We named Saint Frank after our city San Francisco, but more specifically the beloved Saint Francis who showed all things seemingly mundane and ordinary to be special. His life warranted the denomination of a saint while he would prefer a simple name like Frank. Saint Francis had a passion for life and connection with people and the world around him in a way that shapes our direction in coffee and service. He approached everything with a humble wide-eyed view of simplicity and courtesy. Everyone mattered to Francis. Everything was important and special, worthy of attention and service. We approach our craft with simple and restrained elegance that amplifies our values in coffee, people, and connection.
For Saint Frank, coffee isn’t mundane or commodity, it isn’t “just coffee.” It has a quality to bring joy to life through its aromas and flavors but also with its ability to bring people together. There is a world and a story behind every coffee from particular people, places, and cultures. We travel to build real relationships with our producers around the world with a commitment toward quality through direct relationships but also because of a commitment to connection and quality of life from the farms to your cup.
“I have said that St. Francis deliberately did not see the wood for the trees. It is even more true that he deliberately did not see the mob for the men.”
Founded by Kevin Bohlin in 2013, Saint Frank is the evolving dream for the experience of coffee toward a simple joy in life, but also toward social connection and celebration of people, place, and culture. After meaningful and worldview shaping experiences in Guatemala, Kenya, and India (all coffee producing places), Kevin, a former middle school art teacher, returned to graduate studies in cultural anthropology and theology. While working at a small coffee shop in Denton, Texas, Kevin's interest in coffee turned into a full blown obsession. The artistic side of coffee preparation combined with the celebration of the story and culture in single origin coffees drove him to pursue coffee as a career.
With Ritual Roasters in San Francisco, California, Kevin learned from educators, scientists, roasters and green coffee buyers. His first origin trip brought him to Honduras in 2011 to meet producers. In Peña Blanca, Honduras, Kevin met Benjamin Paz; this first meeting planted the seed for the development of the Saint Frank articulation and vision.
After embarking on his own from Ritual in 2012, Kevin planned a second trip to Honduras in conjunction with Ritual's green coffee buyer, Steve Ford, that would become a significant event for the perspective and philosophy of coffee at Saint Frank. Kevin discovered that small scale poor farmers produced some of the most complex and incredible coffees in the world, yet they had no experience of what was happening to their work thousands of miles away or its tremendous value and appreciation by specialty coffee drinkers.
Kevin returned to Honduras with loads of coffee and equipment. Kevin and Benjamin hiked up to the remote farm of Sebastian Benitez to prepare Sebastian's coffee for him and his family. Kevin shared stories of customers' love for the coffee and all the care that goes into roasting and preparation. Later down at the mill, Kevin would make coffee from other farms as espressos and cappuccinos for the producers; this would be the first time any of them would taste espresso drinks, let alone their own coffees in this manner. He wanted to show how special their work is and how it is part of a culinary craft that continues in San Francisco and beyond. At Saint Frank, we are not technical masters turning a raw product into something special, we are simply the final step, the face and translation of a greater story that starts with artisans and specialists at the farms and in the mills. We can't add to quality, we can only continue that quality or we can diminish it.
While coffee is every bit as complex and involved as the finest wines and spirits with carefully selected varietals with unique terroir, there are some major differences beginning with the economic value. Coffee can only be produced in tropical climates, and the best coffees grow high in the mountains cultivated and crafted laboriously by hand. These farms are located in poor developing countries where the social and cultural distance between coffee producers and consumers is drastically different than that between wine producers and consumers. At Saint Frank we want to create connection and value in that distance.
Our business is to offer an excellent product with a service that does justice to the people behind it and the people who enjoy it. We want to serve you a sensory experience rich and full of connection to the world around us. We want to bring this experience and connection to new communities of consumers, but also to new communities of producers. We believe that specialty coffee is a movement and one worth expanding and multiplying. Saint Frank is one effort at serving that movement here in San Francisco and throughout the world from Honduras to Burundi.
This story is not about Saint Frank, it's more important than that. It's about Joe the carpenter who after a decade of mediocre commodity coffee now enjoys his daily black coffee in the peaceful light filled space of our cafe with the company of our friendly baristas. It's about Milton Castellon in Honduras who proudly grows pacas for Saint Frank. Like other relationship producers, he does this not because working with Saint Frank offers two to three times commodity market prices, but because there are people who love his coffee and he wants to make them happy. Like Milton, we want to do our best, because it matters.