#119 Invito Coffee

Yaro, co-founder at Invito Coffee

“I wish more people would think about their consumable waste and try to change something in their household. All they have to do is to look in their garbage, see what item is generating the most garbage and see if they can replace it with something else. A Coffee bag, for example, will sit in the landfill for thousands of years only after 2 weeks of everyday coffee consumption. We need to look out for alternatives. Those little things will add up and have a positive environmental impact.”

If it wasn’t for the Covid, if it wasn’t for Yaro getting laid off, and if it wasn’t for his family coffee farm in Costa Rica, the story of Invito Coffee would not have begun. In pre-pandemic times, Yaro was a full time airline pilot. Before his flight, he would get his usual Starbucks coffee at the airport and that was the only coffee he had ever known. As he started going to local roasters and trying speciality coffee, that was when a whole new world opened up for him. Through tasting roaster after roaster, and getting formal coffee education, coffee has become his second passion after flying.

Yaro(Y): “One advantage of being an airline pilot was when you are off, you are off. So, on my days off, I would take classes at Vancouver Coffee Academy on Granville Island and I started learning about coffee step by step. Before then, I knew nothing about coffee! My father has been living in Costa Rica and he and his business partner acquired a 42 hectare coffee plantation 5 years ago. That’s when my coffee journey really began. It took almost 4 years to reshape and replant the land, and when we were ready to bring the coffee beans to Canada in 2019, I helped on the logistics, our zero-waste branding, and compostable packaging side of the business. That, I think, was the legitimate formation of what Invito Coffee would be.”

VOICE(V): “How did you launch your new business in the middle of the pandemic?”

Y: “We launched the business in March, 2020 and I got laid off from the airline the same month. If I were still flying, I would not have been able to give 200% of my energy into this new coffee business, so that’s the silver lining of it. We started from zero customers, zero revenue, zero everything! How do we find people? What do we do? Those were the first challenges that we had to overcome. We literally tried to win over one customer at a time. When restrictions got eased in June, we applied to every single farmers markets, and whoever took us, we got on board. First was Clayton Community Farmer’s Market, then we were also lucky to get in to Burnaby’s Farmers’ Market. Farmers markets are what really started our sales. Then word of mouth and subscription orders started to generate sales soon after that.
Because I was able to dedicate every hour of my day to growing and expanding the business, we have grown pretty quickly amidst the pandemic. The other silver lining of the Covid was this whole support local movement. We might not have grown as quickly if everyone had not had their routine disrupted and encouraged to check what’s local.”

V: “How is Invito Coffee different?”

Y: “ We are the first plastic-free and zero waste coffee brand in Vancouver. My wife, Heather, and I are both vegan, and Invito Coffee represents our plant based philosophy as well as sustainable practices of Costa Rica. The country is known as a global leader in sustainability. They are 98% sustainable and aim to be the first carbon neutral country in the world by 2030.(originally by 2021, but Covid delayed their goal.) Costa Rica is what inspired the compostable packaging and elements that came to be.
Because we bought the coffee farm, we are able to control the entire process from planting to harvesting to shipping direct to Vancouver for small-batch roasting.”

Invito Coffee currently has 4 options of their above fair-trade organic Costa Rican coffee beans. The Medium Roast is for people who like lighter coffee and it has citrus and floral notes. The Espresso is flavorful and bold. (Yaro said that when a household cannot agree on a coffee, they usually agree on their Espresso.) The Peaberry is their limited quantity speciality coffee and it has the boldness of the Espresso and the fruitless of the Medium Roast. (Peaberry is a rare oval shaped bean that naturally occurs in only 5% of the harvest.) The Decaf is by Swiss Water Process that offers amazing chemical-free decaffeinated coffee. It is full-bodied and so creamy that people often can’t tell it is a decaf. Whether someone likes a lighter roast or darker roast, or whether people are searching for something unique or a good decaf, Invito Coffee has everyone covered. They can also do a customized bag like a mix of the Espresso and the Decaf to make it half-caf.

V: “Tell us more about your zero waste packaging.”

Y: “Our packaging is 100% compostable in both home and industrial composts. There is a world of difference between the terms compostable and biodegradable. Compostable means that it breaks down into its natural elements. It does no harm and does only good things to the environment and the soil health. Whereas biodegradable substances do break down to compounds but do not contribute back to the soil. They sometimes leave residue like microplastics. Biodegradable, to me, is just as bad as plastics.
While the cost for 100% compostable packaging is 3 times higher than a petroleum bag, we feel that it is our job and responsibility as a company to free our landfills and oceans from coffee plastic waste, and we do it without passing down the costs to the consumer. Everything from the bag, sticker, ink (vegan based) and valve is fully compostable and contributes positively to the environment no matter where it ends up in a recycle or garbage bin. We also have a completely zero waste option by offering our coffee in mason jars as part of the Loop-Refill Program.”

V: What is your vision in 2021?”

Y: “Our global vision is to have a sustainable closed loop system that enables us to achieve a competitive price while giving back to the coffee community. At the coffee plantation workers are treated fairly, paid above fair trade wage, and are encouraged to send their children to school. The coffee is then directly imported to Canada without agencies or brokers resulting in cost savings which are passed on to consumers. What gives me hope is that if we can grow our business during the pandemic and get people interested, we can keep growing once we pass this stage.
This year is definitely our growth year, and we will be at farmers markets in Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam and North Vancouver (Loutete Farm!) this summer. We also just started working with Jarr, a package-free grocery delivery, and our products are carried at The Refill Stop, a woman-owned, low-waste refill shop in New Westminster. You can also try our coffee in Kind Cafe and The Cider House. We are a fully integrated business and our partners can be anybody in the coffee industry. We can provide green coffee, roasted coffee, in bulk, and in packaging so we can work with every need. Eventually, my goal is to become a coffee instructor so that I can teach people about coffee and even run workshops at origin.”

V: “Would you go back to flying again?”

Y: “If this business can make enough profit, I probably wouldn’t. I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and the skies the limit to what can be achieved in one’s lifetime.”

Did we mention that Invito Coffee offers FREE local delivery up to Langley with no minimum purchase? So there really is no excuse not to try their highly delicious speciality coffee with all the eco-elements! You know what they say, once you know a great coffee, you can’t go back….

Yaro’s No.1 Tip to good coffee: Have a good burr grinder! Because the grinder will determine the consistency of the grounds and the extraction. If you have an old school blade grinder, throw it away! Especially when you are spending money on speciality coffee, you want to get the best experience out of what you are paying for. So focus on the grinder.

VOICE Community: Susgrainable, Loutete Farm