By Clare S. Richie

Coffee brings people together. That sentiment is evident in Reggie Grand’Pierre’s vision for Itiah Coffee: to link Haitian coffee growers to Atlanta consumers, one relationship at a time.

“From the mountain tops of Haiti to your cup,” is how Grand’Pierre describes the venture. Itiah Coffee also proudly shares 20 percent of its net profits to uplift rural Haitian communities.

Grand’Pierre, a Haitian born Atlanta entrepreneur, started Itiah Coffee after a 2009 visit to his home country. During that trip, he met with his wife’s uncle, a coffee grower and college friend, who owns a coffee-roasting house. This encounter sparked the idea to create an income producing coffee venture that gave back.

To test the idea, Grand’Pierre ordered 100 10-ounce bags of Rebo Cafe, a Haitian grown coffee brand. It sold quickly. In 90 days, he sold 268 bags to his friends and colleagues and raised $200 for Haiti. The idea had legs.

By July 2011, the one-person initiative evolved into Itiah Coffee, LLC and welcomed three Haitian-born members to the management team – Frantz Bourget, Edouard Demetrius and Pierre Richard Thomas. The team has experience with the Haitian agricultural sector, Haitian grassroots organizations in rural communities, and conducting business in the U.S.

This journey has had its share of challenges. Poor infrastructure in rural Haiti, such as inadequate facilities and roadways, made it difficult to connect with growers. Coffee growers are tempted to produce crops harvested more frequently, like cabbage, which their families can consume. In addition to reducing the coffee supply, switching crops is contributing to deforestation, since coffee grows in the shade.

Grand’Pierre and his team are not easily discouraged. “I am Haitian and have the patience to grow both the supply and the demand side of the business,” he said. In 2013, Itiah Coffee launched its own brand from the Fond Baptiste community. Customers enjoy the coffee’s bold, sweet flavor with no aftertaste. They like knowing exactly who grew their fresh coffee and the added goodwill of fundraising for Haiti.

“The experience of 2013 gave us great insight into sourcing and importing coffee from Haiti,” Grand’Pierre explained. With a healthy inventory on hand, the company is working to identify a stable region to expand its supply. Once identified, Itiah Coffee will invest in organic certification of the product that already grown without pesticides and fertilizer. The management team is also working on a reinvestment strategy that will spur local ownership in the identified region.

To thoughtfully increase demand, Itiah Coffee is focusing on expanding its coffee club. Each month you can receive fresh Haitian coffee by signing up at itiahcoffee.com. Coffee does connect people. Enjoying Itiah Coffee can also transform lives.  

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.