14-year-old Grand Rapids native launches Joven Coffee

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Francesca “Frankie” Volkema Courtesy Joven Coffee

The daughter of Sparrows Coffee and Schuil Coffee owner Tim Volkema is launching her own line of coffee.

Francesca “Frankie” Volkema, who a year ago became the world’s youngest professional coffee grader, is launching Joven Coffee to support the next generation of coffee farmers and inspire young people’s involvement in the industry.

Joven — Spanish for “youth” — will consist of two single-origin coffees, one originating from a collective of young farmers in Cauca, Colombia, and the other from a group of young female farmers in Burundi, Africa.

Volkema, now 14, passed the “Q” at just 13 years old. The Q is a series of tests from the Coffee Quality Institute that comprises 22 tests in eight sections, including general coffee knowledge, sensory perception, olfactory skills, “cupping” or tasting and coffee grading.

“These experiences — from passing the Q, to visiting Colombia and talking with young farmers, to creating my own coffee line — have been so much fun and an incredible learning experience for me,” Volkema said. “I’m excited to support these farmers in Cauca and Burundi and inspire more young people to become involved in the coffee industry.”

In launching her own line, Volkema set out to create coffees that not only taste good but also have a positive social impact. On a visit to Colombia with her father, she saw firsthand the lack of young coffee farmers. The average age of a Colombian farmer is 57, creating a significant problem for the future workforce of coffee growers.

Volkema decided to buy coffee from Cafinorte’s Young Coffee Producers Program, which supports 200 young people from Northern Cauca to become sustainable coffee producers.

After her visit and while developing Joven, she learned about seven female entrepreneurs under the age of 35 from Burundi, Africa, who formed an investment group to purchase their own coffee mill. Volkema will source and roast coffee from these young female farmers, as well.

Joven Coffee is available for purchase at jovencoffee.com Follow Frankie Volkema on Instagram @kidqgrader.

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