Self-Pourtraits Series: The woman behind Amy’s Blend
Every year, we honor the original Caribou Coffee® roastmaster Amy Erickson with two limited edition coffees, Amy’s Blend Light Roast and Amy’s Blend Dark Roast. But Amy’s Blend is about so much more than delicious coffee. It’s about a woman whose passion for quality inspired so much of what you love about Caribou Coffee. It’s about paying tribute to her work, and it’s about inspiring the next generation of powerful leaders just like Amy. In honor of Amy and in celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re looking back at the legacy of this inspiring woman.
Amy Erickson was Caribou Coffee’s original roastmaster, a title that definitely suited her love of great coffee. “A roastmaster is a term … that has been used over the years for anyone who’s developed coffee expertise: through coffee evaluation (cupping), roasting for customers, roasting for quality evaluation, roasting for blend development,” explains Brian Aliffi, Senior Manager of Coffee Sourcing. “It embodied what Amy was all about: delivering the best quality coffee to our customers. She guided the company toward using cupping for finding the best coffee, and she was passionate about connecting where coffee is grown to the cup.” You can find traces of this work across the entire Caribou Coffee line, including in the new single-origin coffees from Ethiopia and India.
Amy lost her battle with breast cancer in 1995 at the age of 33, but her spirit lives on at Caribou through the inspiring power of her work.
Quality and leadership: Amy’s legacy at Caribou Coffee
Ask anyone who worked with Amy: she was fun, spirited and unyielding in her love for coffee, and she owned it. In fact, Amy’s legacy is so strong that the tasting room at Caribou Coffee headquarters in Minnesota is named after her, and the standards she set remain in place, including the cupping method she used to test coffee. “The cupping lab is where Amy spent most of her time tasting and evaluation coffees,” says Mohamed Abdelmawla, Vice President of Coffee Operations. “We are still producing coffee according to the coffee quality standards Amy established to this day.”
While Brian didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Amy, her work guided so much of what he does today. “Those I learned from embodied the lessons they learned with her, and it’s become an ethos among the coffee sourcing team,” he explains. “Quality is the first and last measure, keeping the quality as high as possible throughout our time engaging with it.”
Amy’s fingerprints are all over the Caribou Coffee brand and inform so much of what we do on a day-to-day basis. “Amy’s legacy of passion that touched my life and career when I was a young woman starting with Caribou Coffee 20 years ago, and the foundation she created is still at the core of how we work,” says Molly Esmay, Director of Support Operations.
Those who worked with Amy in the early days of Caribou Coffee were quick to share stories of her impact — stories that were then passed down to new generations of employees to inspire their journeys too. “What came through in stories shared about Amy was that she was a woman who was incredibly passionate about the culture of coffee and fierce about the standards Caribou would hold in making sure every bean was to those standards from the seed to the cup,” Molly shares. “Her passion showed up as effervescent enthusiasm and Amy’s legacy shows up today in our culture as a place where we take coffee seriously, but we have a lot of fun and prioritize people and connections every day.”
Fueling bright futures: Amy’s Blend and Girls on the Run
The Caribou employees who were lucky enough to work with Amy and be touched by her drive and passion wanted to do something special to remember her, and thus, the birth of Amy’s Blend. Amy’s Blend Light Roast was developed first as a tribute to the coffees Amy loved most. Both the Light and Dark Roast are made with beans from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Kenya and Ethiopia; they’re all important coffees in the Caribou portfolio because of the long-standing relationships behind them and their unique flavors. “Amy’s Blend is a terrific intersection of those four coffees,” shares Brian. “Amy’s Blend Light Roast is a bright light roast with a great balance between acidity and flavor,” adds Mohamed. Amy’s Blend Dark Roast, on the other hand, is a sweet, smoky blend with lush burgundy and chocolate tones.
It’s more than just a great cup of coffee, though. We donate 10% of proceeds from Amy’s Blend to Girls on the Run, an organization dedicated to helping girls everywhere gain the skills and confidence they need to reach their fullest potential.
“The far-reaching longevity of Amy’s legacy is proof of how important a solid foundation is, and a partnership with an organization like Girls on the Run, whose entire mission is to build a foundation of confidence, empowerment, and connection in girls, is such a beautiful way to honor Amy,” says Molly.