The California-based roasting company’s Best Friends Club is helping its partner growers in Honduras invest in their communities.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Cat & Cloud Coffee
In spring 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full force and global lockdowns in effect, Jared Truby was longing for connection. The coffee pro, who owns Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Cat & Cloud Coffee with Chris Baca and Charles Jack, launched the hashtag #firstsip around that time, allowing coffee professionals and consumers to connect virtually while they were unable to do so in person.
Months later, two hurricanes—Eta and Iota—devastated Honduras, with several of Cat & Cloud’s partner cooperatives affected by the storm. Jared, still seeking connection amid the extreme challenges of the pandemic, saw an opportunity.
“The two hurricanes hit back to back, and it just demolished so much of that country,” Jared says. “It was horrible. We’re in a relationship with producers there; some of them had lost their homes, and they were not going to be able to sell coffee for a while. So I was thinking, what can we do to help, and to foster this concept of connection?”
That situation quickly led to action: Jared and Cat & Cloud formed the Best Friends Club (BFC), an initiative to support the company’s partner producers, starting with five partners in Honduras. Through the initiative—which Cat & Cloud nurtured through the pandemic and is now expanding—the company commits to buying all the partner producers’ coffee, then sends back $1 from each bag of coffee sold to the farmer, allowing them to invest in projects improving their farms and communities.
“BFC was born out of a desire to take our farmer relationships to the next level,” writes Cat & Cloud on its website. “… BFC is our way of defining what we are doing to support ’relationship coffee’ in a clear and concrete way, so we can better support our farmer partners.”
Launching the Initiative
While Jared is not Cat & Cloud’s main green-coffee buyer—Charles Jack has that role—circumstances led to Jared taking the lead in establishing the company’s buying relationships in Honduras prior to 2020. He connected with Benjamin Paz, who owns the mill and exporting company San Vicente in the Santa Bárbara Department; Benjamin then connected him to the five producer partners in Honduras who would eventually become the inaugural members of the Best Friends Club: Angel Antonio Rivera, Damian Chavez, Pedro Garcia, Nelin Guzman, and Wilson Morales.
The Best Friends Club works like this: Each year, Jared and the Cat & Cloud team visit Honduras with Benjamin Paz, connecting with each BFC member and their families for a half-day or whole day to hear about their activities, their businesses, and more. Through those conversations, the group will identify what the money from the Best Friends Club initiative can go toward. Months later, the $1 from sales of each producer’s coffee will funnel back to the producer. Says Jared, “I want to work with these people who are trying to develop their livelihood and continue to do better in specialty.”
Since the initiative’s inception in 2020, Best Friends Club payments have helped fund everything from surgeries to gear, fertilizer, and payments for pickers. One current Best Friends Club project with Wilson Morales is aiming to create protection for an endangered species of magnolia. “They also found a new sub-species of magnolia that works symbiotically with specialty coffee; it grows quickly, the wood is worth a lot of money, and it’s providing shade and bringing a bunch of pollinators to the area,” Jared says. “It’s potentially a big help ecologically, especially in the time of climate change. Supporting something like that is what the Best Friends Club is about.”
Expanding the Model
With the Best Friends Club now three years into its existence, Cat & Cloud is looking to expand the initiative into Colombia. The company works with roaster and green-coffee company Azahar Coffee there; together they are identifying potential partners, which Cat & Cloud will visit to cement the relationship before welcoming them into the Best Friends Club.
Additionally, Jared is inviting others in the specialty-coffee industry to consider similar programs to help their partner producers succeed and thrive. “Hopefully it does encourage other companies just to start looking at ways that are outside of the box,” he says, “and to consider what the impact could mean for those communities.”
Jared says the Best Friends Club has helped improve and add extra meaning to Cat & Cloud’s relationships in Honduras, and he’s eager to see other positive impact happen at origin. “I think the overarching theme is, how can we all help each other to get to a better place?” Jared says.
READ THE LATEST BARISTA MAGAZINE
Out now: It’s the August + September 2023 issue of Barista Magazine, featuring Boram Um of Brazil on the cover. Read it for free with our digital edition. Get your Barista Magazine delivered; start a subscription today! Visit our online store to renew your subscription or order back issues.