Some people just make your heart smile. That’s what it’s like to meet Darwin Pavon, founder of Theodore’s Coffee in Owosso, Michigan, and a native of Honduras. His welcome is warm, his enthusiasm is sincere and infectious, and his coffee is amazing! He sources much of it--the coffee, that is--from Honduras, where he pays the farmers a fair wage. And he gives back a portion of every sale to the Micah House, which provides a home and an education for boys from the streets of Tegucigalpa. Darwin lived at Micah, and he is an extraordinary example of the potential that lies within each of these boys—potential not only to succeed but also to improve the world around them. Darwin is doing that with every bag of coffee he roasts and cup he brews. Read on to meet our dear friend:
Tell me a little bit about living at Micah and your college education in Honduras.
Living at Micah House was a great experience. It gave me the opportunity to have an unending brotherhood and to go to college, which is priceless for the achievements I have in my life!
I started dreaming of being a doctor. I actually studied at the public university for two years, but the crooked system and the delays for all the corruption were discouraging. After that I was invited to take the admission test at Zamorano University, an agriculture engineering program, and I loved it! It was four years of hard work and dedication, with a full scholarship in my second year. This gave me the discipline, pride and ethical background to get into the work world!
Please describe your work for the farms first in Honduras and then Brazil, as well as how you came to the United States.
The job opportunities I had took me from selling animal feed to managing a toy factory, a fertilizer position, then working with coffee growers all over Honduras, helping them to enhance their yields, offering training and education on their farms. After that I got an offer to work for the biggest melon exporter from Honduras, traveling to the U.S. and Asia as their sales representative. Through this I got involved with Agricola Famosa, the world’s biggest melon grower out of Fortaleza, Brazil. I had the chance to manage all their new markets, including Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and more. This was by far the best experience for me, working with a great team of people and traveling all over the world.
How did Theodore's Coffee begin?
Theodore's Coffee started in Indiana as part of a small roaster; then I moved and took Theodore's Coffee independent in Michigan.
Theodore is my grandpa’s name, and it means “Gift from God.” Grandpa was the funniest person I knew, a hard worker and a great guy! Everyone loved him. I got to visit him once in a while; I always loved spending time with him and my dad.
Tell me a little bit about your new business operation in Honduras.
As of this year we started a partnership with Cafe Ventura, own by Lurvin Ventura, a great person and a friend of mind. I know Lurvin from working with him in the past and got to earn his friendship and trust. Lurvin is well known in coffee, as he exports coffee all over the world. We decided to get together in business and acquired a farm in Ocotepeque, where he lives. This will guarantee our supply of excellent coffee as well a new door through which we can promote more of the Honduran coffees. By now it is well known that Honduras coffees are in the top four worldwide, so we are working hard to make that a statement. Lurvin will be taking care of the production and export of the coffee while we do the marketing and sales for the roasted and green coffee beans in the U.S.
What are your goals for Theodore's Coffee going forward?
These are the dreams that we are working on:
We want to go closer to our customers and provide them with the most delicious coffees and French pastries. So we have been working hard on the bakery business plan, a place like no other in Michigan where you can find an amazing French dessert and an outstanding cup of coffee within everyone’s budget.
We want to grow the roastery within the next two to three years. We have access to Direct Trade coffees from Honduras, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Brazil right now. We want to use that to get into bigger accounts. Costco is in our goals, as well as other high-end stores where we can move more volume and give back to the farmers in a fair way for the hard work they put into growing coffee.
Why do you like the Mataras coffee the best?
Ha! For lots of reasons!
It’s grown by one of my best friends, Mr. Oscar Espinoza, who also was my college roommate.
It is a very good cup of coffee, with nice hints of green apples, white chocolate and raisins as it cools. It is yummy!
The name has a story. Las Mataras means The Killer. It is named this because the Espinoza family has a beautiful mahogany forest on the plantation, and Oscar’s grandma repeatedly told her husband not to plant coffee because it will kill the mahoganies. (It never did; actually both plantations work perfectly and have guaranteed the family success in the business.)
You have to try it to understand me—it is yummy!
I noticed the photos of Axel, Edward and Hector in your shop. Do you have a special connection to them?
The boys are part of my life, and they are part of my memory of who I am, and it helps me to remember the Micah Project every day. Micah 6:8 in the Bible is pretty simple, asking us to be humble, act justly and love mercy. This has been part of my life, and the boys are part of that too! I love all the kids at Micah, and every time I go there I try to connect with all. Axel, Edward and Hector are special for me and my family.
What do you want to tell people about the Micah Project?
I have traveled all over the world, and I have visited places, and nothing compares to Micah. I want people to learn about it and share about it, because it shows it is possible to get kids out of the streets. It is possible to accept them where they are and have love for them. Micah House gave me an opportunity, and I want people to help Micah to give opportunities to more kids!
What do you want to tell people about Honduras?
Obviously it is home for me, and I love it like nowhere else. It has mountains, it has lakes, rivers, beautiful historic sites, amazing beaches!
The Hondurans are super welcoming people! I understand that when you read the news, it doesn’t sound safe and fun to go there. But my experience is different. I have never had anything bad happen to me. I have seen crime in Singapore, Dubai, the U.S., and I learned that if I make myself a target and walk in dangerous areas, yes I will be in trouble.
And how would you describe Theodore's Coffee to them?
Love in a cup! Once you try my coffees, people get hooked! We work with the finest coffees in the market, provide high quality and excellent customer service. We want people to have loyalty to our brand and share with their friends how amazing our coffees are…and to feel that you are also part of our support to Micah.
What do you do outside of roasting coffee, shipping coffee and drinking coffee?
I love playing basketball, walking, traveling and eating! I have two fluffy dogs, and I love taking them for long walks on trails. I have a great group of friends in town; we hang out as often as we can enjoying conversation. I love spending time with my wife—we walk every day and talk about life and everything possible. She is my best friend and partner in crime! We are expecting a baby in November, so I guess that will add extra love to what we do!