Paul Delima Coffee

Making the Coffee Connection
Updated Sunday 10 June, 2007
Making the Coffee Connection
Syracuse Post Standard
Sunday, June 10, 2007

By Charley Hannagan

Former U.S. Ambassador H. Douglas Barclay used his Central American connections to help a Central New York company tap into America's growing interest in luxury coffee. Barclay, the former ambassador to El Salvador, facilitated a trip by owners of the Paul deLima Co. Inc. to that country in 2005. As a result of the business connections they made and the extraordinary cup of coffee they had on the trip, Paul deLima bought the entire crop of ultra luxury coffee beans from Exportadora Pacas Martinez.
"It is extraordinary coffee," Barclay said of the Pacas Bourbon sold by Paul deLima. "We went around and had all these tastings (during his time as ambassador). It's like drinking wine; you can actually tell the differences. I like strong coffee and you can make this really strong. You know you've drunk something."

"Coffee is following the wine industry, consumers are seeking a high quality coffee experience" said W.J. "Bud" Drescher Jr., one of the family members who owns Drescher Management Group Inc. The Clay management company owns Paul deLima and Warner Energy LLC, a renewable-energy company. Paul deLima roasts 12 million pounds of coffee a year in more than 25 varieties. It is concentrating its efforts over the next six months on introducing the Pacas Bourbon coffee to the U.S. market. The company has enlisted students to go door-to-door selling the specialty coffee for an introductory price of $10 per bag through June. Door-to-door sales started last week in Central New York. "I think we have a great secret," Drescher said. "Once they taste it, we think we've pretty much got a customer."

Barclay downplays his role in bringing the Dreschers to El Salvador. After all, it's the ambassador's duty to encourage trade between the U.S. and other countries, he said. Barclay's daily commute from his home near Pulaski to law offices in Syracuse along Interstate 81 passes the Paul deLima coffee roasting plant in Cicero. He knew of the company's reputation, and kept it in mind when he began his duties as ambassador to El Salvador in 2003, Barclay said.

El Salvador has long produced coffee, with its volcanic soil and high mountains producing some of the finest beans in the world. So it only made sense to connect Paul deLima with coffee plantations there, he said. Salvadoran coffee lost its market during its civil war from 1980 to 1992. More recently, cheap commercial beans have flooded the global market, forcing the price of coffee to drop to 30-year-lows, according to the USAID's Web site on El Salvador. USAID is an independent government agency designed to foster economic growth, agriculture and trade, health and democracy in foreign countries.

Declining coffee prices since 2000 have caused El Salvador to lose 70,000 jobs directly related to the industry, USAID said. USAID has been helping Salvadoran farmers rebound by encouraging them to concentrate on the specialty coffee market. The Japanese and Europeans are big buyers of luxury coffees, Barclay said.

The Paul deLima company has been roasting coffee in Central New York since 1916. The company was sold to the Drescher Management Group in 2004. The Drescher family had owned a national food service distribution company until they sold it to Clayton, Dublier & Rice in April 2000. The deLima company was it first foray into the coffee business.

For most of its 91 years, Paul deLima sold 98 percent of its coffee to institutions - schools, hotels, hospitals, offices and restaurants. The new owners want to expand its retail business, Drescher said. The company offers its gourmet coffees made from a variety of beans at Green Hills Farms, Nichols Market, Wegmans, Price Chopper, P&C, the factory store and online (www.delimacoffee.com).
Barclay called several times encouraging the Dreschers to visit El Salvador. Some of the calls were more pointed than others. Barclay would tell him, "I think we have something here," Drescher said. "Coffee is becoming like wine," Barclay said. "You buy the beans from a farmer like you would buy the grapes from a vineyard. El Salvador has extraordinarily good coffee."

In June 2005, Bud and John Drescher spent three days meeting with coffee growers to learn about coffee cultivation and harvesting. They had dinner with Barclay, the vice president of El Salvador, coffee growers and other business people. The visit made a big impression on the Dreschers.

The Salvadorans told them that sometimes the global price for coffee falls so low that they allow it to rot on the trees because the price they could get for the harvest is not enough to pay the workers, Drescher said. They also saw the poverty of the area, and how coffee harvesting provides jobs for the local people, he said.

Paul deLima has agreed to buy all of Exportadora Pacas Martinez's coffee crop for a set price, no matter how low - or how high - the price goes on the world market, Drescher said. This allows the plantation owner to better plan for his business and to hire workers, he said.

At the same time, Paul deLima formed a foundation funded by itself and the Pacas family to help the local people with housing, education and welfare. A portion of the Pacas Bourbon coffee's retail price goes to the foundation. It's not unusual for American corporations to establish foundations to help the local people, Barclay said, adding that he congratulates the Dreschers for taking the initiative. Such organizations build understanding between the countries and will benefit Paul deLima in the future, the former ambassador said.

You can contact Charley Hannagan at 470-2161 or channagan@syracuse.com


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