By Lajeune Hollis
Sasha and Ian Fay first met in a philosophy class at Central Connecticut State University in 2011 it was love at first sight. Years later, they stayed on the beautiful island of Jamaica in the Blue Mountains before getting married. At the time, although she is of Jamaican descent, Sasha had never heard of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. But she was soon to become fascinated by its rich history.
The newlyweds explored a coffee farm in the Blue Mountains and learned in-depth facts about the famous and rare coffee while they were there. They were so captivated by the smooth taste, the lack of acidity, chocolatey notes and the health benefits of the coffee that they decided to bring it back to Connecticut.
In 2020, the Fays launched their West Hartford home-based business and began operating online. They named it The Ovelle Coffee Company, after Sasha’s middle name. Sasha moved from working in corporate America to starting her dream job managing front end operations full-time for her own business and Ian, co-founder of Ovelle, began working part-time for their business.
“There is a rarity to Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, the production of coffee in Jamaica is actually very limited. It’s delicious and you are providing for the Jamaican farmers livelihood while receiving a better cup for your money.”
Ovelle Coffee Company’s mission is to promote sustainability, diversity and equity throughout Connecticut’s coffee industry.
“Coffee is a male-dominated industry like many others. I want to promote more women in the industry and give women the opportunity to get into the growing speciality market,” shared Sasha. “I also want to share my knowledge of being a Black women-owned business, especially when 8 out 10 minority-owned businesses fail within the first 18 months. We want to assist in decreasing those statistical odds.”
As with any start-up business, the Fays have faced some challenges, specifically around funding.
“When you are a start-up business it is difficult to get funding for the start-up costs, which are typically $50,000 to $100,000 for almost any normal business. For us creating a budget, business plan and knowing our numbers has greatly assisted us in remaining a debt free company,” she shared.
Ovelle Coffee Company has gone beyond fair trade and procured a direct trade partnership with the local Jamaican farmers.
“This way, we build the relationship and that sense of community which causes the farmers to find value in their product,” explained Sasha. “They also have an ability to diversify their market to have other buyers and other vendors. This allows the Jamaican farmers to have a better wage. Cutting out the middleman so they can reinvest in their own farms, reinvest in their employees and make a better cup of coffee.”
Sasha is particularly proud to be doing business this way.
“There is so much behind this quality cup of coffee that we are getting especially during the pandemic – Jamaica is being hit hard. For example, the curfews and lockdowns being imposed, have a negative impact on some of the smaller farmers. The way we are operating our business invites these farmers to still maintain a quality price for a quality product,” she said. “There is a rarity to Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, the production of coffee in Jamaica is actually very limited. It’s delicious and you are providing for the Jamaican farmers livelihood while receiving a better cup for your money.”
In fact, 80% of Blue Mountain coffee gets shipped to Japan while only 20% gets dispersed to the rest of the world.
A coveted treasure, it also has multiple health benefits. It is naturally alkaline – it is low in acidity, which means it is gentle on the digestive system.
“It assists in lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes, reducing depression by nearly one-third and it contains vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to you. It also decreases the feelings of jitters and it doesn’t exacerbate stomach issues,” she explained.
And who knew that coffee is actually a fruit?
“It’s a cherry that has two beans inside and that is what we consume – the two beans. The reason why you can pull different notes out of coffee is because it is a fruit. Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee has rich chocolate and blackberry tasting notes which makes it very smooth and very sweet,” she said.
You can find the Fays at various vendor shows and events greeting their customers and educating the public on the differences between commercial coffees like Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, which can be blended together from different parts of the world and roasted at the same place, and specialty coffees like Ovelle Coffee Company, which originate from specific single origins or single estates and where there is more of an emphasis on taste and on supporting the farmers.
Ovelle Coffee Company truly believes in giving back to the community. They donate a portion of their profits to Side with Love, a non-profit that aids in promoting sustainability, diversity and inclusion. They also host free Hope Out Loud events in partnership with the Quaker Meetinghouse in West Hartford to promote open communication and conversations through musicians, poets and artists to speak out against hatred and violence and speak more positivity to the world. And of course, they provide their delicious coffee at these events.
The Fays have their eyes set on big things for the future with hopes to acquire a warehouse space, get their products onto grocery store shelves and partner with wholesale vendors. They also hope to expand their reach.
“We want to scale up and get our product out to more of a region wide shipment,” said Sasha.
No matter how big Ovelle Coffee Company grows—and they’re bound to because of the quality of their product—they remain steadfast in their dedication to working to ethically sustain the farmers that pour their heart and soul into harvesting the beans.
Sasha’s biggest motivation? “Waking up every day knowing we are make a difference and seeing the smiles on our customers' faces!”
Find Ovelle Coffee online via their website (click here to shop!), on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.
Ovelle Coffee at their first vendor show, the Hill-Stead Museum Juneteeth event in partnership with ShopBlackCT. Ovelle Coffee had a successful event and sold out of coffee! Photo courtesy of Ovelle Coffee.
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