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Meet the Producer: Leonor Gaviña-Valls, F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc.

Cuban Inspiration
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Leonor Gaviña-Valls of F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc., talks about her father, “Don” Francisco, great coffee and how far the family business has come.

How did F. Gaviña get started?

My dad’s family was in the coffee business in Cuba as growers and roasters. We left when Castro took power and eventually settled in Southern California in 1963. It was my dad’s passion to get into the coffee business in the U.S. and in 1967, he got the equipment to get started. 

What was your first job in the company?

From the beginning, the whole family pitched in. I was 15 and I would sweep, help package, make labels, whatever needed to be done. Later when I finished college, I was the one-person-office staff until the business grew. It was the same with my brothers. Today I’m the vice president of marketing and, with my three brothers, I own the business. I am the contact person on some accounts, I love working food shows, I oversee charitable contributions locally and globally, and I’m leading the sustainability efforts of the company. I want us to be as green as possible. 

What was the company's first product?

We started out selling espresso in a red, white and blue can. Espresso was what we drank in Cuba so it was what we knew. Eventually my father’s doctor told him he needed to cut down on the coffee so he began roasting decaffeinated espresso just for himself. I believe my father was the first person with decaf espresso.

How did you come up with the brand name Don Francisco?

Francisco is our dad’s name and in Spanish, “don” is a title of respect. We thought, what better way of honoring our dad than naming the brand after him.

Why do you target some of the coffees you roast towards specific ethnic groups?

We are immigrants ourselves and dad roasted espresso because that is what he was used to. He saw a similar opportunity with other immigrants—including Armenians and Vietnamese—providing coffee similar to what they had at home.

What is the most distinctive thing about your products?

We are a family company and coffee is everything to us—experience and love. We try to give our customers the best experience they can have by drinking a cup of Don Francisco. I am the third generation in the coffee business. Our dad taught us the nuances of the coffee and we are teaching that to the fourth generation, and the fifth generation is coming soon. Our newest coffee is the Don Francisco Family Reserve.

Does everyone in your company drink coffee all day long?

Yes. Not only does the office smell like coffee all the time, we smell like coffee all the time! 

If you knew it were going to be your last meal, would coffee be part of it?

My last meal would definitely include a good espresso and sweet potato fries. I love sweet potato fries.Susan Segrest

Susan Segrest is a contributing editor to foodspring.com and has also written for Marie Claire, the New York Daily News and Prevention.

1 comment

mikeparise Had the great pleasure of meeting the family and going on a facilities tour yesterday. Amazing! The care, attention to detail and quality control is unbelievable. The difference between a family-run business and a big corporation is huge. Here you see a real love for coffee and providing the best for every type of customer. There's no talk of efficiency and volume, just quality, quality, quality. Obviously, it made an impression!
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