Food & Drink

Volcanica Coffee Dedicated To Selling Coffee From Volcanic Regions Worldwide

When the husband-and-wife team of Maurice and Diane Contreras started making trips to Maurice’s homeland in Costa Rica (she hails from Miami), they realized that much of the coffee they preferred was harvested in volcanic mountain elevations about 3,000 feet above sea level. The light bulb went off, and the couple launched a coffee company, aptly named Volcanica Coffee, dedicated to selling coffee from higher elevations, in 2004 in Suwanee, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta.

Hence, they specialize in shipping coffee from higher elevation coffee farms from Costa Rica, Hawaii, Jamaica and a slew of other countries. Maurice Contreras noted, “The combination of the fertile volcanic soil, high elevation, cool climate, and moisture from the clouds nourish the coffee plants which produces a superior coffee bean.”

The result, Contreras said, is that “the bean is denser and has a sweeter taste.” He describes it as “very flavorful, like a fine wine, with different nuances from different regions and coffees.”

Having a niche business that focuses on one style of coffee has helped boost business, enhanced its brand and created loyal customers.

Volcanica Coffee sells approximately 150 exotic coffees including 70 single-origin coffees online. It also sells some coffee accessories and offers products from its Suwanee coffee plant, but has no other retail outlets.

Nearly all of its sales, 96% stem from the U.S. with 4% from other countries. The company has 16 employees; most of whom work in fulfillment.

It ships the beans roasted, and it sells its coffee in a variety of ways: online from its own website, via Amazon, and a subscription program.

Its business derives 99% from online sales. Customers are generated mostly online from customer reviews, finding it on the Internet, and Amazon.

“If you’re going to be a brand in our space, you have to be on Amazon,” Contreras noted. It offers “added convenience delivered in two days, sometimes one day. They make it seamless.” About 1% of its business stems from wholesale to coffee shops and bakeries.

While the pandemic decreased the revenue at many restaurants, it boosted sales at Volcanica. “We benefited from the pandemic. Many people were staying home and not going to their local coffee shops, like Starbucks. They were seeking solutions and bought quality beans from home,” he said.

Contreras said its target audience tends to be “coffee connoisseurs. These are people that are really particular about their coffee, and really enjoy their coffee black, without cream or sugar.”

Its subscription program is extremely flexible. Customers can have their coffee shipped once a week, once a month, or receive 10 pounds every three weeks, and each receives 10% off the regular retail price.

Its three most popular selling coffees are: Ethiopian, Costa Rica, and Jamaica Blue Mountain. In fact, it offers coffee beans from 26 different countries including Brazil, Colombia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Papua New Guinea and Kenya.

It also sells natural process coffee, which is a fermented coffee. They take more work to produce, he said, because “the beans still have the coffee cherry on them but they have a more flavorful coffee taste with floral and fruit notes.”

It also donates 1% of its revenue to a nonprofit organization: Charity: water. Why donate to them? “Many of these countries do not have potable drinking water, which is a key ingredient for coffee,” he said.

Volcanica Coffee is also a family affair. Maurice concentrates on strategic issues, Diane, his wife, on fulfillment operations including packaging, their son Aaron serves as director of coffee and oversees the roasting operations, and daughter Adriana is director of operations, concentrating on managing payroll, paying bills, and keeping the nuts and bolts functioning.

Asked if he ever envisions opening coffee bars in the future, Contreras replied that it’s a possibility, “but we’re just not ready. The restaurant business is a difficult business.” Instead he expects to step up selling to supermarkets, such as Costco, Publix Super Markets and Kroger, as well as local grocery stores.

“I expect us to be larger in the future than we are now,” said Contreras.

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