Coffee kids

Jason Crum gives Emma Pierce a sniff of freshly roasted coffee.

LLOYD A busload of baristas spent a recent morning learning the coffee-roasting craft, then returned to their fifth-grade classroom to put their new-found knowledge to work in a school-based brew business.

The baristas, of course, were students, and their business is a fundraiser for Wurtland Middle School, mainly field trips for which there is scant money in the district’s budget.

The business is a weekly coffee service that brings steaming cups of java to grateful teachers and staff, while reinforcing lessons in mathematics, social studies and other academic disciplines.

The roasting overview was courtesy of Jason and Carma Crum, owners of J.C. Mercantile, which imports Brazilian furniture, jewelry and products from regional artisans from its store on U.S. 23 near Greenup County High School.

The firm recently branched out into specialty coffees.

The children learned the basics of coffee roasting from an expert — Oziander Nunes, who has partnered with the Crums and licensed them to market his 37 Coffee brand in the United States.

They clustered around the shop’s roaster, the heart of which is a gleaming stainless steel drum that revolves like the mixer on the back of a cement truck, heating the raw beans and imparting the flavor characteristics coffee hounds crave.

The Crums met with the students early in their business venture, visiting the school to talk about startups, business plans, profit margins and all the other details essential to getting a company off the ground.

The students, who are studying economics, call it the  Warrior Cafe, and it has been up and running for about three weeks, said fifth-grade teacher Heather Lavender. Every Friday, a student crew wheels the coffee cart through the halls, peddling their hot and aromatic wares to teachers and staffers.

From an initial investment of a little over $100, they have moved into the black already, Lavender said.

Expansion plans already are in the works to offer the service to parents and caregivers dropping off children in the morning, she said.

“They are learning across the curriculum, world culture, economics, mathematics and social studies,” she said.

They also learn business and customer service skills, since the children take on roles of barista, cashier, cleanup and marketing design.

Moreover, said principal Steve Branim, the Crums and their business are role models for the success potential of local business. “The kids are learning that you can do something here in Greenup County, that you can make something of yourself here, that you don’t have to leave this area.”

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