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Meet Leticia Hutchins of Alma Coffee in Cherokee County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leticia Hutchins.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Alma’s story goes back many generations with our farming roots. My family has been in coffee farming in Honduras for over five generations, combining over 500 years of coffee farming experience.

In 2017 my husband Harry and I were living in Chicago, working at public accounting firms and simply not feeling like we were doing our part to make the world a better place. We started getting more involved in my dad’s coffee farms in Honduras and quickly fell in love with the impact he was having on his hometown community of Corquin, Copan, Honduras. Not only was he providing positive job opportunities for the community, but he was slowly changing the coffee industry by implementing the model of D2R (direct to roaster). In a nutshell, this model allows farmers to get a fair price on their green bean (raw coffee material) and allows roasters to buy a better quality coffee at a better price.

After a few trips to the farm, Harry and I were hooked. We wanted to make an impact in coffee but wanted to take it even further. Alma Coffee was born! We took the D2R model and said, “let’s vertically integrate. We can roast coffee ourselves and open a coffee shop”. We put the entire system under ourselves; we farm, we roast, we brew!

By mid 2018, we had a business plan set! We quit our jobs, moved to our hometown of Cherokee County, and went after our dream of becoming coffee roasters! We chose Cherokee County for various reasons but the biggest being we loved it! Harry and I both went to high school in Canton. We wanted to move back to the south and bring specialty coffee to an area with no other specialty coffee roasters.

We found the most perfect property in the woods (reminds us a lot of our family farms in Honduras) in Holly Springs and became fully operational by March 2019. In these short nine months we have opened our first coffee shop in Downtown Woodstock, employ four amazing members of our community, adopted three farmers in Honduras and developed direct trade partnerships with them, and have brought in 160,000 pounds of green bean this year!

Alma does everything with three key principles in mind; improving lives, sustainability, and extraordinary coffee! We strive to improve the lives of everyone we touch, our employees, and our customers in all communities we serve! We do our best to be as sustainable as possible. We roast on the most fuel-efficient commercial coffee roaster called a Loring Smart Roaster which emits 80% less emissions than others and even ditched plastic straws in our cafe for pasta straws that have been a huge hit! Extraordinary coffee is something that we can guarantee because we control the entire supply chain. We literally plant the seeds, care for them for four years, harvest, wet process, dry, export, import, roast, package, and brew your coffee so we KNOW it will be extraordinary!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
With entrepreneurship, every single step is new. Harry and I are paving a completely new path in having a completely vertically integrated coffee chain. We are both 25 years old so we are learning and growing ourselves just as Alma is doing so.

We used our savings to start Alma so in the beginning, we were very frugal with what we spent money on. Initially, our business operated under a different name, we did our own branding, social media, website, etc in house. We quickly learned that we couldn’t do everything ourselves and hiring professionals to help us with some of those things would be better. In April of 2019, we rebranded to Alma Coffee with the help of local graphic artist Tom Cox. Our experience rebranding taught us many things about letting go and letting others help in things they specialize in.

Every day we are challenged to be better partners, leaders, roasters, baristas, etc… but every day, we are blessed that we can call those our challenges and continue growing and improving ourselves daily.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Alma Coffee – what should we know?
Our business has four components:

1)We sell green bean directly to other roasters across the country
2)We sell roasted coffee wholesale to our local businesses
3)We sell retail on our website
4)We have a coffee shop

We specialize in the best quality specialty coffee direct from our farms in Honduras!

We are known for our amazing quality of coffee and our outstanding customer service.

We are most proud of the impact we are able to have on others. We see it in many different shapes and forms. The appreciation we receive when we tell a farmer in Honduras we will be buying his coffee production and the relief in their eyes when they know they will be able to put food on the table for their family and even the smile we receive as we hand a customer their cappuccino at our cafe. Being able to improve people’s lives in small and big ways is what I am most proud of with Alma!

Owning our own farms sets us apart because we can control the whole process. As we plant the seeds, we know how we are going to roast that coffee and how it will taste when we brew it. It’s a level of control in quality that you can taste. Additionally, we are proudly a certified service-disabled veteran-owned small business!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Our Family, Employees, and Customers 100%

Our family has been supportive since day one of knowing our coffee roasting dreams. Shoutout to my dad, Al who always answers our call and texts to give us his wise words of business wisdom and my mom for always being willing to help when we need it!

Our Alma Team is second to none! We have been so fortunate to have a team that is focused on overall success of Alma, a win for one is a win for us all and we have definitely become a family! Special thanks to Liz Savage, our first employee. She joined the team before we had seen any sort of success. She came on board, knowing it was a risk and completely taking a leap of faith. We wouldn’t be were we are today without her being such a team player each and every day!

Our customer deserves the most credit! Without their support, we are nothing! We can’t thank you all enough for caring about coffee farmers and choosing to support ethical coffee! Our community has been so amazing, they remind us every single day of why Cherokee County is home!

Pricing:

  • Retail bags range between $14-$18

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Clay Goswick Photography

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