dear friends

June 19, 2019

dear friends,


maybe the heavy clouds don't know it's almost summer, but the passionflower in the backyard does, showy and persistent with its soft blossoms. the azaleas know it too, somewhere deep in their roots, and all around, the green plants are pushing up through the dirt with their gentle reminders: renewal, growth, possibility.


tal and i have had our heads down for a little more than a year now, working with quiet diligence to stabilize, mend and reimagine four barrel. the fact that we have the opportunity to do this at all is a gift from the forty-six baristas, roasters, trainers, delivery drivers and cafe managers who make four barrel what it is. we are grateful for them everyday. all of the changes that we've made in the last year are in service and gratitude to four barrel's employees and their dedication to quality, and through that constant lens, to our shared goals: true community, a collaborative and safe work place, and ending poverty in subsistence farming communities.


we began our work simply with the foundation of our business: securing the removal of our founder and re-structuring our bank debt. we borrowed money from our families and leveraged everything we owned to keep four barrel's doors open. and while we began this process with the hope of transforming four barrel into a cooperative with shared ownership, we quickly realized that the best way to support four barrel's employees was with profit sharing, not debt sharing. so, tal and i continue to own 100% of four barrel between us and are committed to sharing profits when we have them. because there were no profits to share in 2018, we contributed between 8 and 40 extra hours of paid time off to all employees who had worked with us for the year. for 2019, we are working with our accounting firm and our advisors at ROC united (more on this organization later) to structure a sustainable profit sharing program for all four barrel employees.


as tal and i transitioned from minority to majority owners of four barrel, we took a hard look at the historical power structures and the ways that leadership had functioned within our business. we revised roles toward a more collaborative leadership structure--most notably, more shift leads and direct employee support within the cafes--and we increased our female leadership from fifty to sixty-five percent. and to address what we saw as one of our most glaring blind spots, we invested time and resources into ongoing leadership training for the leaders of four barrel, most especially us. while we continue to promote workers from within our company, now we work hard to provide all of us with the leadership skills that we need to address issues and create high quality, progressive work spaces.


to support our collaborative leadership structure, we created an external HR hotline and adopted everfi's excellent curriculum on harassment and discrimination prevention. while everyone at four barrel now completes these trainings as part of our hiring process, it was our great pleasure to meet saru jayaraman at the end of 2018 and learn about how her work with ROC united could help us build diversity and inclusion into the very fabric of our business, before the hiring process even begins. because ROC is a worker’s rights and advocacy organization, they are experts at external HR, and on conducting in person, thoughtful and thorough trainings on sexual harassment and racial and gender equity. and since they are a well-organized, national organization that was created to be an alternative to the national restaurant association (an organization that actively lobbies to suppress worker's wages and rights) they also know how to lobby for real, political change. as we continue to learn and improve on four barrel’s worker support structure and framework, we’re thankful for ROC’s expertise, guidance and mentorship.


this year, maybe more than most, we have repeatedly found ourselves thankful for our coffees. from the first americanos of the day to the last batches that ryan and sarah drop into the cooling tray, our remarkable coffees continue to bring us together, to amaze us and humble us with their quiet beauty.


tal and i have always been preoccupied with the quality of our green coffee and with the relationships that produce those gorgeous, complex gems. we've spent countless hours on dusty roads and in cupping labs across east africa and latin america seeking the most compelling coffees to bring back to san francisco to roast and brew. now, with intention, we're committed to quality in every aspect of our business: work environment, communication, leadership, community and employment. we still cover 100% of kaiser's platinum benefits and dental insurance for all workers and dependents. we still offer paid time off and family leave. we still offer FSAs and commuter benefits. and we still travel to ethiopia and el salvador and guatemala to meet with producers and exporters to try to create real, lasting change in the communities that grow our incredible coffees.


our work this year has been to reimagine four barrel so that a real focus on quality can imbue everything we touch, not just the coffee we buy and roast and the espresso we make. quality defines the community we create and the safe work space that we foster and protect. and quality is what makes our impact at origin real, possible and sustainable. we plan to communicate as clearly and transparently about our focus regularly on our blog, and on medium, so please join us if you’d like to follow along.


we are grateful for the opportunity to mend and grow and to continue to imagine what is possible, in the world of coffee and in the world. thank you to the four barrel employees and guests for continuing to make it so.