It's Sunday, January 5, 2020. I leave for Ecuador for the sixth time on Tuesday.
I'm nervous about leaving while Ben is taking classes. During the summer, he does it all - he bails me out - fixes what needs to be fixed - and quite frankly, refuses to let Z Beans fail.
But, we are a different business than we were 6 months ago. We have a strong team, on the wholesale and shop side, committed to daily success. With Carter leading the charge at the shops and with Xavier Iriarte doing an incredible job with inventory, the shops are going to keep pushing forward. With Tyler Warnock committed to providing the highest quality customer service and with his organization skills, our wholesale accounts will be managed just right. And at the base of all operations for wholesale, we have the most reliable man I have ever met, Antonio Mitchell. For over a year now, Antonio has made 99% of all products that leave the roasting facility. He has dealt with my critiques, instruction, and guidance. Through it all, he has not only become one of the most dependable people we have at Z Beans, but he has become an incredible friend to all of us.
I write that not only to tell you Z Beans will be just fine while I am gone. But, I know I am writing that for myself. I'm writing that to hopefully alleviate the doubts I have had over the last week - the sleepless nights - the second guessing of my decision to leave for Ecuador for a month to launch a new venture to expand Z Beans' mission of creating sustainability.
Z Beans Chocolate. I first tried Ecuadorian chocolate on my second trip to Ecuador. I was in Quito, waiting for the bus to take me to Zaruma. I stopped by a local chocolate store and purchased one of the authentic Ecuadorian bars they had available. I had never tasted a dark chocolate so pure - I had never smelled chocolate with such an intense aroma.
At that time, I knew I could only focus on coffee, as creating sustainability for Z Beans Coffee domestically was the vehicle to do sustained good for our farmers, employees, and our customers.
But, during some time reflecting this past year - thinking of all the people I am grateful to have befriended me, I thought about what all the farmers and people of Ecuador have done for Z Beans - their trust, commitment, and friendship. I began thinking of ways to create an even greater level of sustainability for them.
What if we could purchase even more of their products from their plantations? What if we found a way to encourage the growth of more coffee plants yet found a way to encourage continued crop diversity?
This concept birthed, Z Beans Chocolate.
While we will have standard chocolate with varying amounts of cocoa, our focus will be on chocolate bars infused with fruits from our farmer's plantations. We will purchase our chocolate directly from farmers, like our coffee, and we will purchase fruits from their plantations as well. We will dehydrate the fruits, grind them down, and infuse the fruit within the chocolate.
Almost all of our farmers have orange trees and/or banana trees. The farmers allow their workers to eat the fruits while working, but inevitably, they are left with additional fruit at the end of the year that their workers and their families cannot consume. Our goal is to purchase this fruit and their chocolate at fair trade prices, directly.
To start, all the chocolate will be processed by hand in Zaruma, Ecuador. Furthermore, the packaging will be made in Zaruma as well.
Once we bring the chocolate to The States, it will be sold at our coffee shops via chocolate bars and as a chocolate sauce that can be added to your beverages.
While we still have some logistics and legalities to iron out, we are excited about this new venture. I am confident that this endeavor aligns with our mission, to create sustainable solutions for hard working Ecuadorian farmers, and I am confident that we will produce a product that you will love.
Z Beans Chocolate - Coming soon!
Thank you for your support.