Creating a moment, one cup of coffee at a time
Tue, 11/03/2020 - 12:03pm caleb
Local woman serves conscious consumerism with fresh roasted coffee
Kinzie Nena | Staff Writer
Downtown Main Street is home to some of the community’s favorite businesses, but there is one nestled between two local favorites. Between the AuSable Artisan Village and Paddle Hard Brewery sits a roastery gem called Coffee By Steph. A quaint barista’s station is set up between the businesses, where eclectic style from the brewery meets the fine art world of the gallery.
“A roastery is a place where they actually roast their green coffee beans and produce their own coffee,” said Steph Mora, owner of Coffee by Steph.
Coffee by Steph opened July 1. Originally plans had been set to open March 1, but with COVID-19, plans changed. That did not slow Mora down as she shipped coffee to subscribers who signed up to receive their ground coffee through the mail. She currently ships to customers in five different states either once or twice a month.
Mora was not aware at the time that her coffee journey began in 1997, when she agreed to a work study program abroad for an Ethics course, which took her to South America backpacking through Nicaragua to Costa Rica and on to Panama.
While her studies did not surround coffee itself, she worked closely with different workers who were involved with growing coffee and caring for coffee farms. Mora was able to see the working conditions, labor practices, see the amount of effort needed to maintain coffee farms and also learn about the different levels of consumerism and economics, according to Mora.
“Every coffee, depending on where it’s grown has particular flavors that are inside the bean, and as a roaster, it’s my job to find the good flavors, I guess you could say even burn out the bitter flavors. By understanding what is in the roast I can manipulate what is already in that bean, and depending on the region where they’re grown there’s different flavors in each one,” said Mora.
When another opportunity for a work study program arose, Mora again volunteered, this time going to Malta, Italy. Her travels had her stopping in Rome, where she experienced an Italian espresso for the first time. With a new found respect and appreciation from the experience of a perfected cup of coffee Mora thought about coffee again in a new way.
Mora’s venture with serious coffee creation began by offering coffee in the Paddle Hard II Brewery. What began as a way to encourage more daytime patrons slowly began to become Mora’s focus. Much of the equipment for coffee brewing was already available and after a few barista courses Mora felt comfortable making coffee. She realized that she could help recreate the experience she had in Rome for others. She could, through experimentation and study, make the perfect cup of coffee for those seeking that rich, flavorful cup of java.
Mora’s experience with different ethics work study programs and her experience with labor practices and ethical buying helps to remind her of the concept of ‘conscious consumerism’ which is, by dictionary definition; the increased awareness of the impact of one’s purchase decisions. In the coffee world, the growth and purchase of coffee beans can be summed up with terms like fair trade and direct trade.
“More of the craft coffee people are moving in the direction of what we call direct trade, which is where we make purchases directly from the coffee growers themselves so there’s less hands that the money goes through, which means more money for the person directly responsible for the product,” said Mora.
While fair trade standards have helped and protected the coffee farmers of the world, the direct trade option for coffee growers offers a more personalized opportunity to get fair pay, consistent quality of products, and better price negotiations for their products no matter how small the farm or small the business, according to Mora.
“I feel I have been blessed by the equal opportunities I have here in this country, but having been to these other countries, I realize that they do not always have the same opportunities,” said Mora.
Mora strives to purchase her coffee beans from more female coffee farmers, as she sees and respects the cultural differences. She chooses to support female coffee growers whose products are chosen for their quality as she sees the importance of giving women the opportunity for independence and having their own successful incomes, which can be life changing for them, according to Mora. Currently, Coffee by Steph has three coffees grown by female farmers.
“We’re going to buy our morning cup of coffee anyways, but to know that when you buy it, it’s not just benefiting you and it’s not just a good cup of coffee, but its actually making a change the world over for someone,” Mora said.
Coffee by Steph has future plans to be involved with the long awaited Northern Market, the farmers market on the Business Loop. There are also future endeavors to open multiple Coffee by Steph locations, potentially Kalkaska or Gaylord. Along with the business growth, Mora plans to create roaster programs to help educate other baristas and roasters to continue on her new tradition of great coffee in every cup.
“I love being a part of the community. I love being in a place where I can provide a happy moment, regardless of what’s going on in someone’s day. I always want my customers’ coffee to be exactly what they want it to be. Because sometimes you’re having the worst day ever, but that sip of coffee just exactly how you wanted it is just what you needed in that moment,” Mora said.
Coffee by Steph autumn hours have changed recently where it will be open from 7 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Coffee by Steph will be closed on Tuesdays. Coffee by Steph also serves tea, lattes, smoothies, and super food lattes, all customizable with multiple options.