Updated: Jul 8, 2022
We have a very special interview to share with you this week! Flavor Waves had the opportunity to interview longtime industry friend Tommy Westfeldt and his daughter, Shelby Westfeldt Mills, of Westfeldt Brothers, Inc., the oldest operating green coffee importer in the United States.
With six generations of coffee importing, Westfeldt Brothers, Inc. is an expert in this field and is recognized as the top coffee importer in the country. They are also the nicest and most hospitable people you will ever meet.
"Westfeldt Brothers, Inc., established in 1851, is one of the oldest coffee importers in the United States. Operating from New Orleans for over 170 years, Westfeldt Brothers continues its tradition of excellence through its sound conservative practices and total commitment to customer satisfaction. Westfeldt Brothers specializes in providing coffee to small and medium sized independent roasters and, in recent years, has established a reputation in the gourmet and chicory markets as well. Westfeldt Brothers imports coffees from producing countries around the world with a particular expertise in Latin America.
The Westfeldt Brothers’ story is about a family that has dedicated itself to the green coffee industry for six generations. It began with the emigration of Vice-Consul Gustavus Adolphus George Westfeldt (born 1813) from Sweden to Mobile, Alabama in 1835. In 1851, Gustavus Adolphus founded Westfeldt Brothers, Inc. in Mobile, AL as one of the nation’s first green coffee importers. In 1853, the company moved from Mobile, AL to New Orleans, LA and occupied the warehouses and offices of a bankrupt debtor. By 1880, Westfeldt Brothers, Inc. was recognized as one of the principal green coffee importers in the nation." -Westfeldt Brothers Inc.
Located in the heart of the South, New Orleans, the Westfeldt Brothers’ continued growth and success can be attributed to their expert knowledge of the coffee industry, their exceptional green coffee, their kindness and their Southern charm.
They make it their mission for the family to teach as much about coffee as possible to each new generation. Keeping personal contact with business sources and traveling to their farms to maintain personal relationships have made it clear that mixing business with family has been extremely successful for Westfeldt Brothers. The unique and special thing you see with the Westfeldt family is that they require no additional marketing for their brand. The relationships and friendships they have built and maintained for generations speak for itself and their business.
On site at their headquarters, Westfeldt Brothers tastes every single coffee that they sell. Their usual cupping sessions include 2-5 people cupping at a time in a designated cupping room. If the customer wants a single origin coffee or a unique blend, the Westfeldt family can guide them to the right choice. They can also help customers come up with their own unique blends.
Green Coffee: From All Over The World
Westfeldt Brothers, Inc. has clients all over the United States and some in South America. Their focus is on keeping customers’ prices consistent without compromising the quality or taste of their coffee by offering green coffee from many origins.
Some of the main origins of their green coffee are from Central and South America including Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, and Columbia. However, they do import some varieties from as far away as China.
Consistency Through The Generations
There is no doubt that Westfeldt Brothers, Inc. has the most experience in the business. So during our interview, we asked how the Green Coffee Importing business has changed over the decades and if there are any trends they could point to?
With over six generations of experience in navigating through industry changes and customer demands, Westfeldt Brothers have seen a lot of changes and have overcome many obstacles. The increased popularity in single serve coffees started changing the way coffee was packaged and sold. Prior to single serve, many people would brew an entire pot of coffee and if it went bad, they would throw out the pot and brew a new batch. With single serve, there is much less coffee being wasted and this leads to less volume of coffee being sold. This is only one of the many hurdles their business has jumped over in order to reach where they are today. They have also found that Cold Brew and Espresso Blends are the new trends that are steadily increasing in popularity.
One clear take away from our interview with the Westfeldt family is that they are the best at what they do and will be the leaders in the industry for many generations to come.
"It’s easy to dismiss experience and relationships in today’s technological and ever more interconnected world. Here at Westfeldt Brothers we disagree. Our business is coffee, but our people, community, farmers and customers are family. Everything we do is centered on relationships, honesty and respect. Having navigated the ups and downs of global markets, supply shocks from wars to devastating droughts it’s our relationships and employees that have steadied the ship, maintained supply and reinforced our foundations." -Westfeldt Brothers Inc.
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