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The Roaster Behind Arbor Day® Coffee

By Kara Ficke | April 23, 2021

The Arbor Day Foundation has many partnerships and close relationships that expand our reach and abilities to protect and plant more trees. Our shade-grown coffee program is no exception. Every year, we select and purchase hundreds of thousands of pounds of green coffee from shade-grown coffee farms in Central and South America. Each producer and cooperative that we source from meets our sustainability standards, growing coffee in a manner that is celebrating the importance of trees. 

When the green coffee arrives to the United States, the same amount of care must go into roasting. That’s where Kaldi’s Coffee Roasting Co. comes in. In 2018, the Arbor Day Foundation coffee program sought out a roasting relationship that had sustainability in mind, brought expertise in roasting specialty coffee, and aligned with our core values as an organization. Kaldi’s checked off all the boxes.  

The talented and passionate coffee roaster who carefully roasts each batch of shade-grown Arbor Day Coffee is Bud Patterson. I recently had the opportunity to interview Bud, and what a great conversation it was! Bud’s journey is continually evolving, but every step of the way he has leaned on his innate desire to have a positive impact in the lives of others.  

How long have you been roasting coffee? 

What do you enjoy most about being a coffee roaster? 

“After traveling to origin — which is hard to not admit is the coolest part of my job — I’d have to say educating people about coffee and this industry. Talking with people about how a cup of coffee is produced, and informing them about all lives impacted in the process, is really rewarding. When a person can hear about the passion and hard work that went into a particular coffee, and I can then taste it with them, I get to watch as they begin to take note of all the nuances that the coffee has to offer. I watch the understanding take hold, and that is when I know I’ve made an impact, and I know they will never look at coffee the same way again. Of course traveling around the world and experiencing other cultures is amazing, but sharing that experience with others has to be the best part of my job.” 

When you are taking to people about coffee and the coffee industry – what do you feel is a common misconception around coffee? 

What technology do you use while roasting? 

“Digital temperature probes are crucial. I have the honor of roasting on two, soon to be three, vintage Probat coffee roasters. Our main production roaster was built in 1937. The other is a mid- to late 1950s-era model. I could talk about the pros and cons to roasting on these vintage machines all day, but needless to say they are amazing. The digital probes tie directly into the profile tracking software. We use Cropster to track every roast we do, and the interface is perfect for going back and not only tasting the coffee but recording my thoughts about a particular roast. With this technology, I can look back at every roast we’ve done for the last six years and use old profiles to get inspiration on how to tackle new coffees.”

The Arbor Day Coffee program views our relationship with Kaldi’s as a partnership, and we feel very lucky to have your passion and expertise. In what ways would you like to see our partnership grow? 

What is your favorite part about being the coffee roaster for Arbor Day Coffee? 

“It all goes back to that impact on the environment. Roasting Arbor Day Coffee is leading to more trees being planted all around the world. I believe very strongly in the Foundation’s vision of using trees as a solution to many global issues. We only have one earth, and we need to do this important work now so that it’s still here for generations to come. Organizations like the Arbor Day Foundation are not only planting those trees but also providing education on the importance of trees. I am honored to be a part of that vision, and I hope to help spread the word further with the coffee we are roasting for you all today.” 

Where would your like to travel next? 

I wrapped up my interview with Bud in true Arbor Day Foundation fashion, asking him to tell me a fond memory he has that involves trees. Bud told me a great story about his Aunt Eileen’s home in Hutchinson, KS. She has a large climbing tree in her back yard that Bud would climb as a child. He would find a perfect spot to sit and snack on pop tarts. Flash forward 20 years, and the first home Bud and his wife purchased together was a spitting image of his Aunt Eileen’s…including a very similar large tree in the back yard.

To try a bag of Arbor Day Coffee, roasted by Bud, visit arborday.org/coffee

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