Morning Mix


West Michigan teen launches coffee business with a cause

Posted at 11:47 AM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 11:47:13-04

While some kids cringe at the taste of coffee, a West Michigan teen has actually reached a prestigious rank known as "The World's Youngest Professional Coffee Grader." Plus, the motivation
for reaching this high status is all for a good cause.

When Volkema was 13, she passed the “Q,” a highly difficult series of tests from the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) to become the world’s youngest professional coffee grader. The “Q” is the most difficult exam in the professional coffee world and comprises 22 tests in eight sections - all of which one must pass - including general coffee knowledge, sensory perception, olfactory skills, “cupping” (tasting), and coffee grading.

This certification allows Frankie to officially evaluate and score green coffee, which in turn has a significant impact on that coffee’s price.

After receiving the certification, now as an older teenager, Frankie Volkema launched her new coffee line called "Joven," which means "youth" in Spanish. It supports sustainability in the industry by sourcing beans from young coffee farmers across the world. The average age of a coffee farmer is over 55, and Joven partners with farmers who are under 35 to help the next generation grow in the coffee business.

In launching her own line, Frankie set out to create coffees that not only taste good but also have a positive social impact. On a visit to Colombia with her father Tim, who owns and operates Sparrows Coffee and Schuil Coffee in Grand Rapids, she saw firsthand the lack of young coffee farmers. This is a significant problem for the future of coffee, and Frankie recognized an opportunity to make a difference.

She decided to buy coffee from Cafinorte’s Young Coffee Producers Program, which supports 200 young people from Northern Cauca to become sustainable coffee producers. After her visit, and while developing Joven, she learned about seven female entrepreneurs under the age of 35 from Burundi, Africa, who formed an investment group to purchase their own coffee mill. Frankie is sourcing and roasting coffee from these extraordinary young female farmers as well.

Buy Joven Coffee at