Green Giants: Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company

Coffee With a Side of Sustainability.

By: Leslie Milk

At the Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company in Crofton, the coffee beans arrive green and CBRC makes sure they stay "green" till they reach your cup.

First, they're bought from fair-trade growers who pay their workers living wages. Second, CBRC's new roaster is 78 percent more energy-efficient than the traditional model, and the company buys wind-power energy offsets to reduce its carbon footprint further.

The coffee is packed in recyclable steel cans. Each blend highlights an issue critical to protecting the Chesapeake watershed: "Cattail" promotes living shorelines and estuaries; the "Eco-Reef" package explains the balance between the watershed's ecosystem and the health of the economy.

CBRC donates 2 percent of gross sales to groups involved in cleaning the Chesapeake watershed, including EarthEcho International and the South River Federation.

Chesapeake Bay coffee is now available in more than 125 grocery stores and specialty markets and 300-plus food-service outlets.

The company was started in 2002 by Tom and Rick Erber, who grew up in Montgomery County, along with Bruce Heinlein. Chris Paladino, who spent 12 years working for the Red Cross and was looking for a socially responsible business opportunity, came in as an investor and CEO in 2010. The company now has 20 employees and roasts 10,000 pounds of coffee a week. Paladino plans to double its output in the next few years and is looking at adding sustainable teas.

"You can taste the difference, and we're making a difference," he says. "We're preserving the environment one sip at a time."

This article appears in the May 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.