The coffee we drink at All Souls helps people reclaim their lives.
One of my favorite tasks at All Souls is brewing coffee early Sunday mornings. I do this along with a dedicated team who spend at least two hours every Sunday making sure our Catechesis Hour is well caffeinated.
Our coffee draws us in and wakes us up to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Our coffee also has a missional aspect.
We buy it from I Have a Bean, a local company which roasts coffee that “is produced from the top 1% of organically grown, fairly traded coffee in a sustainable supply chain that extends from the crop to the cup.” I lifted that line from their marketing material, which proudly endorses the company’s excellent product. Having drunk and compared their coffee to other brands for years I believe their bragging is warranted.
I Have A Bean’s founder, Pete Leonard, designed and built a roasting system which does more than just measure and report bean temperatures; it dynamically learns how the beans should be roasted and adjusts the roasting environment to ensure perfect coffee every time. If you’re at all familiar with coffee roasting you will know how unique this is.
The computerized coffee roaster is a perfect synthesis of I Have A Bean’s roasting methodology and mission. A new hire can be trained to roast perfect coffee within days, rather than taking years to become a true roast master.
This is important, and the primary reason All Souls buys I Have A Bean coffee. I Have A Bean hires post prison men and women, all of whom have experienced the shame associated with our American penal system, and the difficulty of starting over once they get out of prison. I Have A Bean shamelessly promotes their employees and entrusts them with the vital task of roasting coffee.
Former prisoners are marked men and women. Their prison record is part of their public identity and it exacts a price well beyond the penalty they have already paid in prison. Once released from prison, it takes years for former felons to be fully integrated into society. They often can’t return to their former community. Their past continually sabotages their opportunity for a second chance.
The key for a second chance is getting that first job out of prison. It’s what I Have A Bean is willing to do when many other companies won’t. Since they started selling their coffee in 2009, I Have A Bean has employed scores of post-prison people. Most of them have been restored to their previous employment or found new career opportunities. They have also come to realize that while prison has been part of their experience, it doesn’t define them. I know, because a few of them are my friends. They are Amy, Louis, Tony, Mike, Duke – people who want to get on with their lives, loves and dreams. In giving them jobs, I Have A Bean has also extended grace which erases their shame and helps them recover the joy of being a person in the world. Kind of like what church does.
Next time you are sipping our good coffee, consider the good it’s doing.