Exclusive Coffees is one of Verve’s oldest partnerships. They develop direct relationships between roasters, importers, and boutique coffee producers worldwide. Verve’s CEO and Co-Founder, Colby Barr, took his first origin trip to Costa Rica, and our partnership with Exclusive started there. Francisco Mena started the company in a garage and has overseen its growth to what it is today. In the early days of our partnership, we were only purchasing five bags of coffee to sustain us for an entire season. As we continued to grow, Exclusive did the same. Mena is a true pioneer in specialty coffee and helped start the Costa Rican Micro Mill revolution. As we continued to push the envelope in third wave coffee at Streetlevel, Francisco Mena was doing the same for third wave coffee at Farmlevel.
Today, Jennifer Mena, her husband Francisco, and the rest of the team run a large operation, including dry milling, cupping, and exporting green coffee worldwide. Aside from his work at Exclusive, he is also a producer. After spending years working with producers throughout Costa Rica, he desired to be even more connected. His farm, Sumava, has been a staple on our menu since its first harvest. The Mena Family is constantly working to craft the future of coffee by experimenting with different varieties and processing methods. We have continued to love this coffee and our relationship with Exclusive for close to 14 years.
We had the fantastic opportunity to speak with Jennifer Mena, a mother of two and long-standing partner of Verve who oversees the logistics at Exclusive and works closely with her husband, Francisco Mena, at Sumava.
How did you get your start in coffee?
My beautiful journey in coffee started 22 years ago when I married Francisco. That’s when I learned about all the different processes in coffee.
What do you do at Exclusive?
Now, I oversee the export and logistics department. I started this side of the business 15 years ago. It is an elaborate process where I manage all the logistics of bringing coffee to our clients. This industry is heavily regulated, and every micro-lot must be registered with the regulating body. The result is an immense amount of complicated paperwork for every single shipment. I oversee this process and have a colleague named Olga, who has been helping since I started 15 years ago, and my daughter Alessia, who is in college, also works with us.
What does working in coffee mean to you?
Working in coffee is very important to us. It is a privilege living in Costa Rica and cultivating coffee has become a blessing to our family and the coffee communities here. We call it “el grano de oro”. It is a prosperity in our country.
How old are your daughters, and what are their names?
Alessia is the oldest, she is 19 years, and Emma is the youngest, she is 15 years old.
When you’re not at work, what is something that you love to do with your daughters?
When we spend time together, it is the best time! We work a lot, but when we can, we love to have girl time. We love drinking coffee, going to coffee shops, and taking advantage of spending time together. In moments like this, I like to give them the confidence to share things that catch their attention and learn about their friends, studies, and goals. We also love shopping, going to the movies, and working out. We spend a lot of beautiful moments together.
A lot of people view the coffee community as a close group of people who become like family. You actually work with your family in coffee, can you tell us more about that?
It has been a blessing to be able to work with my family and to be able to share this opportunity with my daughters. We’ve grown to be a better family and to do excellent work together. Our family in coffee has been something that has surpassed borders. For the last 15 years, we’ve been developing a family of producers and coffee brands (like you!).
Sumava is a really special farm to us, but even more so for your family. Can you share with us any stories or memories you have from being at the farm or farmhouse?
Sumava is a family-centered, peaceful, and relaxing place. We love being there. To start, the weather is spectacular. It is hot during the day, and then it cools at night. Experiences in Sumava are beautiful! We love hiking around the farm and the forest. We try to live with the harvest experience. When the flowers are blooming, we love to smell them. When the coffee plants are fruiting, we love to taste them. When the coffee is processed, we enjoy the smell of the coffee drying. All the experiences around the coffee are a family union. Not to mention, everyone loves to celebrate birthdays here. We just had my mother-in-law’s 90th! It is a very cozy and blessed family space. Sumava is a place to gather and meet - with family, friends, producers, and buyers. Everyone who visits we treat them like family. It is truly a beautiful community space.