Memories, Moments and Mentors: The Frog Friendly Story
Long before Karla and her cousin/spirit hermano, Pedro, officially created Frog Friendly Coffee, Karla knew that the unique area around Oaxaca must be shared with the world. The vast mountains hold on tight to the last remaining cloud forest in Mexico and its rare and undiscovered treasures, from ancient ruins to unknown flora and fauna. As a child, Karla grew up wandering and playing along the exact same trails her company still uses to harvest the precious beans.
It is the only place in the world vanilla is pollinated by a bee and not a paintbrush, and its culture is so rich that they actually estimate that they've only discovered about 60% of the ancient ruins in Oaxaca because it is so underdeveloped because it is so mountainous. - Karla Ferster
Over 127 unique indigenous cultures live in Mexico, along with an ecosystem so sensitive and unique that the plants and animals change almost every meter! This wild and diverse land is where the Frog Friendly Coffee dream was born.
Karla was fortunate enough to have parents who shared their love of Mexico with her. Frequent travels to Oaxaca imprinted on Karla and she grew up knowing she was destined to do something to protect and share this one-of-a-kind piece of heaven. From the smallest creature to the tallest tree, she learned to respect the forest and everything in it. She became determined to protect it and the culture that is ingrained in every molecule.
My spirit Hermano, Pedro, and I started this from developing our relationship through our trips to Puerto Escondido beau haka and always talking about what we could do. - Karla Ferster
Growing up, Karla learned the truth about food production and what it would take to create an ethical business. Pedro shared her dream and both of them started the journey to creating the ethical business that Frog Friendly Coffee is today.
Having the gift of being able to experience that (Mexico), and having that relationship to Pedro to share that dream, we slowly developed this idea that we would import this coffee that my family would bring home in garbage bags from our holidays. - Karla Ferster
Karla’s family would come home with garbage bags of the wild coffee beans that had been poorly roasted and milled but still retained an amazing flavour. It was then that she realized that this would be the perfect way to live her values out loud, by bringing an ethical, sustainable and transparent coffee company to the world. Along the way, mistakes were made and failures happened but Karla and Pedro were determined to make this work exactly how they wanted. One of the biggest things for Karla, was that she was going to live her values out loud, no matter what.
For Pedro and I, it was galvanizing, it was something that would bring us together with this shared dream and this really deep purpose in ourselves that we wanted to leave a lasting legacy, and that's what we've been working hard to do for the last 14 years. - Karla Ferster
During the early years, Frog Friendly suffered a 30% loss due to a packaging mistake. Without the great relationships, Karla created with people from Mexico to Canada, the story may have ended differently. Luckily, everyone shared the passion and the dream, and all were determined to buckle down and fight through, taking the mistake and learning from it.
My goal was to have a product that was packaged in Canada, by materials produced in Canada, and my solution was to offer our coffee in a 100% post-consumer box, with an inside bag that was 100% recyclable. It was a great idea but it bombed. I lost some major business and we ate a lot of packaging that we ended up recycling. - Karla Ferster
So many people have influenced and helped Frog Friendly get to where it is today. There are a couple of very important people who are the foundation of the business.
Frog Friendly wouldn't have gotten off the ground without a very important man, Semitrio. Semitrio was a mentor to Karla and Pedro, who lived in Nopaoulo, one of the oldest continually inhabited ancient villages in the world! He was the ‘Keeper of the Forest’ for his people, understood coffee and taught them everything they know. He started teaching them about coffee right from the beginning.
He provided lessons and an understanding around forest management and provided Pedro with that support so that he could find that courage for us to embark on our dream. - Karla Ferster
Semitrio would buy the coffee from families and communities all over and store it in his home—literally sleeping with the precious coffee beans. Many of the people he bought the beans from had about 5 to 10 hectares of land on which they grew an amazing coffee bean, rich in flavour and aroma.
Pedro has also been a guiding light on the Frog Friendly journey. His dedication and passion match Karla’s and together they have created the legacy they dreamed about all those years ago.
Pedro is the driving force behind harvesting and sustaining the coffee in the ecosystem. He spearheads all the activities that relate to ensuring healthy plants, while only using sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.
A great example is when worms were attacking the coffee plants. While everyone else is using chemicals, Pedro tries to find a solution that the forest has already provided. He once found a fungus in the forest that deters a particular worm that damages the coffee plants. He figured out how to farm this beneficial fungus and it now grows under the coffee plants. Pedro is always learning, growing and doing everything he can to ensure our crops stay organic, wild and perfect for your cup.
The story behind the name, Frog Friendly
We can’t leave without telling you the story behind our name. Yes, we are definitely Frog Friendly but there is more behind it than just taking care of our little frog friends. For the indigenous groups, the frog was the God of Life and a protector. Our mentors and the indigenous people that we work with in Mexico, thought that having a frog as our totem, or good luck charm, would guarantee we would be okay.
Without them, there is no us. Without us, there is no them.
Our name stands a reminder of our mutual commitment to the ethical, eco-friendly and sustainable practices of Frog Friendly Coffee. We have had an amazing journey that has taught us many lessons, and it isn’t over yet! We hope you have an opportunity to enjoy a cup of our Frog Fuel and know that with every sip, you are a part of something amazing! FROG ON!
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