Tableside with Les Stoneham

A UC grad and founder of Rohs Street Café in Clifton, Les Stoneham started roasting coffee under the name Deeper Roots in 2012. His partnerships with farmers in Guatemala have upped the ante at coffee shops across the city—including his own, in Oakley.

What sparked your interest in fair trade? A desire to make the pilgrimage to where the coffee was grown. I had the opportunity to visit a friend in Guatemala, and then I went down to communities that were a part of the fair trade system to see where it is actually making a difference.

Do you only serve fair trade coffee? I’ve learned from these growers that being certified fair trade is not a motivation for them. They are much more motivated by a long-term relationship, a stable market, and assistance with finances and training.

Are you sharing what you’ve learned with your customers? We’ve been doing Tuesday afternoon open hours [at the Deeper Roots roastery in Mt. Healthy]—a public cupping, which is our version of a wine tasting, talking about coffee and getting people to understand our process in how we choose coffees and how we find farmers.

Where did the name Deeper Roots come from? The name was really about our mentality—we weren’t going to just fly in and fly out, or spend just enough time to fulfill a grant. It was much more about setting deeper roots and building a relationship.

Deeper Roots, 3056 Madison Rd., Oakley, (513) 913-9489,

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