In the middle of the 19th Century, Rafael Álverez Lalinde left the comfort and stability of his home country in Colombia in search of wealth and happiness in the wild frontier of El Salvador. With his family, he brought precious cargo including a caféto. Not just a coffee tree but a strain of the original Arabica coffee bean called “Typica.” Rafael had no idea that within two generations, his family would become one of the most influential families in coffee. In 2001, six generations after Rafael. Alvarez first introduced coffee to El Salvador, the industry was in trouble. A world-wide glut of coffee caused prices to tumble to an all time low. Many plantations like Topéca ceased operations because coffee beans had become more expensive to produce than they were worth on the open market.
“Rafael had no idea that within two generations, his family would become one of the most influential families in coffee.”
Despite these unfavorable conditions, Rafael Alvarez’s great-granddaughter, Margarita Lucia Díaz de López, convinced her son, Emilio, and her son-in-law, John Gaberino, to help her save the family’s coffee legacy. Emilio and John quickly realized that the key to success was to take Topeca directly to the end consumer. With continuing investment in equipment and employee training, Topeca is now one of the few companies in the world that controls its coffee beans from time they are planted to the time they are roasted. This process, which they’ve dubbed “Seed-to-Cup”, allows Topeca to control the quality of its coffee with an obsessive level of attention. It’s also given Emilio and John the chance to extend Topeca’s legacy for another six generations.
Seed to Cup
Topeca Coffee Roasters started it’s “Seed-to-Cup” program in 2002, when we invested in milling and roasting equipment at our Ayutepeque farm in El Salvador. This vertically integrated business model was developed as a solution to a highly volatile coffee market, wherein; we needed to find a way to become economically sustainable and maintain total control over product quality. “Seed-to-Cup” takes Direct Trade one step further, we don’t just purchase coffee directly from our farms, we own our farms. Our Family has been growing coffee since 1850 on the Ayutepeque farm, and 6 generations later we are continuing the tradition while continually looking forward towards innovation. Our mill, Cuatro M, and producer Emilio Lopez Diaz have become highly regarded in the past few years as a top producer not only in quality but in research and experimentation. Emilio is also the first coffee producer to serve on the Board of Directors of the Roaster’s Guild of America.
“When you purchase a “Seed-to-Cup” certified coffee from us, whether in a latte at our cafe or off the grocery store shelf, part of your money goes directly back to our farms and the workers who make our coffee possible.”
Our “Seed-to-Cup” program has changed over the years as our company has grown. In 2003 our family purchased our second farm, Finca el Manzano, where our milling and roasting facilities operate today. In 2005, we opened our second roastery location in Tulsa, OK, along with our first cafe the following year.
When you purchase a “Seed-to-Cup” certified coffee from us, whether in a latte at our cafe or off the grocery store shelf, part of your money goes directly back to our farms and the workers who make our coffee possible. We are able to take the profits we make from our Tulsa roastery and cafes, and pay higher than average prices to our farms for the coffee we purchase, which then gets reinvested in quality operations and worker salaries in El Salvador. This type of transaction is much more direct and transparent then your average commercial coffee or even many “Fair Trade” coffees out there. We are proud to share with you part of our family heritage, from the soil of the Santa Ana Volcano to the edge of your cup. Enjoy!
Topeca is one of the few companies in the world with fully vertically integrated Seed to Cup model. Our family grows the coffee in El Salvador where we can oversee every step of the process. We have our hands in every step of process from planting the coffee plant to hand picking the ripest cherries to roasting it here in Tulsa, Oklahoma and serving it in our own shops in Downtown Tulsa.
From Planting the Seed
We believe that the best coffee is created by maintaining high quality standards every step of the way. That is why we spend four years taking care of each new “cafeto” (coffee tree) until it grows into a mature plant ready to be harvested. Each year the cafeto blooms cover the landscape with white flowers and an aroma of sweet honeysuckle and jasmine. With good soil, great weather, and a lot of hard work each of those flowers will turn into a succulent coffee cherry containing 2 perfect coffee beans.
To Hand Picking the Coffee Cherries
The harvest begins in November, when the coffee cherries have a deep red wine color. We go around the finca (farm) as many times as necessary, allowing every single cherry to ripen; this meticulous hand-picking process finishes in March.
From Ecological Processing
After harvesting the cherries we proceed to the wet processing, where the pulp and the mucilage (fruit) are carefully removed from the coffee beans so as not to damage them. As a part of our ecological process, we use collected rainwater to wash the beans, and then use the removed fruit to help fertilize our cafetos.
To Patio Drying
Once the mucilage has been washed from the coffee seeds, they are ready to dry. The method in which you dry the beans has dramatic effect on cup quality. We utilize various methods of drying including, patio (sun dried), raised bed (sun dried), and mechanical drying to achieve optimum results for each lot.
From the Perfect Roast
Our roast master carefully roasts the coffee to bring out the full flavor and complex aromas found in the bean; this ensures you will enjoy the true essence found in the coffee rather than merely the degree of roast.
To the Edge of Your Cup
At the coffee shop, the barista carefully grinds and brews the coffee so as not to undo the years of hard work and perfection found in each bean. Now you have the opportunity to enjoy the complex sweetness, delicate aroma, and characteristic smoothness of our El Salvadoran coffee. From our home to yours, we hope you enjoy every sip.