The Javataza Story originates in the beautiful foothills of the Chirripo Mountains of southern Costa Rica. This is a tropical area, often covered in thick fog that rolls down off the mountain and envelops the rural communities nestled around its base. It is here that Mennonites from North America, including our parents settled in among the local Ticos (another name for Costa Ricans). As children of self-supported “missionary” families, we had to work hard on our farms, helping our dads milk cows and make cheese. But Costa Rican life isn’t all hard work. We spent many hours roaming the tropical foothills or sitting in the shade of banana trees alongside our Tico neighbors, eating local fruits and sipping on freshly roasted coffee from the surrounding coffee farms.
In 1995, Nat Yoder started growing his own coffee, getting firsthand experience with the challenges of being a small farmer in a global, cutthroat industry. Sitting in the shade of the banana trees, conversations with his neighbors would often turn to the challenges and frustrations of relying on coffee as a primary source of livelihood. It was out of these experiences that the Javataza dream began to form.
In 2000 Nat approached Leland, who was settled back in the United States, with the idea of developing a coffee company that would directly sell the coffee from the farms in Costa Rica. We were convinced that our Costa Rican coffee was too good to be selling on the mass market only to be mixed in with inferior coffees and sold in global markets. The coffee from the Chirripo Mountains in Costa Rica could stand on its own. We set out to prove this with the founding of the Classic Costa Rica Coffee Company. Corey, the third partner in this venture, had grown up in Costa Rica also and was already a partner with Leland in other businesses, so it was a no-brainer for him to join us.
It didn’t take long before Nat and Leland were driving through central Tennessee in a black Chevy car with big “Classic Costa Rica Coffee” magnets on the side. We were armed with bags of roasted coffee and a passionate vision for sustainable coffee farming, fair trade, positive global impact, and traceability. We soon found out though, that the owners of country stores in middle Tennessee didn’t really care about these new-fangled ideas. As one store owner said, “All I want to know is if people like the coffee, and how much money I can make on it.”
Well, people did like the coffee and store owners could make money on it. So, we started shipping coffee from Costa Rica to Leland, in Texas. These first years were fairly hectic as we tried to get systems in place for our coffee company and buyers on board. One of our favorite stories out of this time encapsulates this era well. It happened while Leland was driving a pickup truck on I35, loaded down with a shipment of fresh-roasted coffee from Costa Rica. Somehow, a 100 lb. box of this precious cargo flew off the pickup truck and landed right on the interstate. Before Leland could rescue it, a car plowed into the box, throwing a dark cloud of coffee beans high in the air. The traffic continued to speed buy, grinding up the coffee as they drove over it. If it would have been raining at the time, that would have been one of the largest batches of coffee every brewed.
In 2006, we did a company overhaul, changing our name to Javataza Coffee. At the same time, we also purchased a computerized profile roaster so we could start roasting coffee stateside. This enabled us to provide fresher coffee with a more consistent roast to our customers. We hoped these changes would help us go from limping along to a thriving company. But, it was still tough sledding.
Finally, in 2008, we took a hard, honest look at why Javataza existed. Up until then we had approached the business more as a hobby. This wasn’t sustainable for the long haul. We had two options: Either give up the whole thing, or, go all in. We went all in.
We started focusing more on ensuring everybody involved was receiving value from our company, from the farmers to the end user. We simplified our selling points, improved our marketing materials, and created more competitive pricing. God blessed these efforts and it didn’t take long to go from slugging along to running at full speed trying to keep up with demand.
In 2010, our vision of generously serving coffee farmers became a greater reality as we expanded and began buying coffee from Honduras and Guatemala. Since then Javataza Coffee Company has continued to grow every year, allowing us to buy more coffee and provide a sustainable living for more farmers in Central America.
In 2017, we made another big change by moving our roasting operations and headquarters from Texas to Pennsylvania. This was the prelude to a company-wide facelift that we started in 2018. Partnering with an experienced marketing company, we completely rebranded with a cleaner, modern look and launched a state-of-the-art website. This was an effort to keep our company relevant in a highly-competitive, ever-changing market. We do this because we are as committed as ever to our mission of sustainable coffee practices based on the values of Jesus. The coffee world needs this vision and we are privileged to be able to make a difference by selling coffee.