Viva Espresso serves up local flavors

BURLINGTON When Megan Munson-Warnken began to lose sleep over the impending global climate change crisis, she decided that opening a community-oriented coffee house and restaurant with a heavy emphasis on local foods was more important than her job as a middle school teacher. Munson-Warnken and her business partner Heather Bauman opened Viva Espresso on 197 North Winooski St. in the Old North End in June 2006 to alert people to the benefits of local foods, create a community space where people of all ages and all backgrounds could interact, and serve up a fresh brew of coffee culture that reminds people that the beverage is both, a science and an art, said Munson-Warnken. Opening Viva Espresso seemed like a more immediate response to global warming than teaching, and a much more flexible way to channel my anxiety over the crisis, said Munson-Warnken. Local foods and local ingredients, as well as creating a forum for promoting localized solutions to global warming, are the heart and soul of Viva Espresso. Munson-Warnken also hopes that the creation of new businesses in the Old North End will help revive the neighborhood and make it a safer, more walkable neighborhood. Munson-Warnken believes that people nationwide will begin to realize the benefits of eating locally as peak oil production approaches and the centralized food system that depends on cheap oil begins to crumble. Often times with local foods, the initial cost seems higher, but in the long run, the costs of Americas predominant food system are much, much greater in environmental, social, community and health terms, said Munson-Warnken. When you buy local foods, youre not paying any of the hidden costs. Viva serves only fair trade coffee and 80 percent of their coffee beans are grown on the Finca Alta Gracia in the Dominican Republic, a sustainably run farm owned by part-time Middlebury resident Julia Alvarez. The beans are distributed by Paul Raulston of the Vermont Coffee Company in Middlebury, after being roasted on a bio-diesel roaster. Munson-Warnken places her local ingredients on two tiers based on how many of the component ingredients are produced locally. Tier one status is reserved for foods in which 100% of the component ingredients are grown, harvested and produced within 100 miles of Burlington. Tier two describes foods that are produced locally, and in a sustainable fashion, but have component parts (hops for beer, for example) that are shipped in from other areas. Viva Espresso tries to buy as much from tier one producers as possible, but when they cant get necessary ingredients from tier one sources, they go for tier two, said Munson-Warnken. Even in the winter, Viva is still able to serve up 100% local meals. For my local lunch, I enjoyed an egg and cheddar sandwich on a bagel (the eggs came from Maple Meadows Farm in Salisbury, the cheddar from the Vermont Milk Company in Montpelier and the bagela tier two optionfrom Myers Bagels in Burlington), a tier one Green Mountain Mint tea (from Love & Tea in Montpelier), and a Blackberry Apple Muffin (from Amy Nolan in the Got Local? Kitchen). Although milk, cheese and eggs are readily thought of as staple Vermont foods, tea production is not something most people think of when they think of Vermont. The limit to large-scale local tea production is the costs associated with processing equipment, noted Munson-Warnken. Munson-Warken believes that the development of a local food economy can be a real boon to Vermonts economy, and that Viva Espresso can assist this trend by helping to create a strong network of buyers for locally produced products. In the global warming world, in the peak oil world, the system that this country has now just isnt sustainable. Localizing our economy is going to be our survival, said Munson-Warnken.

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