Walking into Downtown Brooklyn’s Devoción is like stepping into a coffee lover’s dream. Your senses are engaged by the smell of brewing coffee, greenery everywhere, creating a lush, tropical feel.
There is a reason why the smell of the coffee hits differently when you open their doors. As farm-to-table coffee roasters, Devoción’s ability to offer the freshest beans with the boldest flavor, just ten days after leaving its origin in Colombia, is what sets them apart.
Steven Sutton, CEO and Founder of Devoción, spoke with us about his passion for coffee and the importance of being part of the Downtown Brooklyn community. Read our conversation below, and check out our feature video here.
DBP: What inspired you to start this business?
Steven Sutton (SS): I’m Colombian and when I was growing up there was a lot of political turmoil. I had to leave Colombia and I wanted to do something for the people there. I felt this need to help and I was very interested in coffee. I saw gaps in the coffee industry in terms of quality and thought it would be great to fill those gaps and help my own people. And that’s how Devoción started in 2006. Today Devoción is a company that is based in Brooklyn but we still have Devoción in Colombia where we get coffee from over two thousand farmers. What we do differently is we actually go directly to the farmer, we buy their coffee and we transport it to the U.S., in this case to Brooklyn, really really fast — we FedEx overnight. Then, we roast it quickly so you’re actually able to taste how coffee tastes at farm level. We’re very unique in that sense because nobody else does this.
DBP: Why Downtown Brooklyn?
SS: Coffee shops are centers of communities. We always want to be an experience for the community. Downtown Brooklyn and everything that’s happening around it is awesome. We love the people that are coming in, we love the people that are already here.
DBP: Why do you think customers keep coming back?
SS: I think it’s a combination. The place is comfortable, it’s beautiful — like you’re in a little jungle. Also, the warmth of the place — everything that we do here we want it to be very warm and welcoming. And the coffee of course. Once you try the coffee and you see the difference of what it should taste like, you want to come back. The coffee is amazing and the atmosphere is amazing.
DBP: What would you recommend a first timer come in and try?
SS: Everything is amazing, everything is very pure. We definitely don’t have syrups and flavors — we’re not a Starbucks. Whatever your go-to coffee is, that’s what I recommend. If you like drip, go for a drip, if you like a latte go for whatever your go-to coffee normally is. The taste is a very pure, pristine, still intact bean that was roasted. The full flavor translates without really having to dark roast or just burn the coffee.
DBP: What’s your go-to coffee?
SS: I don’t have a specific coffee. I don’t drink milk so it’s either drip or espresso or pour-over but I kind of play around with it. I see coffee almost like wine. You pick your wine or you pick your coffee depending on your mood and depending on the day.
DBP: What made you want to start the Women in Coffee series?
SS: In coffee farming countries they are very macho-driven and sometimes the reality of what the women do at farm level for their communities and for their businesses is kind of lost. It’s really amazing once you are inside the communities and you start digging deeper and see what these women actually have accomplished in this very conservative atmosphere. A lot of them are heads of families – they have to take care of their children, take care of their farm and this is hard labor. We put a spotlight on women who have to take care not only of their families but of their business or farm and do everything. And most of the time they do it better than their male counterparts. So, it’s a very heart-oriented project for us because these women are amazing and people should know about them. They’re an inspiration to us.
DBP: How has business been during the pandemic?
SS: It’s challenging. Not only on the staffing part but on the supply part and all of the rules that we have to follow to keep everybody safe. That said, we’re super glad to be back and have the community come back. This is what we’re here for – to have everybody come in and enjoy. It has been worth it once we started seeing everybody back and happy and sipping a cup of coffee.
DBP: Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
SS: Normally if you’re an entrepreneur you have the guts to do things and the drive to make things happen. When you start you tend to just dive in so my advice as an entrepreneur is to start very organized, very process-oriented so hopefully you’ll grow because that’s why we’re doing it. And as you grow you transfer that organization into an experience with your clients. So, it’s smooth and you’re enjoying your process and you’re enjoying your adventure.
Since its launch in 2006 Devoción has expanded, with three cafe locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan and working with thousands of farmers in Colombia. Their efforts are a true celebration of the coffee bean, the farm and the life of the farmers. The care and respect shown during the entire process from harvesting in Colombia to roasting in Brooklyn is evident in the perfect cup of cappuccino or whatever your go-to order may be.
Taste it yourself at Devoción’s Downtown Brooklyn location on 276 Livingston Street. Learn more about Devoción, their fascinating farm-to-table process and their Women in Coffee subscription series here.