Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Red Star Coffee goes green for Earth Day


After five years as a mostly organic coffee roasting company, Red Star Coffee is changing its colors.
On Sunday, coinciding with Earth Day, the Santa Barbara-based company will be newly branded as Green Star Coffee. Its owners see the switch as a better reflection of their sustainable philosophy.

“We have been thinking about making this change for many years,” co-owner Kevin Donnelly said. “We’ve been Red Star Coffee, but we always thought that having a name that was a little more ‘green’ fit better with our core values.”
Admittedly, the company has always been on the forefront of sustainability and eco-friendliness, Donnelly said, with about 85 percent of its coffee beans roasted and sold as organic and standing as the only local roaster licensed by fair trade certifier TransFair USA.
But along with the name swap, Donnelly and his partner, roastmaster Daniel Randall, have dedicated themselves to selling only 100 percent organic coffee and will buy from just the top 3 percent of the specialty coffee market.
“For us, it is business as usual but with a new look and feel that reflects who we are in the marketplace,” Randall said in a prepared statement.
Other roasting companies typically sell about 5 to 10 percent of their stock as organic, Donnelly said, admitting that while it might be a challenge to go exclusively organic, the duo’s 25 years of experience in the specialty coffee industry give them an edge.
“We know how to get our hands on those coffees,” he said.
As far as the fair trade aspect, the company writes a check quarterly — about 15 cents per pound of fair trade coffee it sells — to TransFair USA, the nation’s only non-profit fair trade certification organization.
TransFair uses those funds to support coffee farms and neighboring communities by setting a minimum floor price, ensuring fair labor conditions, eliminating middlemen, investing in scholarships and training programs, and prohibiting pesticide use, among other policies and programs.
“It doesn’t give them fish, it teaches them how to fish,” Donnelly said.
The pay-off comes when Donnelly and Randall turn out a batch of slow-roasted coffee and put it up for sale at their Calle Real store, he said, and when customers compliment them on the low acidity and rich taste.
He said one customer, a dedicated patron of the coffee shop, came in one day with tears in his eyes, telling Donnelly that his coffee-loving wife had been unable to drink coffee for years due to stomach problems.
“All that has changed since she tried Green Star coffee,” Donnelly said. “She now enjoys her morning cup with her husband.”
The coffee-roasting pair will be on hand at the South Coast Earth Day Festival this Sunday at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, handing out brewing samples and explaining their philosophy.
Donnelly said the company, which until now had developed support by word-of-mouth, will be airing commercials, taking out advertisements, and using every method they can to tell local residents why their product is unique.
“I don’t know anybody else who is 100 percent organic,” he said. “We’re breaking ground, at least in the county.”

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