by Laura Sidsworth
Amber Avenue Coffee Roasters: On a mission to bring a better quality of life to under-served communities world-wide, while promoting camaraderie and great coffee in their local neighborhoods! Now served at Maya theaters and Old Town Clovis’ Old Hotel Bistro.
Recently I met with members of the Reeves family, Rick, Yoli and Chelsea, and spoke with them about their relatively new start-up, Amber Avenue Coffee Roasters. Rick and Yoli have been married for 27 years; are Clovis, California natives; and have three children, Tiffany, Chelsea and Trevor.
At People’s Church, where Chelsea and Trevor are musical young adult group leaders, Chelsea became interested in missionary work. She learned about a non-profit group, known as Medical Ministries International, which had been founded in Clovis in 1998 by Tom and Nancy Stoekel. Tom had been head of the ER at Valley Medical Center, and knew that surplus medical supplies and equipment were sent to landfills nationwide, every day. Upon visiting a 900-bed hospital in Lithuania with very few supplies, the Stoekels vowed to make a difference, and M.M.I. was born! In almost 17 years, the Christian-based operation has sent 45 sea-containers to 16 different countries. Each container’s contents were valued at between $450,000 and $500,000.
It amounted to over 900 tons of materials sent that would have needlessly gone to landfills. M.M.I. also takes teams of volunteers, and medical and construction teams overseas to provide clinics and assistance where medical help is limited.
Chelsea wanted to accompany M.M.I. on a missionary trip back in 2013, but first had to figure out a way to raise funds. Her father, Rick, decided that this might be best achieved by turning to one of his loves: coffee!
He started first by hand-roasting quality Arabica beans on the stove at home. Soon, friends and family were buying his first efforts and Chelsea’s funds were raised.
One day, Rick brought a large piece of sheet metal home. He announced he was going to build his very own roaster. He has since made it portable, and they transport it on their mobile coffee trailer to all of the events they now attend as vendors: Big Hat Days, Clovis Fest, Old Town Clovis’ Farmer’s Market, and Riverparks Farmer’s Market. If you’ve noticed the smell of coffee roasting at any of these events, that’s whose coffee beans you’ve been smelling!
I asked Rick how he chooses his coffee beans, and he replied that he works with only a handful of importers whose coffee trail is traceable, and the origins reputable. He frowned as he stated the worst practices in the coffee industry: child labor, and actual slave labor. Reeves rejects most beans he is offered as samples, and chooses only those that he and Yoli really like. The beans they work with are only organic, specialty-grade Arabica coffee beans, utilizing fair-trade market practices.
He is in talks with direct traders, as he and Yoli would like to be able to travel to the farms, visit the local farmers, and meet everyone involved in the operation, making a complete circle of connection from product to real people involved.
After the beans are chosen, they are roasted and then sold to wholesalers, online customers, and event attendees. The most important aspect of the business is donating a portion of each pound sold to the Medical Ministries group in Clovis. Yoli is in charge of operations and sales; Chelsea is the barista, and Rick masterminds the engineering and roasting aspect of the coffee beans.
I asked the Reeves if they have developed any signature blends/drinks yet. Their answer was: of course! For a Pismo Beach car show they were working, they created a “Pismo Blend,” a rich brew perfect for cool, coastal mornings. “Customers who bought it there, still ask for it!” said Yoli.
At one recent Fig Gig, they created a Fig-flavored coffee and iced tea. And, as in their quickly becoming popular Peach Amber iced tea, they do not use fruit flavorings, but rather real fruit purees. Other customer favorites are The Penguin, a mocha coffee created with different chocolates, and The Amber iced coffee, a vanilla blend.
Rick and Yoli recently attended the October 2015 Coffee Fest in Portland, Oregon, billed as the best trade show nationally and internationally, and came back literally brimming with new ideas to add to their coffee business.
They are excitedly looking forward to the near future, in which they will be opening up their very own café, which will enable them to create a hospitable gathering place, employ local people, and continue with their missionary trips and donations to M.M.I. They envision relaxing Christian-based music live (often sung by Chelsea and her brother), or recorded songs. I mentioned other businesses that do well with that concept, for example “The Starving Artist,” in Fresno.
At their future shop, a person will be able to purchase freshly roasted bags of coffee (most supermarkets’ brands don’t have a roasted date on them, says Rick, who emphasized that most roasted and ground coffee should be enjoyed within two weeks of purchase).
Yoli is excited by the prospect of meeting people, making new friends, and providing a place where locals can meet the old-fashioned way, over a cup of coffee, a place where people can meet to discuss their lives, events, hopes, and dreams. She also likes to say, “There’s a story behind every cup of coffee.” I asked for one, with a question as to their best-selling coffee this year.
Rick answered that it was an Ethiopian red-cherry premium bean, which interestingly enough, was an experiment this year for the first time ever. Farmers decided to pay their pickers higher wages for this particular crop, over any other, and so the beans picked this year produced a premium crop. Good energy and karma perhaps affecting the quality, I wonder?
If you would like to give the gift of premium roasted coffee this year, or would like to start a subscription for yourself (for as little as $18.50 per month) please visit their website at www.amberavenuecoffee.com or call (559) 260-0271.
If you are interested in adding to the charitable works of Medical Ministries International, please visit their web-page at www.medministries.org.