Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters – From Finca el Valle in Antigua to Capital Way in Downtown Olympia



By Nikki McCoy

batdorf coffee olympia
Batdorf & Bronson’s Dancing Goats Espresso Bar, located across the street from the Olympia Farmers Market, is a local favorite.

What does it mean to be a community-based coffee wholesaler? To Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters, it means building relationships – with neighbors here in Olympia, to growers across the globe.

“For us, relationships are currency,” says Mike Ferguson, business development director at Batdorf & Bronson. “This goes for our relationships with customers as well as our suppliers. We visit the farms from which we buy coffee. We know the families personally. In some cases, we have watched children grow up to take over operations of the farm. We bring this same philosophy to our relationship with customers, many of whom have been with us for more than 20 years.”

This philosophy extends beyond the coffee community, with the company maintaining strong bonds with local non-profits, such as Harlequin Productions, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Taste of the Market and more. Batdorf & Bronson staff regularly participates in Intercity Transit’s Bicycle Commuter Contest and donates coffee and time to the annual Downtown Olympia Clean-up.

Owner Larry Challain was one of the first presidents of the Olympia Downtown Association (ODA), and Dave Wasson, COO, is on their board as well. Aaron Shively, operations director is on the board of Sustainable South Sound.

“These connections are important to us because forming sustainable relationships that help everyone involved is probably the single most important key to our company’s success,” says Shively. “That and buying the best coffee we can get our hands on. It’s simply what we believe in.”

Part of that belief is demonstrated in their relationship with one of their coffee suppliers, the Gonzalez family and their farm, Finca el Valle.

“We’ve had a direct partnership with Cristina and her family since the mid-1990s,” explains Shively. “It’s one of the first roaster/producer partnerships in specialty coffee and we’re very proud to offer their coffee. It’s one of the perennial staff favorites.”

“Relationship Coffee” is the term Batdorf & Bronson has adopted to describe the dynamics of their direct trade partnerships. According to the company’s blog, the business of relationship coffee follows the model of a farmers market.

batdorf coffee
Cristina Gonzalez and her family work directly with Batdorf & Bronson’s Coffee Roasters to supply them with the best coffee possible – sustainably grown and harvested. This partnership is one of the first in the industry, and is a wonderful example of “Relationship Coffee.” It’s been ongoing for more than 13 years.

“Traditionally, when you shop at a farmers market the price the farmer is asking, ideally, has little to do with the price that is being charged at the chain grocery store or a commodity market trading futures,” the blog states. “The farmer, understanding his costs and needs going forward, puts a price on his goods. When the value you place on that product matches the price the farmer puts on it there is a sale.”

This model supports Batdorf & Bronson’s commitment to sustainability, the unwavering backbone of the company, and reaches the environmental level as well – Batdorf & Bronson started as the first specialty coffee roaster in the nation to run on 100% renewable energy.

It’s these careful steps that brought Batdorf & Bronson to become a large-scale micro-roaster, with word-of-mouth prompting another roastery to pop up in Atlanta in 1994, ensuring east coast businesses the same freshness we get here. Now, the company wholesales to hundreds of businesses across the United States and overseas.

But it all circles back to home and to people. Batdorf & Bronson supports their partnerships by providing barista training to the business and by honoring the process of sustainable growth.

“Like attracts like and the best (wholesale) customers are those with whom the value exchange has to do with more than money,” says Ferguson. “When a customer is successful, we celebrate their success for its intrinsic value long before we think about the profit.”

“My entire marketing plan can be summed up in the phrase, ‘Taste Our Coffee. Meet Our People,’” adds Ferguson. “Yes, our coffee is amazing, roasted by true crafts people every day and always fresh. You may come to us for the coffee but you will stay for our coffee and our people.”

Abbie Rose, co-owner of Bagel Brothers in Olympia, gets their espresso and Mighty Tea leaf from Batdorf & Bronson.

“They’re really easy to work with,” she says. “They are a great resource for espresso because they have a training room inside the roastery downtown. There’s a person there you can schedule training with to learn more about making coffee. We continue to use it whenever we hire new baristas.”

This standard of customer service ripples through their wholesale clients (many of whom are staples in the Olympia area, like The Evergreen State College) to the regulars who visit those establishments.

In downtown Olympia, a trio of resources exists for retail customers, with Batdorf & Bronson’s parent store located on Capital Way, their Tasting Room on Market Street, and their Dancing Goats Espresso Bar across from the Olympia Farmers Market.

“I’ve been coming to Batdorf & Bronson since 1997,” says George Berko, while picking up a bag of Dancing Goats beans, the company’s signature blend. “I come in several times a week because of the good service and the great coffee.”


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