#WorkinCT #CTConfident: Giv Coffee gives coffee farmers a better life

Jeff Brooks made a confession that would change his life forever.

“Eight years ago, I was actually sitting across from my wife at a hotel in Vietnam, and I was telling her about a secret addiction to heroin that I’d been carrying for multiple years. It was the point when God was like, ‘We’re not going to do this anymore. This is the end,’” said Jeff Brooks, co-owner of Giv Coffee.

After flying back home, and going through counseling and rehab, Jeff and his wife, Emily, worked to battle his addiction. It wasn’t until a year later when a visit with friends introduced them to coffee roasting.

“I started roasting tiny little batches for myself and playing around with it. Through farmers markets, giving to friends and family, starting to sell that way, we also began a philanthropic coffee company where we can give back to different organizations that we’ve worked with,” said Brooks.

Giv Coffee began working with individual farmers in Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia and paying a price about four times what the farmers normally see. Brooks says the result is a better coffee product because the farmers have incentive to make their beans stand out, instead of just contributing them to a bulk purchase.

“Once we find our coffee that we like, and that we see a farmer is working hard on, we’ll meet that farmer and then we’ll start a relationship that hopefully will last forever,” said Brooks.

When Giv Coffee gets the beans to its Canton location, it takes a lot of care in roasting them.

“We monitor multiple temperature points. We have curves we follow on the computer. We want to make sure every batch is exactly right,” said Brooks.

To make sure that every bag of coffee is exactly right.

“I’ll put the coffee into this little guy, it’s easier to funnel into the bag. Do 12 ounces for each bag,” said Chris Bugnacki, a Giv Coffee employee, who helps to roast the beans.

Every cup is expertly brewed, too.

“The people here. They take the time to get to know what you like. They know when you come in. They know what you want. You literally can walk in the door and they have your coffee ready for you, and they make suggestions based on the coffee you like, and find things new,” said Heather Santoro, who’s a customer at Giv Coffee any time her wallet will allow.

For Jeff Brooks, seeing the joy his customers experience with each sip and knowing he’s doing something to help coffee farmers is what makes him thankful for the success.

“God to me changed my life, and I like to use the word redeemed. He gave me a different value. He said you’re not this, what you are, you know you’re not a drug addict, this thing, this negative thing, and he said you are, I want to do something good here,” said Brooks.

One dollar from every 12 ounce bag of coffee sold goes to four different organizations. The local one is the Hartford City Mission for a summer camp it runs.

Giv Coffee supplies coffee to 45 wholesale accounts in Connecticut, including Story and Soil in Hartford, the Hartford Baking Company and Silk City Coffee in Manchester.