Industry Insider Q & A
Co-owner, Las Chicas del Café
Back in 1996 Maria Fiallos decided to take a break from university in Ontario and spent five months back home at her family’s coffee farm in Nicaragua. It happened to be during coffee harvest and that’s when she fell in love. “I fell in love with coffee’s environmental and social aspect, and with everything it represented for four generations in my family,” explains Fiallos. She began working with her father, Reynaldo, for their company, Aroma Nica, an importer of coffee beans to Canada. For years she worked to bring the full story behind her family’s coffee beans to roasters throughout Canada, and she still does today. But she wanted to do more. She began roasting the coffee they imported and brought the beans directly from grower to consumer. Her sister Valeria joined her and together they founded Las Chicas del Café in 2005, based in London, Ont. Getting started was tough financially, but family helped, says Fiallos. “They lent us the capital to start, but they also babysat our children, painted our new offices…they did everything and more to help us.” Today, says Fiallos, she’s proud of all their coffee beans “because I know the pain, sacrifice and sweat that goes into every one…When those beans arrive I work hard to find the perfect roast to complement them.” Today the company offers five bean varieties, sold in the London area, the Greater Toronto Area and online. Las Chicas’ Bourbon City Roast was recently reviewed in Coffee Review, one of the few Canadian roasters to be selected for its prestigious review list.
What do you love most about your job?
“I love everything about my job. That sounds cliché, but I do. I love the challenges it brings me and lessons it teaches me. I love learning everything I can about roasting coffee. I love the connection it allows me to have with my heritage, my native country of Nicaragua, my family, and how that is part of my everyday routine.”
What is the most challenging part of your job?
“I am a romantic. I don’t want to sacrifice my dreams and the romance of coffee for profitability. But, as a business owner, I recognize that in order to fuel the passion behind coffee production, to honour the coffee grower, and to give back to my community, Las Chicas del Café has to be profitable. For me the biggest challenge is to balance each business decision with passion, economic reality and long-term sustainability.”