They Call it Mello Velo
Friday, October 15, 2010
Kyle Feldman, Peace Coffee Customer Service
Sitting by the front door of the bustling Peace Coffee world headquarters, I have the benefit of meeting and interacting with the friendly and diverse customers that walk through the door to pick up our Fair Trade coffee for themselves or their organizations. Mom-and-pop coffee shop owners, hasty chefs, leisurely church volunteers, manic pre-school PTA moms, AA group hosts, firefighters - the list goes on and on. And every one of them has a unique relationship to Peace Coffee, and a story to tell.
One that recently caught my imagination is Mello Velo Bike & Culinary Tours. The proprietor, Joe Christian, always comes in outfitted in full bike regalia, and talking about a just-completed or upcoming tour of some dreamy village on a Spanish island or in the south of France. He tempts my senses with descriptions of charming villages, pastoral bike rides, and meals procured from tiny farmers’ markets and prepared in rustic mansions. And believe it or not, Peace Coffee (the beans, not the employees, drat) gets to come along for the ride.
Recently, my curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to email Joe a few questions about his business. If his answers pique your senses or curiosity, the logical next step would be to visit his website and maybe even book yourself on a dream vacation. Just remember who told you about it, and know that I can travel very lightly and at short notice...
Recently, my curiosity got the better of me so I decided to email Joe a few questions about his business. If his answers pique your senses or curiosity, the logical next step would be to visit his website and maybe even book yourself on a dream vacation. Just remember who told you about it, and know that I can travel very lightly and at short notice...
Kyle: What is Mello Velo, and how did it start?
Joe Christian: Mello Velo is a small group tour operator that brings both cyclists and non-cyclists to France, Spain, and Italy. We started in 2006 with the vision to share our passion for great cycling and slow travel. Slow travel is a cousin to the slow food movement; we stay in one place for entire tour which gives the guests time actually get to know and enjoy a smaller area and its subtle character rather than hustling from sight to sight.
Kyle: What is the history of your relationship with Peace Coffee, and what role does it play on your trips?
JC: We first sold Peace Coffee as a fundraiser for our kids' preschool and have been hooked on Espresso Blend for 7 years. When we started Mello Velo, we wanted to ensure the best coffee possible for our clients, and Peace Coffee proved to be the best option.
Kyle: Is it true that it’s difficult to find fresh-roasted and Fair Trade coffee in Europe?
JC: We initially tried to purchase a local coffee in Europe of the same quality and philosophy, but it is actually not available. Sure you can buy Illy or Lavazza, but these are packaged and sit on the grocer's shelf. We stay in small villages in the countryside, where you are sure to smell lavender and rosemary blowing in the breeze, but coffee beans roasting - never.
Kyle: What are some of the favorite places you have visited, and what trips do you have planned for the future?
JC: Comparing beautiful places is always difficult, but I have to say that the Luberon area of southern France is my favorite. The roads, the wine, and the farmers’ markets are untouchable; it really is a magical place where you feel time and life slow down. In 2011, we will be adding Tuscany to our tour schedule to take the Mello Velo approach to Italy.
Kyle: Why are biking and coffee so interdependent on each other?
JC: As a bike tour operator, we recognize that coffee is a cyclist's best friend for many reasons -- including the extra little jolt and the warmth on a cool morning. Cycling is as much a social event as an exercise activity. Sitting around post-ride sipping coffee allows us to get to know each other a little better, since conversations can be limited while on the bike. We have also observed that many cyclists (like PC drinkers) appreciate that their choice of products and activities does impact our environment, health, culture, as well as overall happiness and sense of fulfillment, and therefore, they make thoughtful and meaningful choices.