Local café works to fight worldwide poverty with coffee sales

Meghan Bogardus

Rico Latte is a coffee shop with a cause. According to its Web site, it’s “fighting poverty, one cup at a time.”

Rico Latte has a menu in which almost every drink – from chai tea to a caramel macchiato – is made with fair trade organic coffee, espresso and tea from the Equal Exchange program.

Rose Crews, regional manager, said the owner opened the café for three reasons – his love of coffee, his love of people and his desire to help people all around the world have a better life.

“He’s not in this to make money,” Crews said. “He’s doing this to make a difference across the world.”

According to the shop’s Web site, Equal Exchange started in 1986 with coffee from Nicaragua and has moved on since then. It partners with cooperatives of farmers worldwide to produce organic coffee, tea and chocolates.

Products come from all over the world, but it focuses primarily on working for fair trade in developing countries.

Crews said the coffee comes from all over the world, but the particular best-selling coffees come from Colombia, Guatemala, Peru and India.

Rico Latte also plays and sells only Putmayo World Music, something Crews said happened after they had opened, when the owner was in search of music that defined the café.

Crews said customers generally have two responses to the music – love or hatred.

“Whether you love it or hate it, you have to love the fact that it does represent who we are,” she said. “It’s all different kinds of music from all different countries, from all different walks of life.”

In addition to the people Rico Latte benefits worldwide, the café also offers amenities to its customers that other coffee shops don’t.

The main amenity in the café is the “Rico Room,” a state-of-the-art conference room with a television, VCR and DVD player. It is available for $10 an hour, with money taken off that fee for anything purchased while the room is occupied.

Rico Latte also has a delivery service between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. with a $15 minimum order and a $2 delivery fee. The café has a delivery service to the Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital, with coffee on cart from 8 to 11 a.m. They also set up on the first base line of Canal Park for every Akron Aeros game.

Even so, Crews said Rico Latte is looking to expand. And while no contracts have been signed yet, they plan to open a café in the courthouse being built near the shop’s current location, as well as one in the Summa Wellness Center in Hudson.

“The more coffee that we can sell, the more we can help,” Crews said.

All in all, the coffee shop has an expansive menu with the typical espresso and coffee drinks, as well as RicoFrapps, smoothies and various pastries.

The café is quaint and features exotic photographs and a map of the various countries that Equal Exchange benefits over which the words “One World, One Family” are painted.

“This isn’t just a coffee shop,” Crews said. “The goal was to pay a fair price and make sure we are doing something good, not just around here but helping people around the world.”

Contact all correspondent Meghan Bogardus at [email protected].