiene, food safety, education, and more for their partner communities. (Spoiler alert: They recently powered a kitchen to provide 300 students with a school lunch program for the first time!)
Take a look:
How would you describe a cup of Eleva coffee?
Eleva is easy-drinking, flavorful coffee that highlights the unique taste attributes of each origin. It’s always delicious and never bitter—because good coffee shouldn’t make you feel bad.
Can you share an example of how your team has been working to reinvigorate farming communities?
When visiting our community of Peñas Blancas in Nicaragua, it was immediately clear that we needed to replace the dilapidated outhouses that served as bathrooms for the school. After spending a day with the community, we found out about a government-subsidized school lunch program that they couldn’t take advantage of because they didn’t have access to a kitchen.
Thinking about the community’s two main issues together, with the help of some local partners, we identified an amazing solution—a bio-degassing bathroom and kitchen system. Instead of building new bathrooms with traditional septic tanks, we decided to create bathrooms that have a bio-degassing system which converts waste into gas to fuel a new kitchen. The timing was fortuitous, because it turned out that the Dutch government had a program to subsidize this exact system. In the end, we were able to raise the funds for the bathroom, kitchen, and bio-degassing tanks, and help build them.
Today, all 300 school children in Peñas Blancas not only have access to sanitary bathrooms (as do the teachers!) but they also receive a warm meal each day.Emilio Baltodano and a farmer surrounded by coffee trees
How did you grow Eleva from an idea into a business?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but spending 15 years as a coffee trader, traveling the world learning everything there is to know about coffee and coffee farming communities, was intense preparation for starting my own brand.
And it’s actually pretty unusual in coffee; most of the new brands out there have the same origin story—a couple of guys who love coffee thought it would be fun to start a business. Whereas I was looking at the coffee shelf in the supermarket one day and thought—Why is all the social impact coffee so expensive?
Knowing the numbers of what it costs to grow, roast, package, and sell coffee, I thought it didn’t add up and that there was a need for a socially conscious coffee that was relatively affordable. In a way, everything I did in my career up to this point led me to Eleva. And then, once I launched it, the support of my wife and close friends was invaluable.
We know you have a cafe in East Williamsburg, and you’ve just opened a new spot in Greenpoint. What drew you to Brooklyn?
Brooklyn represents a lot of what Eleva is about—bringing different cultures and communities together and making life better for all of them. On a personal note, it’s been a discovery for me as well, getting to know new neighborhoods in the city I love.
Could you tell us about your involvement with Project Alianza, an educational NGO?
Eleva is partnering with Project Alianza to implement a tested curriculum in the elementary school of our community in Peñas Blancas, Nicaragua that will ensure all 300 children receive a challenging and comprehensive education. The curriculum is tailored to focus on promoting literacy, health and hygiene, environmental awareness, and gender equality.
I have an 8-year-old daughter who is a passionate reader and a son who is just starting pre-K—so these issues are close to my heart. Since I was born in Nicaragua and much of my family is there, I love being able to implement this innovative program there. (Although, of course, we’ve also refurbished schools in our community in Santa Palencia, Guatemala and hope to do similar projects in Kossa Geshe, Ethiopia, our third origin, as well!)
Eleva’s overall mission is connecting coffee drinkers with coffee farmers and part of that is making the coffee farming communities even better places to live and raise children so that the next generation doesn’t have to move into the big cities to thrive—they can stay in the beautiful areas they call home and have a fulfilling, stable life. A strong educational system is a key part of that.
What are you looking forward to most about being part of The Yard community?
Bringing your members the coffee that they love while connecting them to our amazing small farming communities. I like to think of Eleva as coffee with a big, bold taste that makes the world a little smaller.
Special thanks to Emilio for sharing these inspiring stories with us. September can’t come quick enough. Over the next few weeks, the Eleva team will be joining members at The Yard to host an introductory breakfast and chat about their outstanding mission. Eleva is also providing members with a custom perk to purchase coffee at their local cafes and online. Just check The BackYard or chat with your community manager for the details.