We had the good fortune of connecting with María Esther Thome-López and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi María Esther, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
By the time We decided to open our business here in the United States, my husband Dylan Thome and I were living in Argentina-Buenos Aires where we started a Coffee-Roastery project with direct trade green coffee sourcing, Coffee School and high trained/qualified Baristas, serving origins from around the producing world like Ethiopia, El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, Kenya, Brazil. It was a huge challenge because not any of the two of us were familiar with the culture and the country itself (I’m a Venezuelan and my husband is from USA). We put all our knowledge, contacts and skills at the service of this company. For us, coffee is much more than just a beverage. We believe in the power of change for good that we can create with sustainable relationships and fair trade.
However, despite the success of the business in Argentina, the legal terms of the partnership were never fulfilled. At some point on the relationship with the Argentinian partner, we came to the realization that we would need to create something for ourselves, starting over from zero. After 5 years and 5 coffee shops we were in the same position that when we started in 2015. But, with much more experience.
Being the first trainer in Latinoamérica teaching about Specialty Coffee for the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe, Miami was the logical location to open our Training Center because of its proximity to all Latinoamérica countries. And so we decided to move our efforts and abilities to the USA with the help of my father in law. It was scary and hard, specially because we were recovering from the deception we suffered on Argentina. But we trusted in our capabilities to keep spreading the word about the specialty coffee industry, transforming lives (specially the ones of those who produce coffee), inspiring others to achieve excellence through education and most of all, we believe in the power of resilience and honesty. When you love what you do, you are blessed enough to not call your activities a job.
What should our readers know about your business?
We have created a Specialty Coffee & Tea Training Center in Miami Gardens, Coffea School. We also have a Roastery called Miami.Coffee where we source green coffee from around the world and roast it for our wholesale/retail clients.
Everyday, millions of cups of coffee and tea are consumed around the globe. But almost anybody pays attention to how these products came to their hand. How they were processed. Who produced them. What conditions or struggles they faced in order to produce that. And this really surprises me. In a world where everybody is concern more and more about what they eat and/or consume, nobody seems to care for what is it in their cup of coffee or tea. And this is exactly what we care about, trying to explain in an emphatic way what is happening with coffee and tea production, the differences between commodity coffee/tea and specialty coffee/tea. The risks both are suffering right now because of climate change and how they will be affected on the future. This really make me proud. Talking about producers, how we can be part of the solution through our buying choices, the lives we can touch even without knowing it.
Being in this position where I find myself today was not easy at all.
I’m a Lawyer specialist in Administrative Law, Tax Management, and Territorial Special Regimes. For many years, I worked for the National Tax Service in Venezuela, namely in the customs area: my job was to defend the Venezuelan State in customs lawsuits. For political reasons, at first, I took informal coffee classes and read a lot on the internet as a way to get distracted from a very hostile work environment. In 2005, I realized how important coffee was to me and that, in order to progress, I would need a better coffee education.
I have been present in every step of the coffee chain since 2014 when I quit my job as a lawyer. I have been buying green coffee, importing through Direct Trade-sustentable relationships, representing producers and highlighting responsible agricultural practices. With our buying practices my husband and I have collaborated in the building of schools and recreational centers in coffee communities affected by lack of resources. For us, coffee and tea are much more than just beverages. It is our opportunity to support our beliefs and hopes for a better world, a better coffee/tea world.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We are not really going out people, because we travel a lot for work reasons. So our recommendations are really very limited. However we have some spots:
– I will start our day at Ol’days Miami, located in Midtown. There, we can enjoy Brunch with an incredible and versatile Menu of food (I love the Gluten free Pancakes), some Mimosas and the best coffee of Miami. For me this is one of the best places where to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner, drink coffee/tea, enjoy a relax conversation and have a great time.
I would recommend to visit the Design District, Wynwood, beaches on Tampa, Orlando and Disney.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people we must recognize in our success. Our family is our first strong support. In my behalf my mother is my biggest example of effort and strength, even that she is not longer with me. My daughter, sisters and brother have been always by my side. In behalf of my husband, his father James and aunt-uncle Elaine/Darryl were always there for him.
However, I always will be grateful for all the kind people the coffee industry has put in my way, they have inspired me, challenged me and specially changed my life for good! there are no enough space to put all the names here, but I want specially recognized Annemarie Tiemes and Heleanna Georgalis for inspiring me every day with their kindness and hard work.