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Mercer-grown coffee shop celebrates one-year anniversary 

A Z Beans coffee outside of the Mercer Village storefront.
A Z Beans coffee outside of the Mercer Village storefront.

Z Beans Coffee founders Shane Buerster and Carter Varga recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of their Mercer Village location’s opening. 

Buerster and Varga were inspired by a Mercer on Mission trip to Ecuador, and said they created Z Beans with the goal of supporting Ecuadorian coffee farmers and promoting sustainability. In the first year of their coffeehouse, they said students and Macon residents alike came for coffee or a place to work and study. 

“Students have really put it into their routine to come study here, and that was really the goal,” Buerster said. 

This summer, the two Mercer alumni made a trip to Ecuador to check in with their farmers. 

“What we want to do is create opportunities for the hard-working Ecuadorian farmers,” Varga said. 

During their time in Ecuador in July, Buerster worked directly with the Z Beans supply chain while Varga visited plantations around the region with a photographer, documenting the lives of local farmers and the process of producing the coffee sold in their shops back in the United States. 

“There is no middle man from their farm all the way to the cup. There is one business that handles it, and that’s Z Beans,” Buerster said. 

Alongside Buerster and Varga, a network of baristas, farmers and other employees keep Z Beans up and running on a daily basis. Their partners in Ecuador, Marie and Fabricio Paredes and Arturo Peñarreta, have been involved with Z Beans not just in the year that the Z Beans storefront has been operating, but also when the company sold its products exclusively online

“We would not be here today without (Arturo),” Buerster said. “He’s a dreamer and a doer. It’s fun to have him onboard.” 

Throughout the course of their time in Ecuador, the founders said they were able to continue their goal of giving coffee farmers a way to sell their product and prepare for changes coming in the next few months. 

Buerster and Vargo said they plan to reintroduce a sustainable alternative to traditional plastic after questions arose surrounding the disappearance of the biodegradable plastic cups that the coffee shop previously debuted. 

“In the cold months, we are going to try to roll out the biodegradable cups once again,” Buerster said. “I really appreciate the constructive feedback that (the community has) given.”

In addition to the biodegradable cups, Buerster and Vargo said that new Ecuadorian products recently debuted in their shops. One of these products, called bocaditos, are graham crackers with honey. They began as a class project by Maria Paula Sanchez, a student in Ecuador, and her classmates who were tasked with creating their own business. The company is called Dolce Delicia. 

“As young entrepreneurs ourselves, we want to help other young entrepreneurs get their start,” Varga said. 

Dolce Delicia’s products are available for purchase in both Z Beans locations.

Z Beans currently has locations in Mercer Village and on Cotton Avenue, and a third store will open this fall in the Coliseum Hospital in Macon.

As the chain continues to grow, Buerster and Varga still said Mercer University and its community are one of their biggest supporters. 

“We are forever and eternally grateful for everything that Mercer has done for us and the support that we’ve received,” Varga said. He went on to say that the best part is “being able to wake up every morning and know what you're doing is making an impact for someone else, whether it's here, or five thousand miles away in Ecuador.”

Co-founder Buerster said he agreed with Varga.

“That’s been the most rewarding part, just knowing that we are continuing to push our mission forward,” Buerster said. 


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