For the love of coffee and pursuit of a happy planet is why one coffee connoisseur brews Santa Martha fresh roasted coffee beans.

Proprietor Ken Exner sells his fresh coffee beans at the Farmington Farmers Market open each Thursday from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Farmington Mall parking lot off Highway 3.

This week is the prime season to select from a variety of fresh, harvested produce and other homemade foods. Vendors sell homemade breads, jams, barbecue sauce, and handmade natural soaps, lotions and fragrant candles.

The Santa Martha coffee booth will be open to share samples. Coffee beans are perfect for cold or hot beverages.  

Exner, who makes a home in Randolph, said in January 2013 he traveled to Santa Martha, Nicaragua, after he was asked to be the trip's photographer. This sounded like an adventure and Exner agreed to take photos.  

As a coffee connoisseur for years, Exner was ready to be enlightened about Nicaraguan coffee beans. He knew the word “café” in Spanish translates to coffee. At the time, he lived in Omaha where the coffee culture is strong and his job was to roast coffee beans at a café. In time, he became skilled in understanding the subtleties of brewing good coffee.

On the trip he met Jorje Vega, a farmer who grows coffee beans and cardamom and raises cows on a small farm. After five trips, the two men bonded over their love of coffee. They have shared meals, talked business, prayed together and became friends. Exner worked out a deal to sell this Vega's coffee beans in Minnesota.

The Santa Martha coffee company originated in July 2013, and sales have been strong. As a coffee bean exporter, he sells the coffee beans at a few local Twin Cities markets and churches.

Wanting to become a greater advocate for coffee farmers, Exner said Vega has two children and explains how farmers in Nicaragua are lucky to earn on average $10 a day.

“It is tough work and a lot of hard work, and I have tried to pick coffee and I am not very fast at it, and I would not make very much money if I was there,” Exner said.

“Jorge pays attention to picking the fruit when it is just the right ripeness that is not too ripe and not too green, and since the specialty coffee industry is becoming more and more prevalent, instead of estate beans you are actually getting beans picked by hand from a man who spends time and energy to do it right,” he said.

Several years ago Vega did not have access to the internet or a phone, but today there is electricity in that region. Exner said others have helped Vega and other farmers get running water from a spring so they have fresh water to drink.  

“I think the coolest thing about Jorge is that he spends a lot of time making sure his plants are healthy and watered well and the bee population is good. Tthe coffee just gets better results and cupping scores and it just tastes better than manufactured and coffee that has been sitting on the shelf for six months – kind of the microbrewery ideal,” he added.

“My goal is to sell several different coffees from farmers so I know that the farmers are getting treated properly and consciously,” he said.

For coffee aficionados, Exner said the taste of quality coffee harvested from beans around the world can be attributed to the bean grind and flavor profile. The Santa Martha bean grind is coarse and flavor profile is smooth with a full-bodied taste for a brew that has a low acidity.

“Many of us think that hot coffee is the default brew, but before electricity and quick fires, cold brew coffee was enjoyed for centuries,” Exner said.

The cold coffee brew is his customers’ favorite, especially this time of year.  

“This is how it used to be – they would have a roaster in every town,” Exner said. That was until the coffee industry became globalized and coffee beans were shipped across the nation.

“I remember my grandparents drinking coffee bought and they took scoops of coffee out of a large can of Folgers, and when you opened it up and it released that ‘amazing smell” of fresh coffee grounds,” he said.

"It is cool to see the whole process from the nursery to the final in the cup and you think "oh my gosh that is amazing,' ” Exner said.

Connect with Santa Martha Coffee on Facebook, via Santamarthacafe.com or Ken@santamarthacafe.com. The Farmington Farmers Market merchants will be selling weekly on Thursdays into later October.

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