Blog: These Weird Times

I won’t update this post any more, but I wanted to add information about our charitable response (from another post), and leave it at that. What crazy ride this has been … and will be! -Thompson
May 15, 2020

If you have ordered from us recently and noticed your coffee took longer than usual to get to your door, it’s because we have seen a huge increase in orders since the beginning of the pandemic. The combination of cafes scaling back how they do business and folks having a little extra time at home has made coffee roasting a very popular activity.

So, business has been good for us, and our amazing staff is working hard to keep up. We feel very lucky!

Unfortunately, most other businesses aren’t as fortunate as we have been and there’s a lot of jobless folks in our surrounding communities doing what they can to get through these hard times. We thought paying it forward would be the right thing to do. We decided early on in the pandemic to take 25% of our estimated net income and donate it in advance to local charities assisting the most vulnerable people, with special focus on seniors and the homeless.

So far, we have donated nearly $46,000 to the following charities:

Emeryville Community Action Program

Harrison House

Meals on Wheels of Alameda County

Alameda County Community Food Bank

Bay Area Community Services

Second Harvest

April 2, 2020

I didn’t want to update this on April Fools day! Not much foolish stuff going on around Sweet Maria’s these days … we continue to work with a great focus on safety. We tune our process almost daily here, and place the care for workers and for our sanitary practices above all else. At the same time we do have a heavy order load and a currently a week delayed from our normal turnaround.

Some of our social distancing practices in the warehouse have slowed us down a little in our packing productivity. But we feel this is the right decision for these times. If you ordered, we will get it to you! Thank you for supporting us, and being patient!

As of 2 weeks ago we started donating 25% of profit to a local food pantry, to meal delivery for seniors, and to homeless support. We did this in advance (rather than wait to see our numbers and then donate it), and will continue this as long as its needed,  to help those in the community who are in great need.  -T

March 20-23, 2020

Sweet Maria’s is still shipping orders, with a delay of 3-5 business days from our normal turn-around because of high volume. We closed our front retail space and are asking locals to ship their orders starting today, complying with our state directives.

I know it’s been a huge adjustment for all of us! But we are happy to offer some normalcy and perhaps comfort of home roasting in these times. From social media we can see how much this means to people, to have something nice they can preserve while everything else seems so topsy-turvy.

As far as the coffee trade, there doesn’t seem to be issues with importation and supply at this time. We haven’t had delays on our inbound ocean shipments or issues with trucking and logistics.

At Sweet Maria’s we continue to tune our safety practices for the sake of our crew and customers. We operate in a large space so everyone can practice distancing. We have special hand-washing practices now, sanitization of all our tools and tape guns, no sharing of equipment, and we have plenty of masks and gloves!

Most importantly we monitor for any illness, have ample sick-leave (which we have extended) and everyone has health coverage! We have a few staff that held second jobs and have been laid off: So everyone is deeply appreciative of still having good-paying work, and completely understand that health and safety (for themselves, for their co-workers, for the customers) is top priority to keep operating.

We understand that mail order packages are not a great medium to transmit the virus, and we have done everything we can on our end to make sure we are not giving this pandemic a chance! It would not be surprising if the outside of your package has a faint bleach smell. All our tools and table tops are sanitized with the recommended dilution of beach/water. The coffee itself will be quite fine though. We always handle it as a food item because … it is!

Maria and I have decided to give 25% of profit to homeless organizations, senior meal-delivery service, and food banks. Instead of waiting, we estimated this in amount and already sent the funds, backdating to last week to make sure it reflected the start of the quarantine. $14,000 has been sent to 5 local organizations

-Thompson,   March 23, 2020

March 13, 2020

Returning from Ethiopia a couple days ago, it occurred to me how completely impossible it would be too keep yourself healthy on a long, long flight if someone truly was contagious.  But this was just a thought. Everyone was fine. I was super careful.

I am thinking about those who won’t be fine though. In the airports and lounges, I saw so many service workers who would possibly be impacted economically by a drop in air travel. And physically, they are exposed to nearly every contaminated surface, every countertop and handrail and elevator button that all these travelers touch. I was surprised how many of these workers are older,  50-60+ years, how many appear to be immigrants, and wonder how secure they are in their jobs. A lot of these seem to be “contractor” jobs, which I worry don’t provide the same guarantees as other jobs.

Of course those on the front-lines in healthcare and other professions are perhaps more exposed. I feel empathy for all these people, for the impact on work, on family life, on child- and elder-care… and I am thinking of the homeless who can’t protect themselves as most of us can.

I also worry about declining coffee sales in the global north, and the potential coffee prices paid to growers in the global south will drop. Prices are already too low in the commercial arena. What happens now if big roasters slash their purchasing of green coffee?  [On the international nature of global coffee prices, they used to say “Brazil sneezes and the world catches a cold.” It meant that any hint of frosty weather in Brazil that would damage coffee trees would cause the global price set in New York would soar.  This may hold on the demand side too…]
So no matter how you feel about the dangers of Covid-19, there are many reasons to take it seriously.

We care a lot about our own group here at Sweet Maria’s and have informed all staff on best practices. Our employees are all provided with health care. We have extended paid sick time and stated that nobody feeling ill come to work, period. We are following the current guidelines for cleaning from the CDC (we actually always step up our cleaning practices during flu season). We are sanitizing all our work stations, tools and tape guns.

We have been revising our approach as this unfolds, daily, but we feel the first order of business is to take care of our employees and workplace here at Sweet Maria’s, and then communicate to our customer base.   I look forward to the day when we can look back at how this all unfolded and take stock. But right now we are in the middle of something.