Serendipitous Outcome: A Brief Encounter with Caravela Coffee
A Brief Encounter With Caravela Coffee
By: Tom Griffen
Did you know that Caravela Coffee, an importer of the world’s highest-quality Latin American beans, sits quietly tucked into the second floor of the Greenbridge building, right here in Chapel Hill? Yeah, me neither.
Caravela Coffee is aptly named for a traditional caravel —a freight ship that brought goods back and forth between the new and old worlds. These traditional vessels bridged landscape and culture, stimulated distant economies and made real-life human connections.
Badi Bradley is Caravela’s North America Sales Director. It seems everything he’s done has prepared him for this role. And though he believes this was unintentional, it’s tough to overlook the serendipitous outcome.
Badi grew up in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Like his father, Badi attended UNC Chapel Hill where he earned a degree in business administration and marketing. Upon graduation he followed again in his father’s footsteps and joined the Peace Corps.
“I remember seeing a Super 8 video my dad made when he was in Peace Corps in Paraguay,” Badi said. “Those images and his stories were always in my head.”
During his two year stint in Guatemala, Badi worked as a small business development volunteer. His interaction with local farmers gave him his first interaction with coffee producers. Back then he also wrote a bucket list. One of his life goals: run a coffee shop.
Badi returned to UNC for a master’s degree in city and regional planning and a certificate in Latin American studies. During this time he met his wife, Luisa Pedrosa, a Colombian visitor interning for a local architecture firm. On a visit to her home country, Badi learned even more about coffee.
Later Badi worked under Lex Alexander and managed Chapel Hill’s (now closed) 3 Cups Café. Lex’s vast experience in specialty food retail—at Wellspring Grocery and with Whole Foods in its early days—afforded Badi countless hours of invaluable mentorship. He learned how to truly take care of his customers.
While he was with 3 Cups, Badi met the shop’s Colombian coffee exporters. They wanted to change the import model to better meet the demands of the marketplace.
In 2009, Badi and his partners started Caravela Coffee and began importing Colombian coffee in a way that hadn’t been done before.
Badi and his team created an infrastructure that helps small, high-quality harvests yield financially viable results for the farmer. Additionally, they create employment opportunities in rural communities.
“Our mission was to connect producers with roasters,” Badi said. “and to create a model that maximizes value on both sides.”
They now work in eight countries in Latin America.
“We’re really good at developing relationships with producers,” Badi said. “Farmers are mostly looking to improve their quality of life, to provide for their families, buy clothes for their kids, improvements on their farm. We consider them business partners, not just vendors, and help ensure their success by providing training and access to market.”
Caravela is a B-Corp—a for-profit company that meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance. It achieved a “Best in the World” award for their overall community impact. In fact, they are one of the top-five overall B-Corp businesses on the planet.
Badi loves his job because it’s fulfilling on so many levels.
“We pat ourselves on the back sometimes,” Badi said. “We’re successful and we make a real difference to real people.”
Not to mention the top-notch flavors he regularly samples.
“We deal with the best coffee in the world,” Badi said. “We seek it out and often find it. It’s rare.”
Badi assures me this claim isn’t biased, and I believe him. Why? Because on my first visit to Caravela, after being warmly greeted by the staff, someone made me a cup. This cup was proof.
The smell of rising steam, the hint of earthy fruit, the warm bite on my tongue. As if I had sipped the good vibes of everyone involved in the process: The person who planted seeds, cared for crops, picked and milled berries, packaged and shipped product, ground and roasted beans—everyone involved in putting this singular cup into my two hands.
A chain of events leading to a perfect outcome.