Our Story

We are a small coffee roaster in Northern Colorado. We are committed to providing you the best coffee possible while treating our coffee farmers and their communities with equity and compassion.



Our vision for Top of the Lake Coffee Roasters was ignited during a visit to San Juan la Laguna on Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan in 2013. Co-founder Alex had built many friendships through 15 years of involvement with service in the community. As we talked with many business and education leaders, It became quickly evident that while there was a growing business climate in the town, the local economy was dominated by the enormous impact of coffee production in the town. 

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San Juan la Laguna is nestled between steep mountainsides and the beautiful Lake Atitlan. Coffee dominates the landscape!

During conversations with local coffee producers, we came to realize that the structure of coffee exportation worked against, rather than for, the people who produced coffee and had a negative impact on local economic life. Every person we encountered was impacted by the wild swings of the economic river associated with coffee. Some of the more obvious negative factors impacting coffee producing communities are in family life, local economy, and education. Read more… 

Coffee farmers and their families invest countless hours and gallons of sweat in their crop. Throughout the year, coffee plants are fertilized, pruned, replaced, and nurtured. During coffee harvest, entire families hand harvest the coffee cherries - often climbing steep mountainsides to gather the precious coffee cherries. Mothers carry infants on their backs, even small children participate, and the entire village (together with additional migrant workers) work for several weeks to collect the coffee crop.

Coffee harvest starts in mid-November and the process of the cherries begins quickly after harvest. The cherries are soaked in water for 24 hours to soften the fruit. The softened cherries are then run through a mill that removes the fruit from the coffee beans. Once the fruit is removed, the remaining coffee is “washed” to remove any excess fruit from the beans. The remaining product is coffee in “parchment” and must be dried for further processing. The parchment covers two beans, and it’s two pieces are rigid shells that are removed by hand (lots of hard work involved) or by machine (many larger coffee cooperatives have access to a parchment mill, but small farms must pay remove the parchment by hand or pay extra for a mill operator to remove it).

Coffee in parchment. The shell must be removed to prepare the green beans inside for roasting.

Coffee in parchment. The shell must be removed to prepare the green beans inside for roasting.


The local economy rises and falls throughout the year as the coffee is sold and money from the harvest is spent on local goods. Hardware shops, restaurants, food carts, repair craftsmen, and other small businesses run lean or experience plenty depending on the quantity and quality of the crops.

Follow this link for a more in-depth description of the coffee production process from the National Coffee Association: 10 Steps from Seed to Cup.

We determined to discover ways to address the inequities of the supply side of coffee by redirecting the economic strength from the end-user side of coffee. We hope to provide opportunities for local farmers and businesses to flourish through providing access to the world marketplace for coffee and other goods produced in the community.

It’s our desire that the children of the coffee producers can maintain an upward trajectory in their education and vision for their future. We come alongside educators to support their excellent efforts with their students and seek to discover and provide resources that will further enhance the educational process.

 

Join us!