Caffe Ladro originated in 1994 with a combined café and bakery on top of Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. Our focus was to provide a quality cup of coffee and a venue for our neighbors to gather and forge local community relationships. Our growth began with our second café just down the hill, followed soon after by our locations in West Seattle and Fremont, along with a move for our expanding scratch bakery.
The next phase of Ladro’s development, in the early 2000’s, included the development of more cafés in Seattle, our ever-expanding craft bakery, as well as a mindful shift at the core of our business and ideals. In 2002, Caffe Ladro made the decision to offer only organic and fair-trade certified coffees. We continued with a sense of environmental and social responsibility, while still providing the highest quality product possible. By opening an average of one new café each year between 2002 and 2008, and another expansion of our bakery, Caffe Ladro was able to share our coffee and pastries with more neighborhoods in and around Seattle.
So then what?
Well, that’s when things got really interesting. On a very basic level, our mission has always been to get better. Heading toward 2010, we looked inward. It quickly became apparent that what we really needed to do to be able to provide the best product and, just as importantly, the best complete experience for our customers was to develop Ladro from a retail-based group of coffee shops into a top level coffee roaster. By late 2011, Caffe Ladro launched Ladro Roasting and, concurrently, our Ladro coffee wholesale program. So far, much of this development has occurred behind the scenes, though it’s probably the largest scale evolution and improvement Ladro has undertaken in our nearly 20 year history.
Early on, we found that while the organic and fair-trade systems were great steps toward responsible farming and coffee production, both models came with potential problems. Our goal now is to trace our coffees all the way from their farms of origin, through production and to the hands of the consumer. Taking over our roasting enabled us to control all aspects of our coffee production, from the content of our blends and roast levels for each coffee, to the sales and distribution of our coffees.
Most important to us, though, is the ability to tell the story of the coffee and the people who spend their lives working to put it in our hands. The best way we know to do this is to travel to the farms, create relationships with coffee farmers, and share those experiences with our customers.
We’ve got plenty of other irons on the fire these days. We’re building a world-class barista training program for our staff, we’ve just begun wholesale distribution, and we’re working to make Caffe Ladro coffee available in restaurants, bars and grocery stores in your neighborhood (you can help us out by telling your local bar or restaurant manager you want Ladro coffee). In our cafés, you can look for more public coffee tastings, opportunities for coffee education, and many other great events in the coming months. We hope you’ll join us for the ride—it’s been a very exciting few years for Ladro, and we’ve got a lot more on the way.
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