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One local coffee shop goes beyond the beans

Kavarna Coffeehouse’s sustainability efforts award them best coffee shop in the state

By Rachel Sankey

Kavarna Coffeehouse is maintaining their mission of sustainability. Josh Staloch photo

Stepping through the doors of Kavarna, one can immediately smell the beans brewing. The local coffeehouse, located at 143 N Broadway, was recently named the best coffee shop in the state for TastingTable’s roundup of the 50 best coffee shops in the country – one per state. TastingTable highlighted Kavarna’s sustainable sourcing, which Matt Meltzer, writer for TastingTable, said it’s, “…not an easy feat when you’re in the heart of America’s Dairyland.”

It’s the sustainability aspect of things that Kavarna owners, KaylaViste and Mike Hastreiter, said they focus their attention on. The duo are not only a married couple, but business partners, both come from extensive backgrounds that benefit their business. Hastreiter has a masters in environmental science policy from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay (UWGB), while Viste obtained a masters in education in youth development from the University of Illinois – Chicago. The two met in their strategic philanthropy course during their undergraduate studies at UWGB.

“Kayla and I both gravitated a lot toward community-based things, so we were both really into education causes, and environment and sustainability go in with that as well,” Hastreiter said.

He said Kavarna’s sustainability practices cover two general areas: its coffee sustainability and its kitchen sustainability.

Coffee Sustainability

Kavarna uses an electric net zero roaster which has multiple air scrubbing units in it, such as HEPA filters – one of only three produced by Bellwether. The other two shops in Wisconsin are Crescendo Coffee in Madison and Latitude Café in Germantown.

Kavarna’s Bellwether roaster. They are one of three coffee shops in the state to use a net-zero roaster. Rachel Sankey photo

“The actual roasting process, there’s pollution that would come from burning of the gas for roasting,” Hastreiter said. “The fracking to get that gas and then the actual roasting process, burning gas to preheat to roast coffee… releases all those pollutants as well. So the (Bellwether) roaster scrubs on all those pollutants, and so the air coming out of it, is cleaner.”

He said the Bellwether roaster also recycles the air it uses through filters and reports back clean hot air, which is more energy-efficient since the roaster is using preheated air instead of having to heat everything.

“On average we use about 98% less greenhouse gas emissions than a gas roaster,” he said.

Hastreiter said Kavarna is also part of the NatureWise renewable energy program through Wisconsin Public Service, which works to cut down reliance on fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions and more. The energy that Hastreiter and Viste purchase through the program comes from locally sourced wind and biogas – the only two sources of energy that are produced domestically in the state. Coal, for example, has to be imported, which adds to transportation infrastructure costs.

On top of using a net zero roaster, the coffee shop duo said they also practice raw bean sourcing, meaning that the beans are of high quality and have traceability. All the beans Kavarna sources are certified organic, and the money paid for the beans also goes straight to the farmers that source them, which Viste and Hastreiter said is very important to them.

Kavarna is also part of the Tip the Farmer program with Bellwether, which Hastreiter said “economically empowers coffee farmers and builds a direct connection for coffee drinkers to pay a ‘tip’ to the producer behind each cup.”

“So, for every pound of coffee that we roast, we pay an extra 30 cent premium that goes directly to the farmer, not to the producers, not to any of the middlemen or anything else,” he said. “It goes directly to the farmers, no strings attached. They’re allowed to use that money however they want.”

Hastreiter said a good example of this is the Colombian coffee they use. He said they took the money they had made from the Tip the Farmer program from the last few years and donated it to the village where all their coffee farms are located to buy Personal Protective Equipment and other medical gear for the local clinic.

“It’s amazing what people are willing to do for their community when they have the means to do stuff,” Hastreiter said. “Which is a central idea of what Kayla and I are and how we run Kavarna, so it just makes complete sense.”

The Bellwether roaster sits on the lowest level of Kavarna, with a roasting bar. Rachel Sankey photo

Kitchen Sustainability

Sustainability doesn’t end with the coffee. Eco-friendly food and kitchen practices are important to the coffee shop as well, Hastreiter said, starting with composting and local food sourcing.

Kavarna collaborates with another local farmer as well.

“Our compost, our coffee grounds and kitchen scraps are all being turned into the food that she (the farmer they partner with) plants that we use some of, so it’s kind of like a really cool full circle,” Hastreiter said.

Doing what they can to support the local community, the business duo said they buy much of their produce from area businesses, such as Twin Elm Gardens, Full Circle Community Farm and the farmer’s markets throughout Green Bay. Hastreiter emphasized that “sourcing local is huge,” since it cuts out the environmental impacts of transporting foods from other places.

Challenges and payoffs

Despite Hastreiter and Viste’s success in running an eco-friendly coffee shop, they said they’ve come across their fair share of issues when navigating the world of sustainability, from the costs to the real meaning behind “green” definitions and practices.

“We try to have coffee cups that are certified compostable,” Hastreiter said. “All those coffee cups, even when they are certified compostable, are only industrial compostable. The only industrial composting site in Wisconsin right now is southern Milwaukee. The fact is it just ends up in a landfill. So it’s an unfortunate truth.”

Hastreiter added sustainability can become a tough road, because in the long run it costs more to be sustainable than to not be, and some of the practices they do are not profitable or break even.

“But there is an unrealized profit to society, in general when we do these things, that we’re also collecting, we’re part of society, so we’re gaining that benefit,” Hastreiter said.

A sustainable future

Hastreiter and Viste said they would love for Kavarna to get B Corps certification for being a net zero or net negative company.

The pair also said they would eventually love for every customer to have a to-go cup, so they wouldn’t have to use paper cups anymore.

“Another program that we’ve actually tried setting up in the past, and it’s just been difficult to start, is what we call a rental program,” Hastreiter said. “Essentially what we would do is offer people a reusable cup that is like a standard cup that we have. They can reuse that and can bring it in and don’t have to wash it in between uses or anything. So basically they purchase the cup for a fixed amount… they get the drink discount we have for bringing in a reusable cup ($.25), so the rental fee would end up paying for itself.”

In another effort to reduce packaging from ending up in a landfill, the owners said they recently launched a coffee canister program. The coffee canisters are made of metal, which Hastreiter said is a nicer quality than coffee bags. Whenever a customer brings in their canister, they receive a $2 discount off their “bag” of coffee.

Kavarna’s coffee canisters. Their reusable canister program helps lessen waste. Rachel Sankey photo

Furthermore, Hastreiter said that they would love to reach a place where they don’t have any single-use packaging.

“I’d say, in addition to that, as new age information and new technologies become more current and figured out by people that are professionals, we would like to interpret whatever future green things happen,” Viste said. “So I mean, Mike and I both, we love to learn… we will continue to learn and use that information to Kavarna’s benefit.”

What sustainability means to Kavarna

“It means everything,” Hastreiter said.

“Period,” Viste added.

Rachel Sankey is the Arts and Entertainment Reporter of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected]

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