Ramsey Smith, owner of Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters, was among the 20 specialty coffee roasters who make up the Sprudge Twenty Class of 2020, an honor given to an elite few selected from a group of international nominees and presented by Sprudge and Pacific Barista Series.
Smith was nominated for the award, which was announced on April 29, by coffee trader John Coyne. The two go back a bit. Coyne was working for Royal Coffee when Smith called to place his first order.
“I bought my first round of green coffee from John,” Smith said.
Smith has come a long way since he began exploring the world of specialty coffee roasting in 2012. He says he has never counted them all but believes V.I. Coffee Roasters products can be found in more than 50 locations throughout the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
Smith’s ability to source premium coffee and bring it to the territory, even during the uncertainties faced by businesses during hurricanes Irma and Maria, became one of the many reasons Coyne decided to nominate Smith for the prestigious honor.
“I was so impressed by the way he handled the two hurricanes. He was pretty steadfast in getting everything up and running. I haven’t had a customer who had just had everything taken from them like that. I was just so impressed by him, by his attitude, by his perseverance. So, when I saw that they were receiving nominations, I nominated him right away,” Coyne said.
After hearing that he was part of the Sprudge Twenty Class of 2020 Smith said, “it puts our company on the map” and that it was nice to be recognized.
“Doing business in the Virgin Islands comes with its challenges, so it’s nice when you’ve been awarded something when you know the amount of work and logistics involved in just receiving our coffee here on island,” Smith said.
The average coffee roaster in the United States will receive deliveries in five days, but Smith’s deliveries usually take three weeks to get to the island. Hurricanes and weather are things other roasters may not have to take into consideration, but Smith does. Those are just a couple of the many challenges being a roaster in the territory comes with.
Now, like most businesses in the territory, Smith must navigate his company through a whole new disaster, the coronavirus pandemic.
“Considering this is the second round of shutdowns, this happened with hurricanes Irma and Maria, we know on the other end of this there will be light for the business. Whereas with Irma and Maria, you didn’t know anything because of all the physical destruction,” Smith said.
The V.I. Coffee Roasters cafe in Havensight shut its doors for 30 days but has now reopened to the public, though still limited by the governor’s current safer-at-home order.
Smith’s dogged determination in the face of adversity, whether it be a hurricane or pandemic, is what captured Coyne’s nomination for the Sprudge Twenty.
“He had the courage to move to an island. To say to himself there might be a better life for me, with better weather. And then to open a business in a place where something like it didn’t really exist. To cultivate something special. He is courageous to me and there really are just so many reasons he was worthy of this award,” Coyne said.