Sunnyside Café at Luther College to celebrate new coffee with grand opening

Luther College's Sunnyside Café will celebrate its switch to K'uun Coffee, roasted locally by Bean Masters Inc., with a grand opening and ribbon cutting at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 8. Truffles and biscotti will be available for sampling, and there will be special activities including a trivia game. Sunnyside is inside Luther’s Center for the Arts.

"We are extremely happy to be able to bring Bean Masters to Sunnyside Café," said Curtis Raddatz, purchasing specialist for Luther's Dining Services. "Having a local producer able to custom roast fresh coffee on demand is a tremendous advantage in being able to keep a high quality product at Sunnyside. We also feel that it is a great thing for us to be able to support a local business, even though it doesn't qualify as local food, it is dollars going back into the local economy, which is a huge part of our commitment here at Dining Services."

Fernando and Barbara Vaquero of Calmar, Iowa, own and operate Bean Masters, roasting single-origin coffees in small batches. The Vaqueros are natives of Honduras, where Fernando's family owns a small farm growing coffee, African palm and other agricultural products.

For several years after moving to the United States, the couple owned a doughnut shop in New Mexico, and became certified to roast their own coffee for the shop. Barbara, who has an agronomy degree, also worked as a food safety inspector for the state, and Fernando, an industrial engineer, was employed at a dairy and cheese company.

When the couple started a family, they researched many areas of the country, looking for a region that would be strong in education and would support the coffee business they wanted to develop. 

Northeast Iowa met their needs, Fernando says, because of the two colleges here — Luther and Northeast Iowa Community — and because many organizations and residents support local, organic and fair-trade businesses. Finding no other coffee roasters in the area, Fernando said, “We saw the opportunity to supply a coffee that is fresh and customized to the needs of our customers.”

The Vaqueros now have two daughters, Barbara Cecilia, 9, and Fernanda Isabella, 1. In the summer of 2011, the family made the move to northeast Iowa, where Fernando is employed by Swiss Valley Farms in Monona. Their dream of also running a coffee business would soon become reality. Bean Masters received the largest small business grant awarded by Winneshiek County Development in May of this year. "Getting the grant was a pretty big thing," Barbara said.

Bean Masters got under way in July this year, roasting coffee beans from Colombia, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ethiopia and Kenya that are Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance certified. The company serves customers ranging from large businesses to individual households.

The Vaqueros roast coffee in batches of just two kilograms each, as dark or as light as the customer requests. They have offered to develop a Luther blend based on input from the college. Fernando also said that some profits from Bean Masters will be set aside to benefit others. "At the core of our company is a mission to give back to the community. Five percent of revenue from Luther will go into a fund to support the needs of the community," he said. "We believe we have a social responsibility."

Bean Masters can be contacted at bmasterscoffee@gmail.com or (563) 562-9033.

In addition to Bean Masters coffee, Sunnyside Café, in the Center for Fine Arts on the Luther College campus, offers freshly baked bagels, grab-and-go foods, a full-service espresso bar, and the café's famous cinnamon rolls. The café is open 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and closed during January term and semester breaks.