Outside the Larry’s Coffee (formerly Larry’s Beans) roasting plant in Raleigh sits a used, veggie-oil-powered school bus painted with slogans about Fair Trade, sustainability, and global warming. Walk inside CEO Larry Larson’s office and you’ll see an oversized poster of happily determined farmers from the Mut Vitz Mexican Fair Trade Coop with the headline “CHANGE THE WORLD, WHY THE HELL NOT?”
“That’s exactly why we get up in the morning,” says Larry. “Changing the world is what makes this business fun for us. I started out as an obsessive coffee connoisseur from Seattle. I was focused on scouring the world for the most wildly unique coffees, then roasting them to bring out their full flavor. I was led to fair trade because I wanted to deal directly with farmers. I realized we can achieve both — roasting great coffees and making the world better.”
Following that path, Larry’s Beans became a founding member of Cooperative Coffees, the country’s only cooperative of independent roasters that imports green beans directly from fair trade co-ops. After a lot of work and coffee cuppings, Larry’s Beans became one of a handful of roasters selling 100% fair trade coffee. The coffees are also shade grown and organic or transitional organic.
Larry himself is both Chairman of Cooperative Coffees and a director of the Fair Trade Resource Network, as well as a member of the Fair Trade Federation. He has worked with Kenya’s Minister of Cooperative Development to bring fair trade to Kenya and traveled to Nicaragua with local musician Stephen Ineson (of the Milagro Saints) to produce “Musicians, Farmers, & Poets,” a CD of music from fair trade farmers.
Larry’s coffees are slow-roasted in small batches “to bring out,” says Larry, “the layers and nuances of flavor that our farming partners work so hard to get into the bean. They work to make their crops taste unique, and we do our part to make sure it all comes out in the roast.”
Larry is delighted to be at Weaver Street Market, “because we stand for the same things.” Read more about Larry’s on their website, larryscoffee.com.