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A Passion for Consciousness: Karen Cebreros

Karen Cebreros of Earth's Choice Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund.

Karen Cebreros of Earth's Choice Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund.

Article by SDCN Assistant Editor, Pablo Lara. Photos by SDCN Staff Photographer, Julie Ring.

On a typically sunny San Diego afternoon palm trees danced to the slow breeze along a 
desolate Park Boulevard, with few cars on the road. This day brought me together with 
Karen Cebreros, full-time advocate of sustainability in the coffee sector; she is a wealth of 
knowledge and source of inspiration. 

Karen Cebreros at Hessian Global Goods on Park Blvd., San Diego, CA.

Karen Cebreros at Hessian Global Goods on Park Blvd., San Diego, CA.

We decided to enjoy a cup of coffee at Hessian Global Goods (Prounounced "Hess-si-an"), the perfect setting to discuss Karen’s upcoming projects, which are always resonating with global awareness. Coffee, the second largest commodity in the world, possesses the immense possibility of creating lasting impact on environmental and social fronts due to its large chain from farm to cup. The numerous opportunities to intersect environmentalism and humanitarianism in our industry are pivotal for its future. This is why we must take action. Karen has devoted the last twenty-years of her life shedding light and finding solutions to help the buttress of our industry: Women in farming communities. 

While drinking my coffee, its aromatics transported me to the narratives of Karen’s spoken 
words. Recounting her first visits to origin in the early nineties, before the advent of social 
consciousness in coffee, she witnessed firsthand the harsh reality of coffee farmers. She 
specifically noted the distressing situation women of these farming regions found 
themselves in. Cyclical poverty and abuse were the social norm. Cebreros quickly 
concluded that their realities were a direct result of the economic dependence on their 
husbands. Facilitating access to micro-loans for women at origin is an initiative Karen has 
been working on through the Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund, and the results are eminent. 

Karen truly believes that women are motivated by the necessities of their family, making them the best candidates for loans like these. Loan recipients have proved to be successful entrepreneurs, opening eateries and workshops that diversify family income. The inception of this initiative took place in Guatemala, and Karen hopes to extend the program to other coffee growing regions, such as Africa. 

To my excitement, Karen is launching her most innovative project yet: an automated café that will serve beverages made using coffee sourced from women-led co-ops.  The coffee will be roasted by Daymar Coffee Roasters; a company that has been an active supporter of Karen’s women forward initiatives. This partnership is possible thanks to the technological component of this project. Technology, coffee and consciousness merge into one machine, linking Karen’s green coffee sourcing and origin initiatives directly with the mainstream pool of consumers. 

“This is the culmination of twenty-five years of work,” said Cebreros. 

For many years now she has been waiting for the right technology that will best represent 
these coffees. The machine has a screen component with the potential to play images from the farm that day’s coffee selection originates, or perhaps the story of a woman farmer from 
that co-op your cup comes from. While this this closes the gap between conscious sourcing and market, will it accomplish this without compromising quality? 

I’m not going to lie; at first I was skeptical about the quality aspect of this project. And as a 
barista I don’t quite agree with the automation of our craft. Indeed, I had some questions 
pertaining to the brewing technology of these machines, which were answered by the creator, Howard Heller of representative. Heller is the maker of the machine for Earth's Choice, custom labelled "The Organic Coffee House."

How will water be filtered in order to ensure beverage quality and to prevent mineral build up, for instance? A reverse osmosis filtering system is used to ensure machine longevity 
and drink standards. What sort of grinder is employed and how will it stand the high 
volume projected? “This was in fact the hardest problem to solve,” said a representative of the Creator, and if you are 
familiar with coffee extraction, you know how challenging grind consistency is. When the 
purchase contract is signed, if you choose to only serve Daymar’s Women’s Co-op 
coffees, burs will continually be replaced under the guarantee. High quality conical 
burrs will be replaced by regional technicians along with filtering systems. Interestingly 
enough, the quality control gurus at Daymar Coffee tested the machine and were quite 
pleased with the results. Roy Gallegos, owner of Daymar coffee stated, “We were able to 
play with grind size, and frankly we had never seen a shot with such great crema and flavor 
through a fully automatic machine.” 

We will all have the opportunity to enjoy cups made by the automated café at A Small Section of The World: Women in Coffee Film Event on May 20. The Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) will host our screening of A Small Section of the World. From the award winning producer of Waiting for Superman, comes an inspiring story of a community of women in Costa Rica that against the odds sought out coffee as a way of bringing prosperity and sustainability to their community. The event is a fundraiser for the microfinance initiative discussed above. In fact, $5 of every ticket sold, will go to the Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund. The intimacy of the Museum of Photographic Arts will allow attendees to ask further questions directly to Karen Cebreros, Daymar and special guests that will be part of the Q&A panel.

The documentary film, "A Small Section of the World," is an inspirational story about a group of women from a remote farming region of Costa Rica whose ideas sparked a revolution in the coffee growing world.

I lastly want to emphasize the huge impact that the auto-café will have. The mainstream market still consumes coffees dictated by C Market pricing, unlike the third-wave industry, which buys green coffee at an elevated price. C Market prices and their fragility create pressing realities for farmers; higher prices paid by Cebreros’ sourcing will translate directly to the women co-ops. We hope the initiative succeeds, and if it does, it will reach a market far 
greater than that of the third-wave coffee shop.

Karen walked out of Hessian with a lovely vintage Tintin poster for her grandson. It reminded her of origin trips to the jungles of Peru. Certainly this kid won’t grow up with a provincial point of view!

Thank you Karen Cebreros not only for being such a pillar of inspiration in our local and global community, but also for supporting the mission of the San Diego Coffee Network in word and deed. Karen is a long standing member of the   Specialty Coffee Association of America   and a Founding Member of the   International Women's Coffee Alliance  . A native of San Diego, Cebreros, along with many of the early pioneers of sustainability and conscious coffee sourcing, have helped to bolster San Diego's reputation as the Conscious Corner of Coffee in the U.S.

Thank you Karen Cebreros not only for being such a pillar of inspiration in our local and global community, but also for supporting the mission of the San Diego Coffee Network in word and deed. Karen is a long standing member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America and a Founding Member of the International Women's Coffee Alliance. A native of San Diego, Cebreros, along with many of the early pioneers of sustainability and conscious coffee sourcing, have helped to bolster San Diego's reputation as the Conscious Corner of Coffee in the U.S.



Throwback Thursdays! SDTNT Recap at Lofty Coffee Co.

By Pablo Lara, SDCN Staff Writer | Photos by Jared Armijo-Wardle

A picturesque sunset in beautiful Encinitas was the backdrop for round two of this season's Thursday Night Throwdown. Lofty Coffee Co. hosted the event in their beautiful new roasting facility located next to Rhino Art at 97 N. Coast Hwy. 101 just across the street from their original cafe. The open space and pleasant summer weather lent itself to great conversations and a night filled with enjoyment. Lofty's hospitality shined in every detail.

The support of the local community was notable and diverse with a large showing of new faces, baristas and other industry professionals. Tremendous support also came from Empire Specialty Coffee Consulting, who matched the buy-in, doubling the purse from $200 to $400 for the evening's victor.

The Brew Bar featuring Blacksmith Coffee Roasters and Bird Rock Coffee Roasters greeted the crowds as wave after wave arrived to check out the latte art competition. The new guys in Encinitas served up iced and hot Chemex pour overs with their two Guatemalas, a Los Carrillos and Los Santos. Bird Rock offered two deliciously bright coffees, a washed Yirgacheffe and a natural Panama from the Eliada Estate.

Photo provided by Empire S.C.C.

Photo provided by Empire S.C.C.

Lofty's custom brew bar designed by Empire, with its 4ft Hario Kyoto and customized Modbar, had spectators buzzing. Baristas arrived and were eager to check out the machinery for the upcoming battle. Competitors were free to choose cup size from a selection of Motta pitchers in four sizes.

As the night rolled in, the 40 participants were ready to pour. The judging seats were taken by Rigo Hernandez of Cafe Virtuoso, Sheridan Owings of InterAmerican, and Clancy Cramer of Copa Vida. The competition was initiated with tulips, by Susie of Elixir and Jacob of Bird Rock. A five layered tulip by Jacob demonstrated his ability, later winning him third place. Three screens showing the pours allowed the spectators to walk around and not miss a thing.

Hungry event-goers feasted on delectable pizzas by Fire Mountain Pizza. This local catering company, based in Oceanside, centers on fresh and local products carefully baked in their portable wood-fired oven. Their gluten free pizza was nothing short of amazing!

Culture Brewing Co. offered a tasting of their Russian Imperial Stout infused with cold brew on tap from Lofty, definitely not gluten free.

The final eight included Jake - independent, Jacob and Kelsey of Bird Rock, Alex and Marco of Elixir, Javier of Das Cortes, Austin of Augie's Coffee House in Redlands, and Lanny of Everyman Espresso in NYC. Jacob's six layer tulip, Austin's four layered tulip, Javier's detailed rosetta and Lanny's centered tulip attained them a spot in the final round.

Munching away through my pizza I ran into Nick, a coffee aficionado who frequents coffee shops all over town. He commented that its fun to see that it's not just a JOB for us baristas, and that we do this off the clock. Nick was definitely not the only artisan coffee enthusiast in the crowd enriching the community element at the Throwdowns.

The final round arrived and tasty miniature churros were passed around; thanks Lofty! Austins pour beat Jacob and Lanny's tulip/rosetta knocked Javier. Jacob and Javier battled for third place and the fine lines in Javier's tulip lost against Jacob's pour. Anticipation was palpable as The Final Countdown played, livening up the crowd. Danny presented the judges with a detailed tulip/rosetta while Austin poured a perfectly even tulip. Both pours were beautiful and the crowd anxious. Matt, our MC, counted to three and Austin's tulip won him first place! Not to mention the $400 prize.

And the winner is... Austin Graham Amento of Augie's Coffee House, Redlands, CA!

And the winner is... Austin Graham Amento of Augie's Coffee House, Redlands, CA!

We congratulate Austin and also thank him for supporting our community by driving to San Diego to attend our event (He might as well take the prize, drive down to Encenada and make it a weekend don't you think?). We also want to thank our friends from La Stazione, Das Cortez and L'Abbraccio for making the trip across the border from Tijuana. 

Every TNT enriches our community. We seek to provide a space for people to meet, establish relationships, create an incentive for baristas to perfect their latte art and provide a platform for the best. Thank you Lofty Coffee!

See you all at round three, September 18, at Cafe Virtuoso!




Setting the Stage for Round Two! Standings are Out!

If you couldn't make it to last month's SDTNT at Coffee & Tea Collective, you missed out. I don't mean to rub it in, but what a show. Daniel "What Will He Pour Into Next?" Holcomb, C&T's owner with a knack for flair, wowed the crowd with innovative and difficult pours all night, outlasting some very talented baristas on the way to winning the event. It marked the second time a C&T barista won on their home machine, making them a perfect 2-0 when hosting an SDTNT.

Pablo Lara, the SDCN's volunteer staff writer and barista at Cafe Virtuoso, captured that night beautifully in his recap, which you can read here. Even if you were there, give it a read. That was only the first of four SDTNTs this season, which has baristas competing not only for that night's purse and prizes, but points (review them here) counting towards the overall season standings. At the season finale in October, the top eight baristas will compete after the final SDTNT for grand prizes, including an engraved SDCN tamp.

So, without further ado, I present the first standings of Season Two:

1st. Daniel Holcomb, Coffee &Tea Collective: 60 points

2nd. Alex McDaniel, Elixir: 55 points

3rd. Adrianna Urioustegui, Cafe Moto: 35 points*

4th. TJ Titus, Higher Grounds: 30 points*

5th. Three tied with 20 points: Marco Briseno, Elixir; Lindsey Salinas, Zumbar; and Miguel Torre, Das Cortez.

8th. Three tied with 15 points: Stephen Freese, C&T Collective; Kayla Noyce, Cafe Moto; and Sam Hong, Copa Vida.

11th: 12 tied with 10 points

23rd. 22 tied with 5 points

*I didn't record who won the third place pour-off. If I got it wrong, please let me know and I will correct it.

Please email if there are any errors. 

The completed bracket. 

The completed bracket. 


Good luck to all those who are going to compete tonight at Lofty! Remember, Brian Pitman of EMPIRE is doubling the purse tonight, so bring your A game! See you there!