Woodbury woman starts specialty coffee venture
Coffee is Viviana Gurdian's passion.
A fifth-generation coffee farmer, Gurdian recently launched Willows Coffee, which sells high-end specialty coffee that's grown and harvested on her family's farm in Costa Rica.
She runs her business mainly out of her Woodbury home when she's not traveling between Minnesota and Central America and working at her day job.
"It's a passion," she said. "But I'm very proud to say we go from seed to coffee."
She packages the coffee after it's sent from Costa Rica and roasted in the U.S. The coffee is then sold online directly to caffeine enthusiasts.
Though Gurdian's venture is still in its infancy, she and her family have been involved in the coffee business for a century.
In 1917, her great-great-grandmother began planting coffee on her land in Naranjo-Alajuela, Costa Rica, roughly 30 miles northwest of the country's capital, San José. She named the farm Willows.
The region's high elevation, climate and volcanic materials in the soil "gives you a good cup of coffee," Gurdian said. "The best coffee in the world comes from Central America."
The coffee can only be hand-picked because the mountainous terrain makes it difficult to use machinery.
Gurdian got the idea of selling her family's coffee while living in Panama three years ago after asking her father — who now runs the farm — how she could become involved in the family trade.
After some thought, Gurdian said she got the idea to sell the coffee directly to coffee-lovers online, with the eventual hope of either starting a coffee shop of her own or supplying the coffee to local restaurants and coffee shops.
In the future, Gurdian said she hopes to eventually offer her high-end product to local restaurants and cafés.
"I truly believe there are amazing restaurants in the Twin Cities, counting Woodbury, but the coffee is awful," Gurdian said. "It doesn't match."
Speciality coffee farms are also disappearing or being forced to severely downsize in Costa Rica, she said, mainly due to farmers being out-priced by cheaper coffee producers in East Asia and Brazil.
Often the coffee is blended with several other plants from around the world, and companies will sometimes burn the beans during the roasting process to mask imperfection, Gurdian said.
Since she began Willows, educating people on the difference between specialty and commercial coffee, as well as how to brew a better cup of joe.
"I want people to enjoy a cup of coffee versus needing the caffeine to wake up," she said. "If you can have both, then that would be the best."
Willows Coffee sells one-pound-bags of light, medium or dark roast coffees for $14.
The company's website is www.willowscoffee.com