In today’s post we’re introducing one of our founder’s, Amy Karuletwa. Amy cares wholeheartedly about the coffee x people aspect of the brand, and has a deep understanding of both. She’s spent time living in Rwanda, where she met many of the coffee producers Stori Coffee now works with. If you spend time with Amy, you know she anticipates everyone’s needs and makes sure they feel cared for. She cares deeply about people and hopes that is evident in her interaction with both the producers and consumers of Stori Coffee.
Why did you choose to start Stori Coffee?
The simple answer: To create a brand that provides a platform where people can connect. So why is this important to me? I was raised in a diverse family. I married someone from another country and I am now raising two bi-racial children. Having spent a lot of time overseas and traveling through various countries, I have come to realize that humans have a lot in common no matter where we originate from. Sometimes though, our life experiences and passed down ideologies can create assumptions and opinions about others. These assumptions or opinions, when not viewed through a lens of empathy, can begin to create walls, stereotypes, and even prejudice. At Stori Coffee, our desire is to provide a product that creates a space for sharing a story with someone, over a cup of coffee. As people take the time to share pieces of who they are, what their experiences have been and what they hope to accomplish, these stories will resonate with others who in turn will feel the freedom to also share. When each of us open up and create a space for vulnerability, then walls start to crumble and space is created for empathy, for shared humanity, for finding commonality and connection.
What do you do at Stori Coffee?
While each of us at Stori Coffee wear many hats that cross over in all departments, currently I am the chief operating officer and overseeing the operational side of the business. After spending 7 years behind the counter at Starbucks coffee, then another 10 years at origin working alongside farmers on value chain, I really love connecting with people on both sides of the supply chain. I am naturally a detailed person so I love seeing the engine of a system work in unison for a desired outcome.
What does Coffee x People mean to you?
Coffee is the second most traded (consumable) commodity worldwide, second only to oil. Nearly 500 Billion cups of coffee are consumed around the world annually. That’s a lot of coffee being brewed and that’s a lot of people drinking coffee! More than 100 million small scale farmers are dependent on coffee throughout the world. The connection between Coffee X People is impossible to separate. Understanding and valuing all aspects of the supply chain from the producer growing the beans to the consumer drinking the brew helps to humanize the process. It’s not just an enjoyed commodity with statistical data; there are real people who’s very livelihoods depend on the consumer knowing and understanding the true value of coffee.
What would you be doing if you weren’t working in coffee?
Currently, in addition to Stori Coffee, I work with young Rwandan women as they navigate university, grad school, and entry into the workforce. Working alongside these incredible women at such an intrical part of their journey has been one of the most fulfilling and life changing experiences. Everyday I have the privilege to witness these brave and resilient women overcome some of the toughest obstacles and rise up to the challenge to pave a path of greatness, changing the trajectory of not only their lives, but also their families, and ultimately their communities.
If I wasn’t working at Stori Coffee or with Rwandan women, I would probably go back to school and pursue further education in design, photography, and photographic storytelling.
What do you do for fun?
I LOVE the Sea. My best weekend is getting up early with my family, driving to the coast and spending the day with my feet in the sand. If I’m not at the sea, you can probably find me scoping out the latest coffee shops and vegan/vegetarian restaurants. I love traveling, seeing new places, meeting people from other cultures, and experiencing different customs and traditions.
What’s your favorite coffee beverage?
A well scored cup of Ethiopian Coffee, preferably natural (sun-dried) and medium roasted.
What was your first experience with coffee?
I was a barista and shift manager at Starbucks Coffee while I was in high school and throughout college. That began during an era that started with 19**, not 20** ;-) Haha
What is missing from the industry that you’re trying to change? That if you had a way to change it you would?
There’s two things that come to mind…I would like to see producers elevated in a way that brings dignity to their craft. Similar to how an artist is revered for the art they produce, or a barista is celebrated for their ability to brew that perfect cup; a producer or farmer should be revered for the coffee they produce. There is a science and an art to producing (growing) quality coffee that can only be mastered by someone who is truly passionate about their livelihood. I know the industry (those who passionately work in it) understand this and we have come a long way with the rise of specialty coffee, but we need a collective voice to resound the value of the people, and their craftsmanship. They are true masters of their craft and we need to recognize this, and acknowledge them. And when this happens, we will collectively see a strong and dignified next generation of farmers.
I think there can be more education that addresses the issues around coffee freshness, and roast dates. Currently, the industry has gone along with the narrative of “the fresher the roast, the better the taste” similarly to buying fresh bread. However, this isn’t always the case. Some coffees continue to develop their flavor a week or even longer after they have been roasted. What you taste immediately after roasting, isn’t the same flavors you’ll get a week later. I think this narrative should be rewritten and the consumer educated about roast development. Instead of seeing roasted coffee like fresh bread, maybe we should start viewing it as aged wine; it can get better with time and within a specific window.