Drink in the story of how coffee bridges cultures and creates community at Una Taza, an independent coffee shop in Dayton, Kentucky serving up shared humanity.
“Coffee is that one drink, no matter where in the world, you’re always looking for that space where you can enjoy a cup of coffee and have a conversation.” —David Gaines, Owner of La Terza Coffee Roasters.
In downtown Dayton, Kentucky, Alejandra Flores opened a coffee shop, a bold move for someone who bootstrapped the first and only coffeehouse in this community. Alejandra, also known as Ale, named it Una Taza fueled by her passion for coffee and the people who cultivate it in her native Honduras.
Una Taza serves up coffee as a catalyst for building community and bridging cultures. She has created a “third place” for locals in Northern Kentucky while fostering a shared vision of socially conscious coffee cultivation and consumption.
Ale sources Una Taza’s coffee from her native Honduras, working with Katia Duke, a fourth generation coffee farmer and owner of San Isidro coffee plantation in Copan Ruinas. Located in Western Honduras near the border with Guatemala, San Isidro is elevating the bean from a commodity to specialty coffee under Katia’s direction. The agricultural engineer uses best farming practices for sustainable coffee cultivation and pays its workers fair wages throughout the year.
As part of her mission to empower women coffee workers and producers, Katia built a school on her coffee farm with an aftercare program for workers’ families and has plans for a new coffee processing facility equipped with a sample roaster and cellular tablet. Coffee producers can get immediate feedback on the taste and flavor profiles of beans they sample roast at the facility. This real-time knowledge helps coffee producers improve the quality of their beans and provides cupping notes to help market their coffee to roasters, attracting higher premiums.
San Isidro uses a honey process to produce specialty coffee, noted for its clean taste and flavor profile. Workers de-pulp the fresh coffee cherries and dry them without washing them in water. As the sticky pulp dries, it turns brown, giving the full-bodied bean a medium acidity, clean taste, and honey-like color and smell. Una Taza has built a passionate base of coffee patrons who visit daily to sip and savor and Katia’s Honduran, honey-processed coffee with a social conscience.
In the United States, Ale amplifies coffee as a catalyst for social change as a defacto cultural ambassador in Dayton. “People come daily to Una Taza to have their cup of joe, talk to each other, get to know each other, and build community,” says Ben Baker, Mayor of Dayton. “Ale hosts salsa nights, Spanish lessons, and many other events to bring her culture to our community.”
Una Taza’s loyal customer base of patrons is passionate about the Honduran honey wash coffee Ale serves and sells. The clean coffee beans also caught the attention and admiration of World Champion Master Roaster Robert Gatesi, head coffee roaster at La Terza, an artisan coffee roasterie out of Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Robert has competed on the global stage in espresso championships, and we are so honored to have this skill set. He’s very hard to impress. When he roasted Ale’s coffee sample, he was excited about the flavor profile because the beans are so clean, we can extract certain coffee notes. For coffee to be considered a specialty roast, it must score a grade above 80. Most specialty roasters we grade rank between 82 and 85. Anything over a score of 90 is very expensive, about $50 per pound. San Isidro’s coffee is scoring high marks at 85 and 86, so Katia is already at the top of her game,” David Gaines, primary owner and chief visionary of La Terza. David authored of the book, “Radical Business: The Root of Your Work and How It Can Change the World” and he co-hosts the podcast Third Place.
The roaster’s namesake is an homage to Italy, the birthplace of good coffee and references the idea of a coffee shop as a “third place.” “I got involved with coffee because of the social impact the beverage can have,” says David, who previously worked with nonprofits.
“Our mission is to supply and empower “third places” with fresh, meticulously roasted beans that are ethically and sustainably sourced.” La Terza has launched a fundraiser to support the new coffee processing facility, donating $10 for each bag of Honduran coffee sold to fund the sample roaster at San Isidro.
Coffee as a catalyst for social change is a mission La Terza shares with Una Taza and Katia’s coffee plantation. “We know where every bean comes from, and we ensure that the coffee we source is just as ethical as it is tasty,” David says. “Our job as roasters is to honor everyone throughout the whole supply chain of coffee production.”
Mindful consumption is the shared mission of this trio—the Honduran coffee plantation, Cincinnati coffee roaster, and Dayton coffee house and they urge consumers to savor each sip as I think about the humanity that goes into each cup of coffee. David shares with me a factoid that puts it in perspective—one coffee tree produces one roasted pound per year. I do the math: If I consume one 12-ounce bag of coffee per week, I’m consuming the beans of 39 trees a year.
“The conversation needs to be how to savor what we consume with mindful consumption,” David says. He points out our power as consumers to buy based on our beliefs and support social causes such as fair trade. “ If you care deeply about a greener planet, about the better treatment of people or closing the gender gap, then buy based on your beliefs. Companies and corporations respond to our buying power, preferences, and priorities.”
Once a year, Ale organizes trips to her native Honduras to experience the coffee bean at its source. “I believe it’s important for people to see the origin of coffee so they can appreciate all of the work it takes to make a cup of coffee,” says Ale.“Coffee is grown in countries close to the equator in an area known as “The Coffee Belt. In Honduras, we have the perfect climate and altitude. I have so much respect for the farmers because they have to deal with so many challenges from Mother Nature.”
As a passionate coffee lover, when I travel, I seek out authentic coffee shops to connect with local culture. Coffee speaks a common language, it bridges cultures and builds connections. Ale, a legalized immigrant from Honduras created a third place using the power of a coffee shop to build human connections that open hearts and minds to a larger world.
“What Ale has done in Northern Kentucky, and Dayton specifically, is brought Honduran culture to a group of people who would not normally experience that culture. I think she made a political statement because there are many people in that community who don’t support immigration. Ale did go through a legal process, and she is now a US citizen. Locals saw firsthand the value that she brings to the community,” David says.
Coffee creates common ground for conversation, camaraderie, and cultural understanding. Dayton, Kentucky, is one of the many places in the world celebrating this caffeinated bean in all its possibilities. For me, coffee is comfort in a cup, my creative muse, and a way to connect with others. As a mindful consumer, each cup is a catalyst for social change.