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K4 Coffee: A student company with a cause

Within the walls of room K4 sit three sophomores- Dean Davidson, Ryan Kitzman and Nick Maciel- huddled around a pile of green coffee beans, examining each bean by hand. Their fourth member, sophomore Tanner Wilson, is in South Africa studying abroad, making sure to hit the books and seek out great coffee. This sort of passion and attention to detail guides their student-run business, K4 Coffee Co.

What began as an idea in Hendricks 3S, became a reality in their sophomore year at Young Hall. Although all of the guys are spread out across Young, an enthusiasm for specialty coffee has brought them all together.

“We decided on K4 because there was a story behind it,” Kitzman said. “We grappled with a few different ideas, but K4 sounded the best and it made sense since this dorm room is where we do most of our work.”

Roasting the beans is a team effort, and each member of K4 plays a key role in the company. Davidson, a finance-accounting major, and Kitzman, a business entrepreneurial major, are also working on K4 Coffee Co. for a project in their marketing class. Maciel, a business entrepreneurial major, sketched the “K4” logo in the margin of his notes during a class lecture. Wilson, an international peace studies major, remains in tune with their business’ relationship to the global and consumer market.

A 12 oz. bag of roasted beans from Honduras stamped with the K4 Coffee Co. logo. Maciel hand-carved the official K4 stamp using only an exact-o knife and a recycled couch, foot cushion.
Photo Courtesy of Ryan Kitzman

Their “launch day” turned into a “launch Night,” with the majority of their company establishment happening in 24 hours. Any time they are not in class, they are communicating with coffee brokers or researching the coffee industry.

“Giving your sole attention to making [coffee] centers me, kind of like yoga does for other people,” Maciel said. “Brewing coffee is my yoga.”

Time is a constant hurdle, since they locally roast each 12 ounce bag individually. In general, it takes about 45 minutes to roast one pound of beans. Every batch of beans requires their full attention, to compose the desired roast and flavor.

The first time K4 sold their product, they went off campus to the neighborhoods surrounding PLNU. They went door-to-door, selling their first 12 bags within an hour.

“Hand delivering coffee is an integral part of our business because it allows people to put a face to the company,” Davidson said. “You’re able to bring the story of coffee to people and educate them on any questions they might have.”

Up until now, they have been running primarily on word of mouth. They sell 12oz bags of coffee beans for $12 through their website K4CoffeeCo.wordpress.com and Instagram (@k4coffeeco).

During finals week, they set up a pour-over coffee stand in Young Hall, and served students late night cups of coffee. They also held a “cupping,” or coffee tasting, with plans for another in the near future.

“I loved that they were in the hall of Young each night to chat and make people coffee,” sophomore Carly Jefferis said. “For me, K4 Coffee Co. really stands out from other local coffee businesses because of the guys behind the beans. They love coffee, but even more so, they love people.”

According to a survey by the National Coffee Association of America, 35 percent of 18-24 year olds say they drink specialty coffee daily. With this in mind, K4 Coffee Co. source their beans from a broker called InterAmerican Coffee. They share the belief in the “third wave of coffee” movement, which pays close attention to every step of production and treats coffee as an art form.

“Throughout the process, every hand that touches the coffee is never adding anything new to it,” Davidson said. “From harvest, to de-shelling, to the drying process, shipping it, roasting and brewing it, you’re only losing quality. The goal is to lose the least amount of quality as possible in every step.”

Beyond the beans, K4 looks to pass on the good by donating 20 percent of all sales to charities in the San Diego area, such as an organization called Run to Rescue. As stated on their website, “Run 2 Rescue is a Christian non-profit organization committed to restoring victims of sex trafficking.” On March 20, they will switch to another local charity, which they will continue to cycle every season.

“Most people think of coffee as either a boost of energy or just something that tastes good,” senior Nick Giannetto said. “But to them, it’s way more of a craft, an artisanship, and how coffee can affect economics in the world. So there’s a way deeper story to coffee and that’s why all those guys [K4 Coffee Co.] are excited about it.”

Soon, K4 will be in everyone’s cup on campus as the new suppliers of coffee at PLNU’s monthly music gathering, Musoffee. In the coming months, they will begin transitioning into their role with the help of the current coffee suppliers, Port Coffee.

“Musoffee has always been by students, for students,” senior and Musoffee coordinator, Greg Saunders said. “We want to see a lot of people be apart of that story and that quality here. So going into the future, K4 is going to do a good job of keeping up that tradition.”

Behind every cup is a story. From bean to brew, K4 Coffee Co. respects the journey. As their company continues to grow, they are not concerned about what success the coffee industry can bring them. Instead, they are focused on pursuing a wholesome practice of showing people how coffee impacts others.

“Coffee can change the world because the entire process from seed to cup calls for accountability,” Wilson said. “It calls for people to be accountable to those with the process before and after them.”

About the author

Natallie Rocha

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