Rio Coco Beans Story

How did a haircutter from Honolulu and a ski bum / pilot from many places get involved in a coffee business?  The only answer is that it is part of our great adventure of life, which started when we became followers of Jesus.

Laura began life as a Buddhist, and when she was 16 her auntie told her about Jesus. After going to the library and discovering so many books about Jesus, she checked out five (one of the was Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship), Laura was baptized, the first Christian in her extended family.

Michael got out of the Navy in 1979 to become a skier in Colorado, and came to Maui in 1981 to help a co-worker at his hotel in Vail to open an ice cream business in Lahaina. His cousins Kean and Shelly Salzer, longtime residents of Maui, were instrumental in pulling Michael into the Hope Chapel community, where he had encounters with God, and dedicated his life to be a follower of Jesus that fall. In 1984 he volunteered to travel to Eastern Honduras to help Miskito Indian refugees from the war in neighboring Honduras. That two week trip led to the founding of Project Ezra, a primary school project among 12 refugee communities along the Kruta and Coco Rivers. When the war ended in 1991, Seek The Lamb crossed the river to the Nicaraguan side, and began helping in the rebuilding process for these communities destroyed during the war.         

The school program, Project Ezra, was now the official school in 14 villages, working with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education. Enrollment had grown, more teachers were hired. Slowly life began to return to normal.

Michael and Laura met Jim and Sarah Hornsby, the founders of the Young Life ministry in Nicaragua, which had their camp high in the mountains above Matagapla. This was a famous coffee production area and Young Life had a profitable coffee farm. After visiting the camp, Michael had a thought that importing coffee from Nicaragua and selling it in the U.S. would be a good fundraiser for the school project. Initially Michael dismissed the idea, but it often returned, especially after a good cup of Nicaraguan coffee.

Michael and Mike Remedios picking coffee at the Vida Joven farm above Matagalpa Nicaragua, 2008

 In 2004,  Mike Remedios, a good friend from Raleigh NC, came to the Coco River for a visit. One morning while sharing a press of Nicaraguan coffee,  Michael shared the coffee idea with his fellow aficionado, Mike told him he knew a coffee roaster in Raleigh, and that he would be a good source of information on how to import coffee from Nicaragua.





 In October that year,  Michael & Laura traveled to Raleigh, where the met Larry Larson, founder of Larry's Coffee, and one of the pioneers of 'fair trade coffee'. Larry and his fellow coffee roasting friends decided instead of paying the standard price to coffee farmers set by the big coffee companies based on the commodity market, they would pay a 'fair price' to their farmers, which was about 50% more than the commodity price. As we talked with Larry about our school project in Nicaragua, and our desire to buy Nicaraguan coffee and get it roasted in the U.S. so we could raise funds to pay our teachers, Larry said something surprising: 

  "So you want to import Nicaraguan coffee so that you can make some money to pay your teachers? I just purchased 20,000 of Nicaraguan coffee. I have plenty. why don't you let me roast some of my coffee, and sell it to you at a price that you can make your margin, and help your teachers?"

"You would do that for us? What do we need to do?"








"Just give me a bag with a label and I'll fill it with Nicaraguan coffee and send it to you."









Mike had a friend, Leesa Brinkley, who designed a logo for Rio Coco Beans.




























































Another friend designed a webstore and by December Rio Coco Beans was selling coffee and sending money to the schools in Nicaragua!

  In February 2005, Larry took Michael and Laura to visit a cooperative outside Managua where he purchases coffee. In May Rio Coco Bean purchased 4000 lbs of this delicious Nicaraguan coffee.

Larry, Michael and Laura in Nicaragua February 2005





Larry continued to roast our coffee until his business grew where he could not roast for us any more. That's when in 2008 we purchased our own roaster, a 12 kilo Diedrich IR-12 and began roasting coffee in Vero Beach Florida. 








































In 2008, Laura and Michael visited their friends on the island of Utila, just offshore from La Ceiba, where they had lived from 1987 to 2000. Utila is a mecca for scuba divers - they come from all parts of the world!

They returned each summer with their family, and in August 2011 they launched the first Rio Coco Café. Arriving back in Florida, they began work on opening the Rio Coco Café in Vero Beach, which began service in December of that year.