After years of wishing, hoping and praying he could sell his freshly roasted beans at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market, Qualia Coffee owner Joel Finkelstein will finally get his chance on Sunday. He'll be the first of three D.C. coffee shops and/or roasters to host a fundraising pop-up at the District's premier producers-only market. It's a start.
"I think there's a strong value added in having beans roasted locally and being treated more like a local product," Finkelstein said.
The best that anyone can recall over at FreshFarm HQ, the non-profit has invited only one coffee roaster to its markets over the years. For a while, Sidamo Coffee and Tea sold freshly roasted coffee to shoppers at the H Street NE FreshFarm Market. "We did this for a few years to support a local business when H Street NE was still in the early stages of development, and Sidamo was one of the few businesses on the street," e-mailed Bernadine Prince, co-executive director of FreshFarm.
FreshFarm has not exactly relaxed its standards to allow local roasters, who don't qualify as "producers" because they buy green coffee beans from all over the world and roast them in-house. Prince noted that FreshFarm staffers have been carefully reviewing roasters and coffee makers whose practices might align with the non-profit's producer-only standards, among others.
Staffers looked for such things as direct trade sourcing, Fair Trade certification, the agricultural practices of growers who supply beans, even sustainable waste management practices. "After a lot of discussion, we felt that it was worth" inviting some roasters, Prince noted. "Especially with the additional benefit: a percentage of coffee sales at market would be donated to our annual Thanksgiving Food Drive." "We see this as a dual fundraising and awareness-raising venture, not a change in our producer-only rules," Prince added.
Prince hopes to raise at least $1,500 for the Thanksgiving Food Drive, which provides fresh produce and turkeys to such organizations as D.C. Central Kitchen, Miriam's Kitchen and Thrive DC. Last year, FreshFarm raised more than $10,000 at its markets.
Finkelstein is, of course, happy to contribute to the charities. But he's also happy to have his chance at Dupont. "One of the reasons we want to be at the Dupont Circle market is because of the people who come there," the Qualia owner said. "They're influential in the food community. We being in Petworth, we don't have access to that same audience." He hopes to sell them a good cup of coffee — and perhaps persuade them, and FreshFarm managers, that locally roasted beans have their place at a producer-only market.
"We would be more than happy to discuss with them the possibility of having a more permanent presence at the market," Finkelstein said. "I feel personally that locally roasted coffee is a natural fit."
Coffee pop-up schedule at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market:
Sunday: Qualia Coffee
Nov. 9: Zeke's Coffee
Nov. 16: Peregrine Espresso