Mike Kennedy’s love for coffee goes way, way back. “To be perfectly honest I have always been a coffee geek,” he says. “During my summers off from high school & college I used to go over to my uncle’s shop to work. At that time he had his own small batch roasting company so I learned the ins and outs of coffee then.” But it wasn’t until much later that he decided to make coffee the focus of his life. “I had been in the insurance business for 20+ years and one day I came in and said to myself ‘I hate this job, I’m done.’ Since I was single and my kids are young adults I decided to take off a year and travel. Being a practicing Buddhist, first up was Thailand.”
While visiting a small fishing village called Ban Phe, Mike ate an American style breakfast that included delicious coffee. Mike wanted to know more about it, but the language barrier was an issue. “While there I kept drinking this awesome coffee, but, of course, with no one speaking English I could not ask about it. One day I was talking to a Brit and this guy behind me on a scooter asked me where I was from. I told him I lived in Maryland at which time he told me he was from Georgia and he invited me up to his house overlooking the Gulf of Thailand for lunch. While we were waiting for lunch I again had this coffee. Being a coffee geek I knew this was something I had not ever tasted before so I asked him where he got it. He brightened up when I asked and he proceeded to tell me his friend owns a coffee farm, Paradise Mountain. At the time I was just looking to enjoy Thailand and figured I could find the coffee when I got home on Amazon or online. Upon returning home I quickly found out I could not find it anywhere—well, my entrepreneurial mind got going and the rest is history”
Mike partnered with Paradise Mountain, leaving the roasting up to them and their expertise. “Not only are they USDA certified organic, non-GMO, shade grown, Smithsonian bird friendly, and soon to be most sustainable, they also happen to be ‘direct trade’, not just fair trade,” he says. “Since they own the farm in Thailand I am sourcing directly from the farm.” Besides constant recertification to retain their organic designation, this coffee truly is shade grown. “Other companies advertise shade grown but most of them clear cut forests and erect artificial shade barriers. In Thailand, the farms are naturally shaded by banana & mango trees. So not only do these decaying fruits affect the flavor they also cut down on the bitterness and acidity. When you drink any of the Thai coffees you do not get hit with that bitter Starbucks taste and little to no acidity afterwards. This is due to the natural growing environment in Thailand. (Also) I promise if we aren’t the only one we are one of the few that is Smithsonian bird friendly. To achieve this you must grow in untouched natural environment.”
It’s important for Mike’s customers to know, he stands behind his product 100%. “I, as the owner, would not be doing this if I did not feel the product wasn’t exceptional. I also would not align myself with any coffee company if they didn’t adhere to my own personal standards of high quality, environmentally friendly, fully sustainable and ethically sound coffee. We do not make much on our coffee when we sell it but I believe in shared success and that starts with the farmer. I have met these farmers, Paradise Mountain has helped them with clean water projects as well as building a school. Also, I am really particular about what goes in my body so to have an authentic USDA organic and non-GMO coffee means in my heart I am supplying people with the best product possible. I am not looking to get rich, just provide a quality product that no one else does.”
Mike shipped us some of his Chiang Mai Thailand Organic Peaberry coffee, and, upon opening the box, we were enveloped in the incredible aroma of the roast. We ground the beans fresh and used them in an automatic drip coffeemaker to make a perfect cup. We found it rich, smooth and full of unique and satisfying flavor, with none of the acidity or bitterness that often gives coffee a sour edge.
For more information about The Exotic Bean coffee and to order your own, visit https://theexoticbean.com/