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Can coffee change the world? It’s one question former engineer Bill Landahl asked himself when he bought his first coffee roaster in 2012. Unlike most who start coffee roasting companies, Landahl’s business wasn’t born from a multi-decade passion for coffee, but instead from a deep calling to make a difference in the world one cup of Joe at a time. He noticed a disconnect between the $3 to $5 cost for a cup of specialty coffee, and the third-world status of the countries where the beans were sourced. Deeper research led him to learn that most fair-trade farmers only earn $0.20 per pound from their coffee sales, even if the beans cost a dollar per pound because so many middlemen take their share of the sale.
Landahl made up his mind that breaking out of this outdated fair trade system was how he’d leave his mark locally. Oak City Coffee Roasters specializes in direct trade, meaning the per pound purchase of the coffee beans goes directly to the farmer, immediately increasing their quality of life. Kabum, their award-winning blend, is from the Ugandan farm of Grace Chesang, a woman who was able to send her children to college thanks to working with Oak City. Stories similar to hers can be heard on coffee bean farms in El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Improving lives in under-developed countries while enjoying the fruits of their labors in Raleigh gave birth to Landahl’s personal motto, “Love Locally, Love Globally”, one that is now being embraced by other cafes in the area who brew with Oak City beans including Cafe de los Muertos.
“It’s a local celebration,” says Landahl. “We love that we can have the best coffee in the world and make it right here. I want Oak City to have the personality of Raleigh, where people really care about and love what they create.”
High quality, locally-roasted beans was a big reason why Crema on Fayetteville chose to source from Oak City Coffee Roasters. “He’s three streets away, you can get more local than that,” says Mikhail Jannik, General Manager of Crema.
“Raleigh is not a slow moving southern city. People are very forward thinking and support businesses that want to do things differently,” says Landahl. “On top of that, coffee is an affordable luxury that ties in so well with this movement in Raleigh to connect with where your food comes from.”
That love for Raleigh has extended directly into his newest project, City Cups, coffee pods prepared by a team of workers with autism and other disabilities from local non-profit Wake Enterprises. Through the City Cups initiative, Oak City Coffee Roasters has been able to come full circle with its motto, spreading the love both abroad and right here in Raleigh.
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