In 1909, Leonardo Alancón, great-grandfather to owners Pedro and Juan-Carlos Ramirez, was just beginning to develop his coffee farms in Venezuela. Little did he know he was developing roots that would last for generations.
These farms matured as time went by and co-ops began to form. This was when it was decided that the coffee should be exported to Europe. These farms passed down to the next generation. Leonardo’s daughter, Dora Alancón, and her husband Efrain Rodrigo continued to farm and export. During this time, the family’s knowledge and love for coffee grew ever deeper.
Things began to change when Pedro and Juan-Carlos’ mother, Maritza Rodrigo, inherited the farms. When they were boys growing up the farms were still with the family but, as new generations do, family began to pursue other professions and goals away from the farms.
The farms were eventually sold, and it was around this time, in 1982, the brothers ventured to America. It was here that they completed school and began a new chapter in their lives.
They never forgot where they came from and how it helped them get to where they were. As time went by, they began to look into starting a company of their own that would pull from their family’s history and expertise. Thus, Orinoco Coffee and Tea was born in October 1996, named for the river that runs through their homeland.
How Coffee Started
The brothers began by importing specialty coffee straight from Venezuela. Sadly, coffee from Venezuela eventually became too difficult for direct trade due to the political and economic climate. This didn’t slow the Ramirez brothers down.
From the beginning, they had focused on forming strong, long lasting, relationships with coffee importers. Importers who continue to aid and support the growth of the specialty coffee trade. And who also engage in buying practices that promote ecological sustainability and responsibility both locally and globally.
Orinoco grew quickly roasting and manufacturing coffee, first in Pedro’s garage before moving to a warehouse of their own to keep up with customer demand. Private labeling coffee for stores such as Dean & Deluca and Balducci’s became an important staple to their portfolio. Even locally, they also focused on spreading out roots here in the DMV with stores like Yes! Organic Market.
How Tea Started
Let’s not forget about the tea side! Tea has been a passion for Pedro since he first began drinking it with his grandmother many, many years ago. He loved the way a tea leaf could stand alone, and yet, when combined with a variety of other natural elements it can create a symphony of flavor.
Now, Orinoco offers hand selected teas from a variety of sources. Two of which are blended right here on site, Orinoco Coffee and Tea’s own Black Chai and Moroccan Mint. Pedro has even pushed his passion further by offering private labeled bottled tea to customers in the last few years.
As Orinoco Coffee and Tea enters its 25th year, the brothers are working to move forward even stronger. New community efforts, both here and afar. Growing their warehouse through the purchase of new equipment and more elevated training of their employees. Creating greater bonds with current customers while forming relationships with new customers. And quite simply, doing everything they do with even more passion as Orinoco Coffee and Tea grows into its next 25 years!