Cultivating personal relationships since 2009, Kuma Coffee has made a name for itself even in the coffee-heavy Seattle scene.
Tell us more about the name Kuma?
“Kuma means bear in Japanese. The founder of the company spent time in Japan before moving back to the states and adopting a big shaggy dog that looked like a bear, which they named Kuma. Years later came the coffee company Kuma Coffee and they named it after their dog.”
How did you get started roasting?
“Kuma Coffee started as a guy roasting coffee in his garage in Seattle, Washington. A guy with a passion to find coffee that tasted excellent, roast it very carefully, and get that coffee into people’s hands. It was not about how shiny the package was, it was about how delicious the coffee inside it tasted.”
How does Kuma approach sustainability?
“We seek to limit our footprint as much as it is feasible in coffee. We use only compostable materials when serving brewed coffee at events. We reuse grain pro bags and recycle what we can’t use. And we try and group deliveries as much as possible to limit miles and materials.”
What does Kuma look for when sourcing coffee?
“We cup blind at origin and at home, and select by cup score. When we can (which is often), we visit the farms we purchase from. We travel annually to every origin we purchase the bulk of our lineup from: Guatemala, Ethiopia, Kenya, Honduras, and Colombia. High-quality coffee doesn’t come from industrial farms with mono crops and machine pickers. It comes from small, well-cultivated, and beloved farms. If we find producer partners that do a consistently excellent job, we buy from them year after year.”
What sets Kuma apart from the busy Seattle scene?
“We source green more comprehensively than most. We’ve been doing it longer and more consistently. We focus on cup-quality first, everything else second. We were one of the first to roast light, which is still uncommon in Seattle. We are also a wholesale roaster without our own café, which is pretty rare here.”
Tell us about your team.
“We are all here to work hard every day in a tangible way — with our hands and our heads, be engaged, do our best work, and be proud of the results. We all want to be there and we want to work hard, make a good product, and feel proud of our accomplishments at the end of the day. Our entire sales and production team is women, who unload pallets, move bags of green, and roast and pack all the coffee we ship out. And they crush it every day!”
Tell us more about your relationship with your producers.
“Many of our Guatemalan partners have been working with us for seven years. In Honduras, we are working on sustainable relationships with producers year after year. We seek to reward producers for their best work by paying them considerably more than they would get elsewhere.”
What do you find most exciting about third wave coffee movement?
“It’s brought more access and understanding of developing worlds to Americans.”
What makes your Sun Bear blend great for cold brew?
“Many cold brew blends taste like milk chocolate or ‘coffee’, we worked to change that up. We primarily use East African coffees in Sun Bear, which (even when brewed cold) come through and shine with juiciness and fruit!”
— Peter Mark, Roaster, Kuma Coffee