Growers Alliance’s 2014 Mercedes Sprinter Coffee Truck
Coffee Truck on a Mission
Food trucks have become one of the coolest phenomenons of the new millennium. These mobile kitchens are a far cry from the rustic chuck wagons of the past, arriving on the scene to satisfy hearty appetites with an amazing variety of gourmet food and specialty drinks. And since most folks admit it’s hard to start the day without a good cup of coffee, this Growers Alliance coffee truck fills an important need. A regular at the Saturday morning farmers market in St. Augustine, Florida, this colorful truck is the brainchild of Purity Gikunju and Martin Kabaki. Although the owners were born fairly close to each other in villages in Kenya, both came to this country separately, with Purity studying at the University of Central Florida and Martin studying at the University of Northern Florida. Both were active with their own businesses importing gourmet-quality, shade-grown, award-winning, 100-percent Arabica beans from Kenya. Amazingly, they met at a coffee growers’ conference 2,500 miles away in Seattle, Washington, where they quickly realized how small the world really was! Engaged soon after, they joined forces to create the Growers Alliance, a coffee co-op that imports rich Kenyan coffee to the United States and gives back a portion of the profits to the farmers in their villages.
Purity and Martin’s new business was not without its challenges, however. After months of using their personal vehicles to transport supplies to their tent at the farmers market, they realized that if they wanted to become self-sufficient and reach a larger market, a major change was necessary. Since high-quality coffee is best showcased in a premium vehicle, they purchased a ’14 Mercedes Sprinter van equipped with a 188hp 3.0L V-6 diesel and a five-speed automatic. Easy to drive, with wide-opening doors in the rear and a sliding side door to simplify loading and unloading, the new truck was the perfect solution. Designing the interior to fit their needs was the next step. The experts at M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks in Macclenny, Florida, outfitted the Mercedes shell with everything necessary for independent operation. The M&R team equipped the van with a three-compartment sink, a hand sink, a 200-gallon freshwater tank equipped with two separate water filters, a 250-gallon gray water tank, shelves for multiple coffee pots and espresso machines, a microwave, numerous storage compartments throughout, and two display windows. The onboard generator and roof-mounted air conditioner added another level of enjoyment during warm Florida summers.
The final phase for the truck was the wrap. This perfect rolling advertisement for the business was accomplished by the artists at Media Works in Jacksonville using several of Purity’s own photos. They began by designing a burlap bag pattern, similar to the bags used to ship the coffee beans. The beans themselves are a prominent part of the display, along with the logo for the Growers Alliance as well as a picture of Mwangi, one of the actual farmers from Purity’s village. The wrap captures the attention of coffee lovers wherever the van travels.
A cool truck, beautifully outfitted, and selling the finest gourmet, organic, fair-trade coffees, teas, and nuts could be the end of the story. But there is more. In addition to starting a coffee shop on Anastasia Island in St. Augustine, Purity and Martin host two or three annual Meet the Farmers Coffee Safaris, taking groups of people to Kenya to see the accomplishments of the Growers Alliance. The farmers who used to receive 10 cents per pound are now receiving $1.80 per pound and are enjoying a higher standard of living as a result of fair-trade practices. The Alliance has used the proceeds from coffee sales to dig 16 water wells in Purity’s village, since clean water is vital to the health of local communities. They have also created a dialysis clinic in Martin’s village to deal with kidney problems, which are related to less-than-pure drinking water. Visitors on the Coffee Safaris spend time in the villages as well as seven days on safari in five-star hotels, seeing Africa’s Big Five animals (elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo), and, naturally, enjoying premium coffee throughout their visit! Learn more at growersalliance.com.