NY NOW Podcast

Coffee Culture and Equity with Don Carvajal Café

June 17, 2021 NY NOW Season 1 Episode 43
NY NOW Podcast
Coffee Culture and Equity with Don Carvajal Café
Show Notes Transcript

“I was raised between my grandfather’s farm in the Dominican Republic and New York City. In DR, I witnessed how modern technology has made farmers steer away from traditional farming practices— the use of additives, pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful chemicals has increased. Living in New York City I’ve noticed that the demand for healthy food options and ethical/sustainable business practices has greatly increased. People want companies that care, and I don’t think that that is a hard demand to comply with. That is why I decided to create Don Carvajal Café. I want to change the way Coffee, in both its production and distribution, is perceived by strategically working against unethical practices that lead to deforestation, chemical runoff, and child labor— some of the very things coffee production is known for.”   Founder, Hector Castillo Carvajal       

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Dondrill Glover:

Welcome to the new york now podcast, a modern wholesale market for retailers and specialty buyers seeking diversity and discovery, gathering twice a year in America's design capital, New York City. It's where buyers and designers on earth have refreshed and dedicated collection of eclectic lifestyle products. Hi, I'm Donald Glover, creative marketing consultant and content producer for New York now, and the continuing series of our community and your voices. We are delighted to welcome today's special guest, Hector Castillo Carvajal, founder of Don Carvajal Cafe, a local business building coffee culture in the South Bronx. Hector is a 24 year old Latin entrepreneur on a mission to reimagine the coffee specialty market to include a more inclusive community of ownership, education, access and collaborative partnerships and opportunities and the coffee's fast producing regions. Hector was born on a small farm in the Dominican Republic and returned often while growing up in the Bronx, and experience that gave him a unique perspective on the coffee supply chain. After pursuing his education at SUNY Guttman. And the University of Rochester Hector returned to the South Bronx to build a coffee business, a model that would both be fair to producers and inclusive to customers. In just two years, he's taken the brand from operating out of a dorm room to city wide distribution that roast over 500 pounds of beings each week. Join me in welcoming Hector to the New York now podcast series. Hi, Hector. It's so good to see you again. And I have to tell the audience before we begin, how I first came across your brand, the Brooklyn Terminal Market, as you know, had their big launch in 2020. And it was a blistering hot day in Brooklyn. And I'm walking through the market, I look over and I see this brand. I see the energy people were around it. I was drawn to the table. I couldn't get in there because there were people, you know, drinking coffee and asking questions, but I snagged your card. So I'm really excited to be finally talking with the founder of Don Carvaja today. Tell us about the beginning. How did Don Carvajal get started?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yeah, it was, it was very interesting. It all truly began with a really good cup of coffee. And when I chat with a lot of other founders and industry, that's typically how it starts, like, we all have one good cup of coffee. And like we like, go into space and like our eyes, like smoke out. And then we're just like, oh my god, this is like, so good and life changing. And you know, it's just like a moment, we all have the aha moment when we drink that one cup of coffee, which is funny to me. But um, I would say I had one really good cup of coffee in New York City, at an office I was interning at, and the guy who brewed it was actually telling me how the coffee's from Columbia and its specialty. And it's not your average Cup of Joe. And he was just geeking out on this cup of coffee and telling me how pricey it was and how expensive the beans were. But more on the other side, it was really the process to getting these beans to be as good as they are. And from the agriculture to the farmer to the importing to the roasting aspect. how unique It was hard to sell. And craft, right? Yes. And from that, it just I got curious. I started Googling things, YouTubing videos and learning more about the industry and, and me doing all of this just kind of took me back home, I felt like I was in Dominican Republic again, in my grandfather's farm. You know, it took me back to those childhood roots, and stuff. And it was me listening to podcasts that that really took me back because people will be talking and I would be listening. podcasts are like we're doing a podcast right now. So podcast, back when I was listening to them in college, it was more it was more audio than visual. So it was very imaginary for me. So I would listen and just be imagining and going into different worlds and things. So I would picture myself back home, like my grandfather is not around anymore. But I would picture myself on the farm and doing all these things and, and going back, although we never farmed coffee, it was all agriculture, which correlates, right. So that's kind of how it began. And then I made it a class project in college, the for the following semester. And the class, the project won't really well, because the project was to make a business plan and a marketing plan for any product or company that we want, right? Whether it's a real one or made a bone or something you're interested in. And I pitched this coffee interest to my team and my professor. And they said, Sure, let's do it on that for your team and the ending of the term. We ended up ranking top top of the class, we were the best project out of the whole out of the whole class. And it was it was a really good experience for me because I got to actually do class work and something productive outside of school. But at that moment, it was just a class project and something I was interested in. But then it was something that became real, you know what I mean? And at the ending of the attending of the presentation, somebody raised their hand and said, Wow, this is really good coffee because we actually sampled it. I took it very serious. I made up a label, you know, with a designer on campus. And we came to class with a full blown product, like a real prototype. What actual real freshly beans were last round. That's like a launch. Yeah, it is. And we brought it there. We had a French press, people could smell it, people could touch it, you could see it. And we really went above and beyond for a class project, you know, and, and somebody raised their hand at the ending and said, Can I buy one of those bags, because it was really good. And I love your presentation. And I was just like, wow, like, insane proof of concept. Like somebody just if you want to know something works, then put it out there and see if somebody buys it. You know, like, I read that in one of his books, it's just like, just put it out there and see if it works. And it works. I was just like,

Dondrill Glover:

when you talk about right there in the classroom, French press having the equipment, what was it like partnering with? You know, did you partner with local coffee makers? it because you were at University of Rochester? Because that's that's my space. So, you know, I mean, did you partner with with our local coffee makers to get the equipment or beans? How did that process work?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yeah, I reached out to a lot of different Coffee Roasters, you know, so Finger Lakes, and a bunch of people up there, I don't know if they didn't see my email over went to spam. But I was reaching out to everybody. And I was on campus. And there was something called what's your big idea? And it's, it's you pull up and you literally grab a mic, and you talk about your idea. There's no presentation, nothing to perform, or just What's your idea, and you present it in a panel in front of a panel of three judges? And I did, I was like, Well, my idea is don't go wrong. Cafe is a specialty coffee company from, you know, different parts of the world. And it's Charlie for free, and it's organic and natural. And we just want to provide good coffee for good people. And without the guilt. You know, that's all it was. And I just did my little pitch and what I wanted to do. Turns out the pert one of the judges was the the head of the auxilary board on campus, which is like the board in charge of like dining halls and things like that. And he told me that he was connected to a local roaster, which is called Java's Java's cafe. And he's like, Listen, if you want to actually roast some of those beans you have, I have somebody who supplies our College of beans, and they have a roaster here in town. And he connected me with him at an oversight over cuff over a coffee at Starbucks, the fall like that same week, we all met up at Starbucks, and he introduced me, I told him what I wanted to do. And he looked at me, he's like, you have green beans. And I was like, Yeah, I have a stack of 50 pounds of raw coffee, sitting in my dorm. And it was, it was very funny, because he was like, Alright, whenever you're done with classes come over, and we'll roasted at the space, and by the Rochester public market, so is running down there. And yeah, we roasted it. They helped me pack it, they had the equipment and all of these things. And that's really that's I got partnered up with Java's cafe, they helped me roast my beans and all these things.

Dondrill Glover:

Wow, look at coffee community, and helping hand that is I that's amazing. I, I want to talk about a course the name, I want to talk about, you know, go back to this picture on Instagram of your grandfather, and one of your followers commented, what a what a regal looking, avoid Oh, and I and I, and I looked, I said, Oh, he looks so regal, and is so such a statue of a man on a horse with his fabulous hat. And so I know that shared memories of your grandfather has been so inspirational to your life. And tell me, tell me how it made your family feel when you decided to carry the brand in this thing sick?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yeah, it was it was a moment. You know, I one of the things that that I've actually never mentioned before on the podcast, but if you ever heard of the plumbob, that's brand you that's, that's really, that's really what inspired it, you know, and when I did some research on that figure, I noticed that What does is actually not a real person, it's a bit of character, just like Uncle Sam. You know, it was really a character that was made to create propaganda to to bring awareness to something. And then I looked at it, and I was like, wow, like, there's this man, this figure that I've always looked up to my whole life. You know, I don't really remember him because he passed when I was very young. But I've always heard the stories and looked at the pictures, you know, and always kept him to this degree, where he was a prominent figure in my life. You know, although he wasn't President, I always looked up to the things that he did, you know, and I always felt like, whatever, wherever he left off, I was gonna pick it up one day. So when I did when I did the brand, it was this idea of like, let me put his face on it because of the type of man he was and the type of person he was for his family and what he did for us, right? We were racing, Dominican Republic country, you know, like we weren't in the most advanced city and had the most advanced resources but for what he had access to, I think he did the best he could and then for me to live in New York City now it's like I'm doing the best that I could was what I have access to, which is kind of probably what he was hoping for, for us to have a better price and you know, so to have my grandfather on the face really, really puts a finger on it, because oh puts a certain level of of importance to it, you know, like, whatever. So my company, I probably wouldn't just because of that, because it has a family name, and it has the family face my grandfather. Yeah.

Dondrill Glover:

That's so much honor. Right? You know, because he is the person and this is why memories, and having a culture of sharing stories of family and history and legacy is so powerful, because here you are. Now, as you mentioned, your grandfather would have certainly wanted this. Right, right, right. And this further, he would be glad to be jumping for joy.

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yep. And for the coffee shop, there's one big wall that we have for that, because we successfully funded the Kickstarter and all these things, which we'll get into in a little bit. But, um, we have one big wall at the coffee shop, and it's gonna be a huge mural. I just have him on the horse, you know what I mean? It's just suddenly we're just on the horse. And, you know, it's, I could have definitely went with fancy AR and things with deeper meanings. But it's like, this is the pioneer. He did this not knowing that he did this, you know what I mean? Like, he didn't know, but he, this is what he brought up. Right? I'm like, he began the legacy that I'm just picking up. Sure. Right. And when people come in, you know, it's like, oh, like, what's the culture? And it's like that, that man, his his outfit? The horse, the background, the tree? Right? The hat, like, that's all culture. And I'm actually gonna go on a mission back home to the minikin. Republic. Yes, my mom has 11 siblings, I gotta figure out which one has the hat and I want to bring it in, put it in the middle of the coffee shop, but like a museum? You know what I mean?

Dondrill Glover:

No, you have to see the Panama Papers like, Oh, we have the hat. No, we need to bring that through Dominica, I need to bring the visa. It's It's It's such a special hat. And you said something really powerful. You said, you know, people would say, Oh, is this the brand, much of something famous, but but I think it's affirming, once again, that the people often who most effect our lives are a family. So when I think about him being on that mural, it's it's perfect, because he has been the inspiration and just to see it come to life, it's going to be amazing. You know, you're you're a young man, you started this business in college roasting coffee beans, in your dorm. And look at you now, I have to ask about the journey along the way. Were there some big hurdles in arriving here? In where you are growing thus far? I mean, were there organizations that gave you insight and support and provided guidance? What was that part of the journey? like for you?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yeah, I would say it's, it's honestly very tough in the beginning, because you have zero knowledge, zero experience, and zero capital. You know, until years later, I have knowledge. Now we have a Kickstarter, crowdfunding capital, and probably grants that are coming along the way, right. So now I have the knowledge, the experience, and the crowdfunding or grant capital, you know, which is beautiful, and I'm blessed to have. So in the beginning is very tough, you know, especially that you're a student, you're young. And, you know, you come from a disenfranchised community where you might not have the best network of business owners and mentors, but that's something that I received for myself. So I have a lot of mentors in many different industries, you know, I always, always felt like if I didn't know something, or if I didn't have access to it, all I had to do was get into that circle of that world, you know, and tap into that network. And I think my network has gotten me to where I am so far, you know? And it's, it's, it's one of those things where it was challenging, you know, between capital experience learning, but but my thing is, if you never give up, you're never you never failed, if you never gave up Never, ever failed, you know, so it's all about persevering. And moving on to the next thing, you know, I would say one of the best resources I've had I've had access to was something called start small, think big. It's a local nonprofit in New York City that provides free legal marketing and financial assistance, you know, so they connect you to pro bono lawyers who can help you with certain contracts or agreements, they also help you break down your financial structure, and making sure you're profitable, right. Understanding understanding the numbers that sometimes entrepreneurs don't understand because they didn't get to go to a professional business, right.

Dondrill Glover:

And then there in the creative brain, so right, exactly, exactly.

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

You might you might be the most creative person but you might not you might not know numbers, right or legal things right, the legalities behind things. Another one is a Bach Bach capital, which is the space that I'm at right now. It's to have an incubator space in the Bronx, oh, computer space in the South Bronx, which you know, provides you with affordable desk here and office space to actually host your business right and have a professional place to conduct it. And yeah, those are the two I would say most prominent. And currently, I'm still using these these these local networks and, you know, the the network that they have provide me access to it is beautiful, you know, I get mentors, fortune 500 companies will come around or people who just want to help, you know, they reach out to them. And then I get connected to them because people who people who want to genuinely help reach out, and then I'm the recipient at some point, and it's beautiful to be able to have these resources within the community that can connect you to somebody in San Francisco or somebody in downtown Wall Street, you know, or something like that, which is a network that we don't really have access to in the Bronx. But we grew through these organizations, which is beautiful, you know,

Dondrill Glover:

the network, right, and you connect it yourself. And that's, and you know, to have that it takes, you know, the inside It takes courage, it takes leaving your yourself, you know, because very often what some of those areas that you mentioned, when you're coming from spaces where it's not, you don't have access to that, it really takes that you know, that that push by new and you've been driving for a long time now. So it says a lot about you. I want I want to talk about coffee culture in the Bronx, prior to you and Dawn Carvajal cafe. What was it? Like? Is it just a cup of coffee in the morning? No conversation about it, and I'm off to my day?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yes, that's a very good question. That's a very good question. You know, I honestly, when I began the coffee business, I began to Rochester, you know, and then I came down to New York City. And I was like, You know what, this is going to be perfect. There's more people, because I really tried the Upstate thing. But there's prominent coffee figures, you know, and it's a really Yeah, really strong, really strong. customer base, right? They they're very loyal to what they already have, because they've had that for the last 10 to 15 years. And here I am new guy in town, right. But New York City, there's so many people, there's millions of people, you have access to who you can tap into who you're going to expose as people moving in here every day. Right? So when I came to New York City, I figured if I go to every single coffee shop in the Bronx, I will have a better chance because I'm a kid, hey, I'm a kid from the Bronx, I just began a coffee roasting company, will you support me, it was actually the total opposite. Some of these shops were closed, but they weren't updated on Google. So I wasted a train ride for no reason or bus, or one train and two buses. And some of the jobs that I went to, they already had established relationships, which I understand. And I would just be like, Hey, listen, just feature me for a weekend something, you know, something to just help me out. And I got a lot of notes, but I never gave up. I got a lot of nose and I never give up. So I figured I go somewhere else. I tried different strategies. So coffee shop didn't really work out. And I realized, just like you said, coffee in the Bronx is really just a cup of coffee on the way to work. Something that cost $1 and nothing really specialty, nothing really different than than what you see somewhere else. And at some point, I was just like, you know, one day, I think I'm gonna change coffee culture in the Bronx. And it's like, Why? Why do you think that because there's no coffee roaster here. There's really Coffee Roasters in Queens and Brooklyn, I think there's some in Manhattan. And there's specialty coffee, anchored in every other borough, but the Bronx never really had one. We buy our beans from other boroughs, which is ironic, right? And I just felt like the Bronx could need a specialty coffee shop that was like the dawn Carver Hall cafe, he didn't write the cafe. Right? That was really specialty. And on top of that, we were roast on site, which will be a full blown experience, it will be super immersive, where you can walk in, and we can walk you through a tour and how we roast and, and why we roast how we roast and why we source the beans that we source. And why we establish relationships with those farms, you know, just being a little bit not a little bit being way more transparent than than you're used to, or actually fine, you're not even used to it at all. And it's just like, this is the new world that this is the new president that we're setting forth. You know, and that's what the that's what coffee culture was to me in the Bronx, it was just a cup of coffee on the way to work something really quick. But now it's more of an experience. And it's more about equity and inclusion. Right. When when you when you told me about when I was when you mentioned about the local organizations and things like that. I mentioned how I got connected to all of these mentors and people who are willing to help me and I had to seek outside of my community and my mentality is how do I bring it back? Right? I'm like bringing it back to the South Bronx. And it's like, like, we have to go out and now how can I become a resource for somebody here? How can somebody just walk a few blocks and come to the coffee shop? And I have a question about business? I have a question about roasting. I have a question about school or something, you know something about the community as a resource and as a space for building? You know,

Dondrill Glover:

you you are and it's one of the things you said is so true is that grabbing the coffee, we talked about that and not because there's not a conversation about the culture of coffee, and very often, communities not realizing that they are more connected to coffee culture than then they know just by way of where the were the key coffee sources come from. But once again, is is where we get voices like yours to amplify conversations and introduce it. And it's, it's wonderful that you want it to, to bring it back, we'll loop back to talking more about coffee. But one of the things I know that's really important, and many people are not aware of it very often now that you're introducing it to this new community in the Bronx. Can we talk about coffee value systems and what that looks like? And I know that, you know, your brand has core ethics, and principles, and I'd love to unpack some of those for our audience,

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

I would say, Our company has an expansive mission, right? It's a lot. And some of the things that we do, I don't even mention, because it's just a part of what we do. And on our website, you have things like USDA Organic, and you're not started Dominican coffee certified organic. Our Colombian beans are reinforced line certified. And this, like, what are these things mean? You know, when I began, that was actually my mission, it's like, let me get all these certifications, you know, and then a little later, I realized that some of these things are kind of political, because some farmers in these third world countries or developing countries can afford it in the first place. So a lot of the farms that have this certification are pre establish or have access to capital that others don't, right. They're very marginalized. And it's good to have, you know, but then I really I realized, at some point, it wasn't the bottom line. You know, and I think a lot of retailers nowadays focus on the big certifications, you know, like, Oh, it's it's an upper hand if you have USDA Organic, but it's like, what is the process to get that, you know,

Dondrill Glover:

right. It's, it's being a lot of the smaller farmers, indigenous farmers can't afford it. But the flip side of it is, they're not using those chemicals, you know, you can't even afford the chemicals at all right? You're farming organically. operations. Right? We really good point. Same thing happens with with olive oil, there are many smaller farmers who are not using the pesticides and all of those sorts of, you know, dangerous chemicals. A, they can't afford it. And it's not in their awareness, because they they're using traditions that our generations, you know, down.

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Right, exactly, exactly. And you know, I realized later, right, and we're actually, at some point, we're going to rebrand our website and probably include more of what we do, right like, a lot of our use coffee grounds from our cold brew, we donate to gardens, and there's a microgreens farm that uses it to like create mushrooms. So then they let the call comment on your Instagram so they use it to grow mushrooms. Another one uses it as compost and fertilizer for for their plants are burlap sacks be turned into tote bags and pillows for your outdoor decor or your Farmers Market shopping. We also turn the sacks into like beds for plants like sweet potatoes and things like that a local gardens. So they take the big of bulky Colombian sacks fill them up with dirt, and then they plant within them. And then they decompose over time, but but they serve as a base, you know, and a lot of companies just throw it into into a landfill they they throw it out, they don't really repurpose them, they don't really compost them. And for us, my mentality was always How can I make this brand an extension of myself and what I believe and I believe in being eco friendly, treating the environment correctly and things like that. And it just, it just worked out, you know, but but we we do a lot we do a lot, I would say what we're all about composting, you know, the space that we're moving into, will have an onsite composting, which then will turn into fertilizer for local gardens and local communities. It has solar panels up top to actually be green and be eco. And it's just so much that we do it's there's so much that we're doing it organically and you know, it is my mentality is if you build a company that's eco centric, where like we keep the environment at the forefront of everything, right? Like our bags are compostable, right. Our labels are from craft recycled papers, our boxes are from recycled boxes that have been given the second life, right, we're not using virgin material, we're using re reuse boxes where it was reshaped into another box, right. And the mentality is to always keep that at the forefront. My mentality is if we build the eco friendly company from the ground up, we can always keep eco friendly practices as a part of every hour of our everyday operations. If we do it from day one of the company being built, we can make it a part of everyday operations now. Right you normalize. And now when you look at companies that have been around for 100 years, it is very hard for them to change because they build something that is so toxic to their environment, that it's hard for them to change everything that they built 100 years ago. But when you start now as a as a fresh brand, you can you have the luxury of starting with all these new resources that you have. And I don't blame companies that's a really long time ago because back then there wasn't a thing

Dondrill Glover:

for the environment. They didn't know and then they were making your own and then of course it gets to be about dollars. The unfortunate Part of that is that you know, long standing, you know, pollutions and toxins really destroyed plan and in communities very often communities that are more marginalized around it. I think the beauty and what you're doing and so many other brands is that, as you said, you build from the scrap now now it's it's here, and you integrate that into who you are. And that's the wonderful thing that's so inspiring about the consciousness that's in brands now, and just companies, you know, beyond corporate responsibility, but people really do care about the environment and community in that way. So you what you'd like you said, it's you normalize it, and you just do it. And I think that's what you're going to see so much more of going forward. We talked a little bit about the other sustainable products, I want to tout out my bag, which I absolutely love it. And I love those garden pillows, I've never seen the burlap be referred to that way and you know, designed in a way that's sitting in the garden. So kudos for that. They're really, really beautiful. Of course, I want to dive more into the heart of dog Kava Hall and your passion of specialty coffee. You know, can we talk about the regions that you're sourcing from?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yeah, right now we have coffees from Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Colombia. The two countries that we sourced directly from is Dominican Republic, and Colombia. So I've been on those farms, I've met the families and I built relationships with them. The ones that I had I have never visited are Brazil and Costa Rica, right, because of the pandemic, I couldn't really travel in the relationship. So I sourced these beans from a third party, you know, importer, or, or broker. And that's how most companies actually sourced their beans. But we're at an age now it's beautiful to have transparency in the product. Like it's beautiful me to tell you about Eddie Ramirez, from Dominican Republic and shady and his brother in Colombia, you know, it's beautiful to tell you how I was on that field and how we selected this being to be your cold brew me, and how we selected this to be a drip bean and how we combine these three coffees to be your espresso bean. And I was on Toulouse farms, you know what I mean? Like, it's one of those things where it's so beautiful to just be able to tell you where this product comes from and who produced it, right, and their family history and generations and how they were able to develop and grow and, and establish themselves some brothers right? To become experts in what they do. And yeah, so we source from these these four different countries, as as the pandemic winds down, and eventually, you know, completely goes away, I will start traveling again, and building my coffee journey. And yeah, stories and relationships.

Dondrill Glover:

I mean, you in talking to those farmers, I mean, that that had to be, I have to ask, what was that first order, like, you know, being able to, you know, place an order, go to the Dominican Republic and really support farmers there and bringing coffee here. What was that? What How did that feel?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

It was a moment, it was a moment, I remember, I took a picture on the farm, what, what took a picture on the farm that we were visiting, it was a woman on farm, it was doing your failure. And I remember taking that picture with her her daughters. And then the same farm that will work with and Columbia had sent some coffee from that farm, and seeing the beans processed and everything but then dating back to being there in that moment. And thinking that we're building equity and wealth for these people and helping them get their product overseas. You know, I remember, they told me that their biggest struggle is meeting people like me now who's me? A coffee roaster in New York City. How can they ever access something like that if they live in the mountains of Colombia with no more technology, or access to technology, right? So typically, the way it works is there's a broker who flies in or there's a there's somebody local who lives there, he knows somebody or she knows somebody, and then that somebody knows somebody, and then you know, it's this chain that, right? It's very untraceable because there's somebody who knows somebody, and there's always a middle man or woman in between. But now when they got to sit down in front of people like me, and talk about what we look for, and how we got started, and they look at me, like, oh, you're another Latino, and you roast and it's like, yeah, I roast like, Isn't that crazy? They're like, wow, like, we never knew what to expect. And now you're in front of us. And it's like, I can relate to you and I can communicate with you in Spanish. And you know, they never really had an opportunity to communicate with somebody that would that for the wind from New York in the mountains of dirty like that stands the culture. But

Dondrill Glover:

you know, you've got this trust there the in you, I'm sure that you felt deeply compelled to offer even greater insight and an understanding of how you navigate and dealing with with business sources and sourcing directly so you're able to educate as well. But right, yeah, it was a bit of an experience, you know, on both sides, on both sides, of course. So I want to we talked about Building relationships and we talked about those regions. Let's talk about your coffee blends. And what can people expect from tasting a down Kava Hall blend. So I've got my I'm on my last one. So of course I'm panicking. I've got to place in another order. It's, it's so delicious. It's creamy. I taste the cinnamon, you know, it's smooth. It just, it's really, really a happy place in my mouth drinking this coffee. Can you go through the blends and what they taste like? What can people expect?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yeah, right now my favorite is the Greca Blend because it's something I worked on for a while. And it has a combination of our Dominican Brazilian and Colombian coffee. You know, it's it's the creation was to take people back or to it really took me back to Dominican Republic and the countryside and, and the smoky wood from the bonfire. Right. And, like, we would cook over dry wood, we would light it on in the stew rocks, and then there's a pot on top right? It's cold enough, right? wouldn't wouldn't pit fire, right? And that's how we would cook and all these things. And for me, it was like, how do I take people back to the to the mornings in Dominican Republic, the rooster in the back the mangoes falling off the trees, you know, and the bonfire, the smoky wood. And it was like, how can I create this blend? that people have no idea what I'm talking about, but like, at least you can taste what I imagined tasting in the morning, right? And this blind is really something cultural. It's something it's still honor. Yeah, it's deliciousness to bring people to where I'm from. And one day I hope to do tours of the countryside of Dominican Republic and show you the cornfields and cook breakfast in a bonfire. You know, and let you smell those notes. So you're on the VIP list.

Dondrill Glover:

That's, I think, you know, you've got it right, Hector. People want to be transported food and drink. I mean, as as many spaces but these particularly spaces, very often are inspired by you know, experiences. And you know, when I'm, I'm drinking it now and and i everything you've said I can I can taste it on my palate. And it is that journey. And I mean, I think it would be just so perfect for those tours.

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yeah, I'm really excited. I have a lot of plans. You know, I'm taking them all one step at a time. Once once we have the the roastery and cafe in the Bronx that are really be an anchor space for us to expand and do bigger things that I've been planning for a while. I have no doubt. So that's that one blend, and then talk about the taste of the other blend. So if I'm drinking the Dominican blend now, but if I'm having a Costa Rican blend the Brazilian, what are those flavor profiles? Like? Yeah, the the Brazilian is an interesting one. Yeah, I'm dying to meet the farmers one day, I hope I can get connected to them someway somehow. The Brazilian one, we prefer that one as a dark roast. That's our preferred dark roast for our customers. And it'd be like a bowed smooth cup and not too acidic and too raspy and too crazy, right? Like, it's not over burnt coffee or dark roast or the smoothest dark roast anybody could have in my opinion. And it's one of those things where it's not over burnt. It's not like one of those overcharged steaks. It's a well cooked steak, you know, and it keeps the core of it

Dondrill Glover:

does that mean and coffee language that you don't get that strong? bitter like Aftermath?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

right? Exactly. Exactly. That strong, bitter, right, that strong, bitter aftertaste. And if you have like acid reflux or something, it's not too acidic. It's just, it's low and acidity. It's very nutty, it's flavorful, but the minigun one is creamy, has hazelnut notes and it's also very low in acidity, or Costa Rican is our fruitiest one to be like, if you like to drink your coffee, black, you want something fruity. And

Dondrill Glover:

I didn't know that. So. So if you are a person that likes to drink your coffee, black, I'm a milk person. I like my I'm into the Dominican but I love the creaminess. So if you like your coffee, black, you're saying that the the Brazilian blend that you mentioned fruity. I've never heard that term. And as it relates to coffee,

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

yeah, yeah, yeah. So it's very fruity. It's very fruity. It's sweet. And it's just a great cup of coffee black, right? If you want to also mix it for other things like sometimes when I mix it in the cold brew. Sometimes I don't even really need to add sugar like that. You know, it just it just blends out organically. It's just naturally has those notes that sweetness, right? are dark Colombian rows is the one that I love to use for the don don right it just it just blends so well with the oat milk and the simple syrup and the aromatic bitters. Those two other coffees, you know. So based on all of our coffees, I think that's the one that blends the best to that roast to that degree. And they all have different little tails. You know, one day, I hope to make like an interactive app where you can see where these companies come from and how they got selected and wouldn't be amazing. Yeah.

Dondrill Glover:

So I mean, I've got one word for you. Oh, before before I go there, because that's a big one. I want to talk about the markets, you're looking to expand in terms of wholesale, where you're looking to go wholesale demographically, like locally and of course, beyond. But I guess we'll start with local.

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yeah, honestly, I'm trying to expose the Bronx to a better kind of coffee. Right. And honestly, it's very subjective, because I think it's better but somebody might just enjoy something that they've always had. And that's totally fine. I just want to educate people locally on what specialty coffee isn't provide opportunities within that. And after I can, you know, educate a local community I want to go out and, you know, expand to other boroughs, other states eventually go out to other countries. You know, one of my dreams is open up a cafe in Dominican Republic, and, you know, bring it back to where it all started, right. Just the way it all brewed up from.

Dondrill Glover:

Yeah. Then you'd have to have that breakfast with it too. Right.

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Right. Exactly. Exactly. There you go. There you go. It'll be a connection. It'll be a bridge between New York City and Dr.

Dondrill Glover:

And it's a perfect partnership, I assure you, so we love our community, and our local community here, which is there so amazing. So I think it would be perfect. Of course, I'm gonna say it again. I got one word, Kickstarter. Can we talk about it? The Saga bottom is talking about talking about it. I mean, you're you were you ran that campaign. You were gold in opening the first public roasting room in the South Bronx. Yeah, tell us, you know, tell me tell us why. Why was so important. And what does that mean? For the South Bronx?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yeah, it's, it's, it's a really big win. It's a really big win. And for me to do operations, I'm just everywhere. I'm in Brooklyn, I'm in Queens. I'm in New Jersey, but I always since I was a young child always had to leave the Bronx to seek opportunities. So when I went to community college, I went to Manhattan, not the Bronx. When I went to university, I went upstate New York, not the Bronx, when I wanted to roast coffee had to go to Queens. So I went to when I wanted to pick up beans for our company, I had to go to New Jersey, I always had to leave the Bronx to seek an opportunity or fulfill one. And for me, it was like, how do I bring it back home? You know, I feel like we always leave our borough to seek opportunities, but we never have any here. And it was about bringing it back and building coffee culture in the Bronx, building equity in the Bronx. And I think the space that we're building it in, there's no other space, right for for it, you know, it's a space called the peninsula. It's actually on the go Peninsula, the Bronx, like nearby. And it used to be a huge youth detention center. So it used to be a juvenile detention center, it used to be called spofford. Because it's on spofford Avenue. And to build equity on top of a space that was used to marginalize the community, pretty prominent to me, you know, so it's like the perfect space for us to change the narrative and what was built on that soil, you know, and, and just in, just change it. So to bring it back to the Bronx, it's about building equity, and growing the community in terms of experiences and knowledge and providing jobs, because we do a lot of operations for b2b businesses and supermarkets. And we just needed a hub to build out of, and that's what the broth is, for us. It's a hub. It's about me bringing it back to the community and building here and growing here and providing the opportunity. You know, my biggest worry, well, how would I put it, it's not my biggest worry for the community to be like, Oh, this is expensive coffee because it is expensive coffee, it costs more to purchase it it costs more to roasted, it's just a no. And I understand my goal is to educate the community on why it is priced at what it is and showing them the value behind it. A lot of the times people don't agree with something because they can't see the value. But if I show you that how this value is added, you will understand you know, our hope you would and it's all about integrating ourselves to the community and being there for everybody.

Dondrill Glover:

Yeah, I think you you you made many good points as usual. But one of the things that really stands out and that is you mentioned the price, but also the transparency this there and you're you're able to educate on why and and make when people understand what social impact means and a brand and how what it looks like how it operates, and then how it translates in product and people and cost. I think when people understand where their money is going and they can identify with the those places in the investment. I think it changes the narrative and acute weigh in very often, we just see a price on something. And we don't know why. And the difference is, you know, you'll have education for the community to understand. And so I have no doubt that they'll be investing and enjoying tons of great cups of coffee. With that. So, after this campaign, I mean, you it's been wildly successful, like you, I know, I reached out to you by email, like, Oh, my God, look what happened. You saw it on social media, you know, where does the work start now?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Now, now, there's so many things going on now. Earlier today, I was at the first direct warehouse in the South Bronx, you know, dropping off beans, we just, we just got onto the first direct platform, which , thank you, thank you. So that's a really big one. For us. That's our first big client, you know, and then locally, based in the South Bronx, as well, which is beautiful. You know, so to see two bronze brands, you know, uniting, like, that was really a moment for me. And it's kind of like setting that tone for how we want to do business locally moving forward. And it's, it's, it's, it's a lot, you know, we got to figure out how to get a roaster here that, that roaster that's built in Vietnam, you know, it's, it's, it's about looking for team members that want to grow with us, you know, and I can help them be I can be a part of their journey, and they can be a part of mine. It's taking care of seven farmers markets that we do every week. It's taking care of 40 supermarkets that we currently supply in five coffee shops at the same time. So it's beautiful to grow. And try something new, like the Kickstarter working out. And I was building a full blown space while still taking care of older operations that we had an older client that maintaining it, like, like nothing ever happened, right?

Dondrill Glover:

Ask you like, How deep is your staff already?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Right now? Well, I actually hired two people today, because we needed to expand. So right now we technically are six, excluding myself, I used to be seven in the pandemic, but then winter hit, and things slow down. But right now we're six in total. And I honestly can't even put a number on what are projected to grow to because we're just growing all the time. And I just growing all the time. Yeah, we're growing.

Dondrill Glover:

It's, I mean, I am, I am just so excited for you, I'm excited for your community. And once again, you know, specialty coffee, get an inclusive voice. And I think that that having that representation will be really, really powerful. And, you know, you your connection to coffee runs really deep. And I think that, you know, those are those are lines that people are just going to be able to read and connect with and, and it speaks value, particularly, as you said, you know, in the Bronx where a cup of coffee is just grab it and go. So you know, you're changing the conversation. So seven farmers markets, of course, I'm delighted because that's where, you know, I kind of first saw you at a market at, can we talk just a bit about where people could find you or at some of these markets. I know that you typically post on your Instagram, the actual dates, but what are the markets that you do in the city?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yeah, right now, we're actually adding a few more for the summer but the ones that we're currently at are like the James Baldwin onlive Learning Center. It's in front of the wood Clinton in the Bronx. We're also at that's every Saturday. We also do a chapter called farmers market. Hastings farmers market that's on Saturday, on Sundays we do on Irvington and Riverdale Irvington is in Westchester. And Riverdale is in the Bronx. Those are every Sunday, every Wednesday we're at this week. Well, next week, we begin the battat Botanical Garden in the Bronx that we're going to farmers market every Wednesday. There's actually an exhibitor right now, which is great, too. So if you want to catch a good exhibit, it's pretty famous, apparently 10 million people will go visit it. And you get a farmers market at the same time.

Dondrill Glover:

It's a large part of the farmers market. I want to say a couple years ago, I saw it out front. And I think it's such a wonderful addition to the botanical garden. It's really nice favorite location, by the way.

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

For the people for the community, it's a great addition and even for people visiting it shows you what local culture is, and what local agriculture is, what local branding is, and what local enterprises right. That's the beautiful part. So it bridges the local community and people visiting it shows them a deeper side of our community and our streets and our in our businesses. Apart from that we just begin ritual rituals every Friday, every 1111 to 5pm ritual, Yonkers ritual more. And yeah, so we're going to be adding some more and you know, the best the best way to find out what we're going to beat is to check out our Instagram, you know, actually about to post up you know what we're going to be at tomorrow and Sunday. And we're always going to post it up just to make sure you guys can come by and get some

Dondrill Glover:

you know, I just love that New Yorkers can find you everywhere. No, you know, there's no get acquainted with Don Carvajal. Because you are. And I also, you know, we talk about local community a lot. And I know that you how you feel about farmers, you know, I feel a very special way about farmers, I've got some farming roots in my family that I honor and adore. And I think being on the ground and being accessible means a lot in the fact that you are growing so fast. And all these phenomenal things are happening, particularly as a small brand, you know, a young team and growing this way, but you're still staying grounded in community and making yourself accessible. And I think that farmers markets are just incredible spaces and supporting farmers supporting local producers and artists and foods and product. And when you come into a farmer's market, particularly in a city, you know, where people think very often of when you go to rural places in but they don't realize how much city people really love going to the farmers market. Yeah, yeah,

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

absolutely. Yeah, it's really a beautiful experience, you know, just to be able to have that option, you know, locally. And, honestly, I don't know how big we will have to be to not do farmers markets, I think for the existence of our company, if it's forever, you know, we're always going to be at farmers market, I don't think we could ever be too big. We had a farmers market. Like I think it's such a core of who we are as a company. And and it's a great way to, to stay in the community. You know,

Dondrill Glover:

I agree with you. I think that, you know, farmers markets are, you know, you're it's local, but also just the energy, people talking, connecting, you know, drinking coffee, tea, tasting food, and supporting, you know, brands that you know, local makers, it's really about makers at farmer's markets. And I think that they're so essential and vital to the culture in all communities. And so I think that, that connection is something that should be long standing. So I applaud you for knowing that you always want to be connected on the ground in that way. I am, of course, our conversation is winding down. It's it's I mean, I can talk to you for hours about this stuff. But I do want to share with our audience where they can connect with you, where they can shop where they can follow you socially. Can you give us can you shout out to have your social media channels and your website?

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Definitely, definitely. So if you're looking to get some bees and try some of our delicious coffee, you can go to Don Carvajal cafe.com. If you want to read more about our journey and see what we're going to be at on the weekends or the farmers markets, you can follow us at Don Carvajal cafe on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, even Tick Tock just to stay up to the time of the times of the day. And every look at it, you know, see what the entrepreneurial journey is and stay up to date with what my day is a day, my own my day to day operations are you can follow me DC, not ACC You know, I'm very, I'm very vocal about the entrepreneurial life to every day's. And I just I know a lot of people are interested in entrepreneurship nowadays. And, yes, us as a company, we do a good job of just like this is what it is, you know, this is the time that we wake up, this is what we do every day, this is the time that we roast, this is how to roast Yes, we hand pack every single bag, you know, and I think that's the beauty of social that you get to show people and your consumers a different side of you have the operations before it was just like you get something in the mail or, or you see it on the shelf, but you wouldn't really know the back story to it. And that's the beauty of this.

Dondrill Glover:

And I still think that it's you know, people really love knowing who they're supporting, and where products are coming from. So I think that that landscape of consciousness just continues to evolve. And I think it connects you more to your product and kind of shows, you know, values and those principles and, and, you know, operations and also for people who don't really understand what it takes. And by no fault of their own what it takes to bring a brand to life and and grind in it every day. I think the product itself ends up getting more value attached to it because they really, they really understand what it took to make it happen. So I think it's wonderful that you're doing that. You know, Hector, I can't express enough. Thanks for you joining us today. I mean, it's been so inspiring hearing your story I've been waiting to tell this story. So I'm really excited for our audience to connect with you today. And it's you know, it's stories in brands like yours, framing and sharing those that make you know our community, your Voices Podcast Series really special. And you and what you're doing your brand, your vision, I couldn't be more excited Kickstarter. You're I mean you're about to blow up the Bronx and the best way with coffee roasting and so what an excitement coming to that community. So being able to connect with you and and for you to be so generous to share your story makes it really special. So I want to give you a special thanks. And I'm really looking forward to seeing you at New York now, this summer, you're on my VIP list. And so I'm excited. I really am.

Hector Castillo Carvajal:

Yeah, thank you, thank you. It's an absolute pleasure, you know, at any time, I have an opportunity to share my journey and my story, you know, and hope that at least one person can can be moved by it to begin their, their journey and their dream, you know, it's an absolute pleasure. So thank you for having me. And in terms of blowing the Bronx up, you know, that's, that's, that's a part of the plan. It's the Bronx bombers. You know, I'm gonna run and keep going, you know. Hopefully one day, I'm the official sponsor of the Yankees, Yankee game coffee or something. I'll manifest it right now.

Dondrill Glover:

We're putting that in the universe, it is going to happen. I you know, you have shown that whatever you put your mind and your heart to, you know how to make it happen. You get that drive and passion and you're smart and savvy and I just, I'm gonna keep following. I'm going to keep watching, because for what you do next, and I'll definitely like me and many others will be there to to support so until the next time hasta luego, Hector Castillo, Carvajal purpose driven and visionary, a coffee efficient auto connecting community coffee and culture in the South Bronx. To learn more about Don Carval, visit Don Carvajal calm and follow on Instagram at Don Carvajal. Thank you for listening to the New York now podcast. Make sure to tune in weekly for engaging and insightful conversations, touching on the most relevant topics facing our community today. visit to your gmail.com to learn more about our market and how you can join in on the conversation.