Ecuador is quietly home to some of the most beautiful coffees in the world. And it is also, happily, hosting a thriving coffee bar scene, growing year over year and offering a distinct expression of Ecuadorian coffee culture. A thriving example of this can be found in the work of Nardelia Espinoza, an Ecuadorian business leader who is also the founder of Coffee Relief, a new coffee company located just outside the capital city of Quito. You will notice from the photos that Coffee Relief is also stunningly beautiful—an architectural marvel in the guise of a coffee bar. We just have to learn more.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Coffee Relief is the opportunity in the specialty coffee. A family business founded by Ecuadorian well-known businesswoman Nardelia Espinoza. Sustainability and social responsibility are core of Coffee Relief’s DNA. One of the most sustainable coffee shops in the world. We are all about specialty coffee. Coffee shop, roastery, coffee training center, coffee lab, and specialty coffee consultants. We are located in Ecuador, a specialty coffee producer country.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
Coffee Relief is in the heart of the Tumbaco valley in the capital of Ecuador, Quito just 12 miles from the airport. The space of 200 square meters with 120 square meters of green areas aims to blend an industrial aesthetic with a minimalist design approach. Ecuadorian wood is the key element in different architectural features and furniture.
The new facility of Coffee Relief host a micro-lab of green coffee, roastery, a barista atelier, an outdoor seating area, an interior cafeteria, and training center. The design of the new home was trusted to AOS Studio. Angeles is the youngest sister and founder of the design studio. The operation was carefully structured by engineer and roaster Juan Pablo the middle brother. Jose Coba architect and professor at USFQ (Universidad San Francisco de Quito) assisted the project in shaping and portraying the ideas in the architectural features.
What is your approach to coffee?
Transparency, sustainability, and social responsibility. Our approach to coffee is the same approach when doing business. As a coffee producer country, we have engaged in the responsibility to improve the economy starting with our part. Every single action has with no doubt an important consequence.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
How does your project consider sustainability?
Sustainability is in Coffee Relief DNA. Coffee Relief is an ecosystem of opportunities for all stakeholders within the coffee specialty market. Our goal is to become a Latin American business role model within the specialty coffee industry by including sustainability practices in all processes. From space design to deliveries every single detail in Coffee Relief is curated with sustainability. Carolina the oldest sister is all hands on to accomplish this goal.
When Coffee Relief was conceived our main goal was to design and create a project focus on a life-supporting system able to minimize our carbon footprint. We involved local community, our team, friends, and family to achieve it. By July 2022 we have 13 specific sections we are developing with sustainability. Our goal is to become fully sustainable and reduce at our maximum our carbon footprint. 1. Design, 2. Coffee, 3. Roastery, 4. Menu, 5. Cas-caf, 6. Non-Paper filter coffee, 7. Bakery, 8. Water, 9. Local products, 10. Community, 11. Coffee supplies, 12. Waste management and zero waste, and 13. Deliveries.
Design: Our project is partnering with brands whose sustainability and ethical values align with ours.
We team with Tala for most of our space lighting. Tala LED light bulbs reduce energy consumption, using 90 per cent less energy than equivalent incandescent bulb and lasting 10 to 15 times longer before needing to be replaced
Made by AOS: AOS’s product design branch. They connected Coffee Relief with the best artisans in Quito, who later built our infrastructure and design. In addition, working with them allowed us to support local communities and develop a cultural engagement.
Coffee: We have created strong relationships with coffee farmers, who are part of our coffee family and have been a critical factor in our development. All our coffee is sourced directly from Ecuadorian coffee producers within a fair-trade approach.
Roastery: Roasting is a crucial step in the process of specialty coffee. Reducing our carbon footprint in every step of the supply and value chain is our commitment. We added a set of Aillio roasters to the Coffee Relief space under the Direction of Juan Pablo the middle brother and our Roaster Master. This fully electric roaster maximizes energy consumption efficiency and merges with stability in the exchange of energy while roasting. The result: roast curves are more accurate within the determined parameters per batch.
We have been able to encourage farmers to improve their harvesting process by showing them the impact of farm processes when roasting specialty coffee.
Menu: We designed our menu considering Ecuadorian culture, including local producers, seasonal fruits, and native flora. Also, it features Ecuadorian medical plants that contribute to our concept of wellness. We aim to create a new opportunity in the world of specialty, taking the customer experience to the next level. Our new menu considers the Pachamama (Earth) at its best. We worked with Jazmin Bustos, an Ecuadorian barista with international recognition. Together we developed a menu that represents our culture and gastronomy that can’t be found elsewhere.
Cas-Caf: Coffee Relief’s signature product is a carbonated drink made from the dried skins of the coffee fruit or coffee cherries (*cascara). It offers a unique coffee tasting experience to consumers. This innovative creation seeks a new direction in specialty and is now changing the game in the stage of coffee processing. We work with farm partners to choose the correct varietals of coffee that develop the drink’s wanted flavor and reach the cherry’s appropriate degree of fermentation. Consequently, the drink can provide beneficial probiotics and the right amount of caffeine for different customer profiles (from athletes to office workers).
In the meantime, we are promoting a circular economy opportunity for coffee farm producers, resulting in economic growth. The production of Cas-caf is turning the waste of the coffee-making output into an innovative drink and increasing the income of involved communities. Besides, the company designed an eco-friendly glass bottle that allows customers to return and get in-store credit, generating customer engagement and contributing to environmental benefits.
New experiences: By applying the Pure Over method, we are the first coffee shop in Latin America to serve 100% paper-free cups of coffee. The process accentuates the extract of oils that are usually lost when filtering with paper. Using a borosilicate glass that maintains the temperature, the technique enhances our customers’ coffee experience. Moreover we are encouraging our clients to try Pure Over by reducing the cost of the filter coffee when you have it with Pure Over.
Bakery: We ally with local women entrepreneurs who source our Experience Bakery daily. Located five miles from Coffee Relief, Ke-deli desserts, Panea, and the Cookieteria have significantly impacted the business, creating the best products in town. Together, we offer various bakery goods that consider different dietary preferences, including Keto Milky Cake “Tres Leches Keto,” sourdough focaccia, stout dark chocolate cookie, and honey lavender cookie.
Water is Key in Our Business: We are proud to say that we have zero plastic bottles in our path. Our production is directly sourced from Agua San Felipe, a family-owned company that delivers fresh water from the Andes. Their watershed locates at the Cotopaxi (one of the highest mountains in the world).
Local products: All our menu uses local products cultivated within seven miles. To ensure freshness and high-quality beverages, we grow our fruit produce in our orchard located in Tababela. We harvest oranges, lemons, mandarines, and many other fruits that are organically raised to offer the best flavor in our products.
Community: We want to empower other businesses to support the communities they work with. So for our team commitment, we’ve decided to collaborate with people who live within four miles to promote economic and cultural improvement in the area.
Coffee Supplies Accessibility: Despite Ecuador being a coffee producer, there was a lack of accessibility to baristas and specialty cafeterias supplies. We partnered with well-known brands to offer kettles, roasters, and brewing methods. We are working on making them accessible to the Ecuadorean and Latin American markets. We are working to introduce Pure Over, Brewista, and Aillio into the local market.
Waste Management and Zero Waste: We are significantly reducing our plastic usage. However, a local waste management service manages the few we produce. We partner with Marca Patito to distribute our coffee through a zero-waste. We want to encourage packaging reduction and generate consciousness for other local businesses.
Delivery: Aiming to reduce our carbon footprint we have partnered up with Marca Patito to help us with our deliveries in a way where we consolidate packages for a week and later those are distributed on a specific day considering the zone where they are expected to be delivered. In that way we become more efficient and eco-friendlier.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives you want to mention?
Carpenter: Milton Condo
Metal Welder: Alfonso Quilo
Industrial Designer: Raquel Espinoza
Creative Director and Designer: Ángeles Ortiz
Architect and Professor: José Coba
Industrial Engineer: Juan Pablo Ortiz
Builders : P. Coba U. Construcciones
We would also like mention our amazing team: Paula, Caro, Majo, Dari, and Kelly.