A passion for coffee

Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 1:54 p.m.
East Gainesville is home to Florida's first and only Organic and Fair Trade Coffee Roaster.
Sweetwater Organic Coffee Co. at 1202 NE 8th Ave. in Gainesville is committed to sustainability on every level, from its recycled disposables to its computer systems and building materials, said Nora Edison, co-founder of the company.
Edison and husband Chris Neumann, a co-founder, share a life-long passion for, and fascination with, specialty coffee, and they have been active in the American Organic Fair Trade Community since 1998.
According to the Global Exchange - a human-rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world - to become Fair Trade certified, an importer must meet stringent international criteria: paying a minimum price per pound of $1.26, providing much-needed credit to farmers and providing technical assistance such as help transitioning to organic farming.
Fair Trade for coffee farmers means community development, health, education and environmental stewardship. The Global Exchange went on to state, from information gained from Sweetwater's Web site, that Fair Trade means workers are ensured a fair price so they can earn a livable wage and make their communities more sustainable.
Neumann said his coffee beans are custom roasted in small batches to bring out the terrior, a French term in wine and coffee appreciation used to denote the special characteristics of geography and nuance of each individual origin. He said he has three degrees of Artisan roasts: light, full city and French. He said he also has three kinds of Artisan espresso roasts: Trieste, Viennese and Neapolitan.
"We came to Gainesville because we saw a need for a Florida-based gourmet coffee roaster," said Edison. "Our coffee beans are grown without any pesticides or salt-based chemical fertilizer."
Edison said organic coffee is good for the environment and wildlife, and coffee makers as well.
"Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world next to oil," said Edison. "The way coffee is sprayed is very harmful to the poor people who grow it. We sell organic coffee because we care about the people. Every bean is picked by hand. We value the growers."
Edison said business is growing 50 percent monthly both in retail and in wholesale, adding that the retail portion is being de-emphasized so they can focus on wholesale. The company produces about 1,000 pounds of coffee weekly, and during the week of Christmas, sold 2,000 pounds.
Since opening last April with only a few retailers on board such as Satchel's Pizzeria, the Paramount Grill and The Top, Sweetwater Organic Coffee has expanded its presence and can be purchased at quite a few places now.
"This is the best coffee I've ever had," said Sweetwater customer Kathy Clem, a social worker from Jackson, Miss., whose job brings her through Gainesville once every six weeks. "The coffee here is good for the environment, and good to the people who grow it."
Clem said she picks up 15 pounds of coffee every time she stops by, and added, "this is not just a cup of coffee."
Before moving to Gainesville, Edison and Neumann lived in New York City and the Hudson Valley. Neumann was roast master at Catskill Mountain Coffee in Woodstock, N.Y. Sweetwater Organic Coffee is their vision of a new century organic coffee that not only produces the best coffee in Florida, but serves the community as well.
Neumann said Sweetwater's fresh, shade-grown organic coffees come from around the world, and is artistically roasted daily in east Gainesville.
Edison said the business is growing, and that a new location will be needed soon.
"We are going to try to stay in east Gainesville because we love this neighborhood," she said. "A lot of people said we weren't going to succeed in this neighborhood, and I have a desire for our new location to be further east just to show people small businesses can thrive on this side of town."

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top