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Column: Finding the perfect cup of local coffee, part 1

Cara Lindberg

What is “good” coffee? Well, taste, of course, is a factor. There is acidity, which describes the “tartness” quality felt in the mouth. There is aroma, which describes what we smell. And finally there is body, which describes the weight or thickness of the particular brew.

Another factor when choosing a “good” coffee is having knowledge of where the beans came from, how they were grown, how they were roasted and how fresh it will be when it gets to us. That’s a lot to think about just to have a cup of coffee, right? Fortunately, a local roastery has done all the thinking for us, and it is smart, sustainable thinking.

Alakef Coffee Roasters, located at 1330 E. Superior St. in Duluth, has been selling high-quality, specialty coffee beans to wholesalers and directly to consumers for almost 25 years, right here in the Northland. In search of the perfect cup of coffee, Nessim and Deborah

Bohbot founded Alakef in 1990. Nessim, who is originally from Morocco, and Deborah met in Israel and then moved to Minnesota. They have been roasting high quality beans ever since. Alakef is a slang term used in Israel which means “the best” or “hits the spot,” so it seemed like the perfect name for their company.

Their daughter, Alyza Bohbot, has recently become the second-generation owner of the family run business. Continuing the tradition of excellence is important to Bohbot and that includes understanding the entire business. “My role is many-faceted. I am learning the business from the ground up and am presently wearing many hats,” Bohbot said.

They reach some of their sustainable objectives by maintaining USDA Organic Certification: coffee that has been certified by a third-party agency as having been grown and processed without the use of pesticides, herbicides or similar chemicals. They buy coffees that meet Fair Trade Certification, providing a minimum price per pound for coffee, regardless of coffee market levels. And through participation in the Rainforest Alliance Program, they integrate biodiversity conservation, community development, workers’ rights and productive agricultural practices to ensure comprehensive sustainable farm management.

Alakef also practices sustainability in their daily operations. Main initiatives include the following:

•Eco-friendly packaging material, starch-based loose fill packing peanuts that are biodegradable in water or a compost setting and made with an industrial grade corn starch grown in the Midwest.

•Environmentally sensitive in-house cleaning products.

•Reusable totes for delivery.

•A roaster that runs on natural gas. Ninety percent of all natural gas consumed in North America is produced in North America.

•Recycling waste paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, tin, aluminum, batteries, bulbs, electronics, jute bags, chaff and pallets.

•Promoting the use of low-or-no carbon dioxide-producing transportation. (Some employees bike or walk to work.)

•Installing an afterburner to reduce emissions before any smoke from the roaster is released into the air.

When asked why choose Alakef over other “big-name brand” coffees, Bohbot said, “Quality, service, flavor, freshness, and trusted experience. We have been supporting the Duluth community since 1990, and in a world full of chains and corporations, it is nice to know that the local business still exists. So support local!”

If you would like to learn more about Alakef, visit their website at www.alakef.com or contact them at 218-724-6849.

Cara Lindberg is the board president of Sustainable Twin Ports, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. She is trained in The Natural Step, a science and systems-based sustainability framework. She can be reached at lindberg.cara@gmail.com.

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