More Than Great Coffee: Martha's Vineyard Coffee

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Todd Christy, owner/roaster at Chilmark Coffee, is a relationship guy. When people ask Chilmark Coffee to cater an event, they ask for him. Sure he's a great barista, but it's more than that. After three hours down a dusty Chilmark road listening to him talk coffee and life and international trade, I was snared. I had become a loyal member of the Chilmark Coffee community.

Assuming you have less than a few hours to spare, let me summarize what's brewing in a cup of what Christy calls "Relationship Coffee."

1. Beyond Fair Trade, Direct Trade

Buying organic coffee means that certain precautions have been taken in the growing of the beans, but it doesn't mean that the growers and pickers have been paid fairly by importers. In fact, Christy tells me, almost all coffee is grown on the same micro-plantations--small, family-owned farms across the globe. Large multinational companies that import the beans deal directly with the farmers, and roasters like Christy typically work with the importers to select stock. That's why Christy takes steps to work with "direct trade" coffee importers like Gold Mountain Coffee Growers that put him in direct contact with the farmers growing his beans. With partners like Gold Mountain, Christy can guarantee that his coffee is tasty, environmentally responsible, and ethical.

2. Local Coffee, Local Causes

"I don't have a lot of money to donate," Christy tells me, "but I have coffee." You'll find Chilmark Coffee, and usually Christy himself, at fundraising events across the island. Like most small businesses on Martha's Vineyard, Chilmark Coffee takes every opportunity to give back to the community--often just by doing what they do best. Christy feels lucky to call Martha's Vineyard home. He feels lucky to be able to operate his business here, and is grateful to the Island community that helps his business and his family to thrive.

3. It's a family affair

Christy and his wife Jenny launched this business together and have grown it, and their three children, together down that dusty Chilmark road. Now their oldest son has started to learn the art of the barista and and can be found at events side by side with his father. Their property abuts the home where  Jenny grew up, so the scent of freshly roasting coffee provides a backdrop for events, birthday parties, and afternoons playing in the sun with friends and family.

Although the relationships to grower, community, and family are central to Chilmark Coffee, it is Christy relationship with the coffee you taste when you sip a cup of Chilmark brew. The care he takes to perfect the roast, to source beans from distant families just like his, and to share it with friends and neighbors makes all the difference.. A sip of Chilmark Coffee and you become part of the extended community of grower, roaster, brewer, and consumer. 

For Christy, the conversation flows as easy as the coffee. But for now, it's time to savor our cortados (espresso with a drop of foamed milk) in silence.  "Not my best work," he says, indicating the delicately expanding heart design he's created in my cup.  Looks pretty good to me. Tastes even better.