We chatted with Steven Sutton the Founder of Devoción to learn how his heritage and childhood in Colombia helped shape his philosophy on cultural traditions, honoring and amplifying local communities and roasting the absolute freshest coffee in the US.
What inspired you to start Devoción and what is the main take away you want people to know about the brand and what it stands for?
I started Devoción with the vision of purchasing coffee at origin in a more hands-on way. Coffee is usually purchased by local coffee exporters that use a separate company to dry mill the coffee, then sell it to an importer, who then sells it to a roaster. I wanted to purchase all of Devoción's coffee directly without all these different hands and become a part of the coffee farmer's life, while keeping complete control of the process to maximize quality. This has allowed us to work with over 2,000 farmers, dry mill our own coffee, and get it from origin to roast in as little as 10 days (something that no other roaster does, as they average 180 days from origin to roast).
The Devoción difference is simple: we are the only coffee roaster that uses fresh green coffee before roasting, making us by far the freshest coffee in the US (and yes, we also freshly roast like everyone else).
What should our Goody community know about the Devoción brand and why it makes an awesome gift?
We hand pick all of our coffee farmer partners, making sure that only the best of the best get to join the Devoción family. In return, not only do we pay them prices above fair trade, but we do lots of community work with their families and communities.
Gifting Devoción means gifting the freshest and most exclusive coffees available: coffees that protect origin, give back to the local community, and make for a truly unique coffee experience.
As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, the goal is education. The current accepted word in the US to describe the community is LatinX but many people within the LatinX community do not align with that word due to the many different ethnicities & races within that community. What is your view on the word and how do you like to be referred to and why?
I think all different ethnicities and races are beautiful, and one word doesn’t really get to align with what each of us are and where we come from. So calling me Latino, Hispanic, Colombian or LatinX doesn’t really make any difference. I think we should care less about how we name or say things and more about getting to know each other and all of our differences, differences that make all of us special, differences that make life more interesting and fun.
We read in an article that you came to the US from Colombia at 14 years old on your own to continue your education. That must have been very tough. What was it like to start over in the United States as a young immigrant and how has that impacted your career?
I left Colombia when I was very young because of the extreme violence we were going through. I lived Pablo Escobar’s era in Medellin (his backyard), and this for sure shaped my life. One of those “shapes'' was me coming to the US and finishing high school & university. It was very hard at first, but I was excited to learn about American culture, and really excited to get away from all the difficult scenes and events of life back home.
From the US, I got an amazing entrepreneurial atmosphere and the mentality that everything is possible. From Colombia, I got the humbling coffee culture that inspires love and devotion in a craft that people enjoy in their cup everyday. I used it all to create a company that, today, gives meaning to me and many others around me. I’m definitely very grateful for all of it.
Do you have any resources that you would like to share with our community to further their education in supporting the LatinX community? And why? i.e books, movies, etc.
I honestly don’t think there is one book or reference that can really show all the different cultures of Latin America and why we should support them. Latin American cultures are so diverse that the only way to really understand them is to live them. So my best advice is to go to your local communities, taste their food, and have a chat with the people. If you have the chance, take a plane and visit all of the amazing different places Latin America has to offer and see where we come from. Like I said before, dive deep into everyone’s differences and you will find cultural richness that will make life happier and more interesting.
As we celebrate this month, can you share with us some favorite LatinX/Colombian traditions?
Something that very few people get to see, which I am fortunate to experience regularly, is exploring all of Colombia while we are looking for coffee farms. There are many different traditions around Colombia, but there is one trait that always seems to be present, no matter where I go, and that is happiness and hospitality. From the most humble and poor farmer to the most high end and technically advanced farmers, everyone is always happy, and they all want to share their food, culture and stories, while making you feel at home. I think these things are so present in our culture that it must be one of our greatest traditions. So making people happy and feel at home for sure is one of Colombia’s most beautiful traditions.