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Meet Matthew Higgins of Coava Coffee Roasters

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matthew Higgins.

Coava began in Matt’s garage in 2008. The veteran barista and roaster bootstrapped the company by repairing motorcycles until he could afford to purchase his first roaster. His ambitions were to one day roast and prepare coffees that would be exciting for baristas and inviting to everyday drinkers. To anchor the company, he named it Coava, paying homage to one of the oldest known words used to describe unroasted, green coffee. He knew excellent “coava” was essential to everything he wanted to achieve.

As soon as he could, Matt began traveling to the major coffee growing regions to source the finest single origin coffees and to partner with meticulous farmers who would produce high-quality crops with the type of complexity and balance that many coffees don’t have. His willingness to do what others would not eventually earn him a reputation among coffee growers as a respectful, diligent, and honest man. Those early years were adventurous and difficult but laid the foundation for the many long-standing partnerships Coava has with farmers today.

With great coffees in hand, Coava began sharing them through a handful of Pacific Northwest coffeehouses. These early believers led the way for Coava to open their first public brew bar and roastery in Southeast Portland in 2010. Starting in 2015 and completing in 2017, Coava opened doors to a humbly built, yet truly state of the art 10,000 square foot roastery in SE Portland. The new facility houses Coava’s headquarters, training facility, quality control, and general coffee production. Coava now has three cafes in Portland, Oregon, a fourth in San Diego, California and a robust national wholesale client list.

Coava has been recognized for the following awards: 1st place (three consecutive years) as the Northwest Regional Barista Competition for brewed coffee and espresso, and two consecutive years as 1st in the Brewer’s Cup coffee championships.

Coava has 48 employees and is proud to offer a competitive compensation and benefits package to all employees.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?

With laughter, written words cannot convey the facial expression I’m holding right now. At Coava’s inception, I thought the most difficult part of growing Coava out of my garage would be to maintain our quality with regards to sourcing and roasting, which requires a herculean effort to maintain at our level of quality. Along the journey, I have quickly been taught that “the more I learn the less I know”. My journey with Coava has been a long, difficult, happy, sad, amazing and rewarding and everything in-between.

I’ve humbly learned that the most difficult part of my journey growing my business would be learning to become a better leader, a more organized thinker, a fabricator, a plumber, a contractor, a real estate attorney, an analyst with a drivers license to navigate Excel spreadsheets with ease. July of 2018 marks 10 years of growing Coava from myself to near 50 employees. It has been an amazing and wonderfully rewarding experience to participate on this side of the supply chain and watch our company decisions better humans across the globe.

It has been indescribably rewarding to watch my employees, my friends, grow into professionals with true careers and a better quality of life. It has been amazing to Shepard this level of quality coffee to our customers. I’m proud of Coava and what we have collectively built. It has, however not been easy lol. But, if I had to do it over again, I surely would.

Coava Coffee Roasters – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Nature of business and type of products and services.

Coava has 3 cafes as well as our full coffee roastery in SE Portland, Oregon, additionally, we have our 4th café in San Diego CA. Coava is globally known for quality, boasts a carefully designed national wholesale program harbors an incredibly strong brand and takes pride in customer service and local presence.

Coava travels the world in pursuit of coffees with the highest quality, complexity, and balance. We take an exhaustive hands-on approach to coffee as an agricultural process. Dedicating ourselves to learning about soil conditions, sustainable farming practices, varietal mutations, and plant diseases are only a few of the areas of specialty that have helped us source outstanding coffees.

Each year, we spend months at origin collaborating the most conscientious coffee producers. We use our resources to build better processing facilities, introduce the best preservation practices, and spotlight individual farmers. We also collaborate with coffee mills to buy a farmer’s full harvest. This stands in opposition to the common practice of only purchasing parts of the harvest and leaving the farmer with the harder-to-sell remnants.

Our rare approach ensures the purchase of an entire farm’s production at a higher price. We still get the top-tier separations, but we’ve also found a home for the rest of the coffees with the local coffee mill. We make these efforts to establish mutually beneficial partnerships with the men and women producing the coffees we believe in.

We are committed to the inherent qualities within each unroasted coffee. We strive to compose beautiful roast profiles that highlight the tremendous work that has been performed by the coffee producers each harvest. We never blend coffees and whenever possible we name them after the farmers who grow them. We are constantly tasting, documenting, and reevaluating our profiles to ensure that we enable individual coffees to shine.

After everything has been said and done, Coava is rooted in preparing exceptional beverages. Our passion for balanced & sweet espresso, perfect milk drinks, and delicious brewed coffee brings our baristas together as craftsmen. We push for consistent excellence by refining our skills through palate calibration, systematic preparation, and self-critique. This dedication has earned our team first place honors in numerous competitions.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success can be many things. It can be personal goals, it can be financial goals, it can be philanthropic goals, I think true success is when you can step back from your business and know without a doubt that it betters those around you, that your product quality is paramount, that you’ve been able to help other human beings with your efforts, that you’ve not only created financial plans with benchmarks but have been able to hit every goal along the way.

Success is when you can step back and say to yourself “Wow it’s like we are a real company”. It has been a long 10 year journey for me and it is sometimes remarkable to step back and look at Coava from above, it truly has become a company that I am very proud of and I couldn’t have done it without our amazing team and phenomenal list of coffee producers that are members of our sourcing program.

Success to me is knowing that my team is stable and safe, that our facility is operating at peak efficiency, that operationally we are organized with proper SOP’s and management architecture, as well as being financially secure to continue our pursuit of bringing amazing coffees to the market through organic growth. Success is watching a comprehensive and well-researched plan be executed and then amended live time to remain viable against all of the unknown odds that present themselves.

Success is when everything is operating properly, profitably, and I know that all those around me are safe, especially my family.

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