A couple of years ago I traveled to my mother’s native country, Colombia. It was my first visit to the country and it was my grandmother’s first return trip in over 15 years. My entire visit was full of excitement, wonder and discovery. The glaring juxtaposition of Miami’s hustling, flat tropical environment to Colombia’s untouched stretches of green farm land and jagged mountains was truly astonishing.
While exploring a tiny neighborhood food store next to the city’s largest building, it’s church, I found a couple of small cardboard boxes jammed in the corner of a bottom shelf. The boxes had no windows to peek through but they said on the front; “Panela en Cubos” and “Cafe en Cubos.” In spite of my limited skills in spanish I understood one word “cafe”.
My infatuation with coffee started at the age of four, where a Montessori school teacher would sneak a tiny cup of Cuban coffee through the gate. She was on her lunch break, sitting on the sidewalk on the opposite of the fence with tiny cups of Cuban coffee and a media noche sandwich she got from the cafeteria across the street. I was supposed to be out playing for recess, which I did. But only until she sat next to fence…
I rushed to my uncle’s house to try the coffee but it wasn’t until I got there that I even bothered to get a clear translation of the banner on the front of the box.
“Coffee in Cubes- Instant Colombian Coffee sweetened with Panela brown sugar”
It was the simple full bodied taste that captivated me. I asked my grandmother how they were prepared, thinking that there had to be a contraption to finish creating any cup of coffee. But in less than a minute we made another cup; “just drop two into a cup and pour hot water over it!” It was simple, wholesome and it was delicious.
It wasn’t until I came back home to my hectic university life that using them really got me thinking. My daily latte was a ritual that I cherished. What I didn’t like was the crazy line that formed anytime class switched and my subsequent tardiness. It was an exam in class that made me doubt the long line and bring my cubes along to school. I slipped into the philosophy department’s office and filled a cup of hot water from the water dispenser, dropped two cubes in and stirred it together. It was then that I noticed that I LOVED these cubes.
The ability to market a healthier, easier alternative to enjoying a drink I love so much drove me towards creating Jiva. I quickly researched possible food providers and researched their backgrounds in quality and standards; both in their use of quality ingredients and the use of the highest grade free trade coffee beans available. It wasn’t too long before I was able to form a great friendship with a Families across Colombia that cultivated sugar cane and higher quality Colombian coffee.
Years later Jiva’s success has brought blessings and difficulties. Pushing manufacturing to higher rates revealed problems in our Colombian manufacturer’s ability to produce our cubes and it quickly became clear we had to move on in order to survive. After many months searching we found the perfect partners; enthusiastic about learning our process, delighted by Colombian culture but most importantly, just as in love with our cubes as we are.
During all of 2016 we traveled to Colombia, imported machinery, and established the required paperwork and rights to import our ingredients. The endeavor required re-establishing a manufacturing plan for a product that had never left the country and making sure that all of the cultural expertise came along with it.
The plan called for a lot of stress, lots of learning and many, many rounds of testing. It was a hard task but we were all up for it.
It wasn’t until late February 2017 that the first batch of USA MADE Jiva Cubes arrived in Miami. The new formula changes boasted stronger coffee, less calories and double the servings per box. We were able to improve the cubes, manufacturing and pricing all at once and we are very thankful to our new family in Newnan, Georgia and all of our patient Cubistas for being there for us the entire time.
Thanks for checking us out! We hope our cubes make it into your cups soon.
Natalia Rodriguez & Allen Gomberg
-The Jiva Team