Distant Lands Coffee Brings ‘Farm-to-Cup’ Freshness to Restaurants

Since the 15th century coffee has been a popular drink, primarily because of the stimulating effect of its caffeine content. During the past several decades, countless retail coffee shops and chains have sprung up offering specialty coffees that have helped drive the interest and consumption of coffee to new levels.

At Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., parent company of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants, coffee is an important beverage offering and is very popular in large part due to our product quality, says Susan Hoffman, Vice President of Fresh Sourcing and Menu Innovation. Only hand-picked Arabica coffee beans are used in the custom-roasted farm-to-cup fresh coffees that Garden Fresh Restaurants offer guests.

Distant Lands Coffee, a division of what is now ITO EN, has been the Garden Fresh coffee supplier for many years. Distant Lands began growing and milling coffee in Costa Rica in 1968 and still sources a significant amount of the coffee that is supplied to Garden Fresh from its flagship coffee estate located in the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica.

“We produce coffee that is widely considered by coffee experts to be among the very best coffee in the world,” says Todd Hughes, a Distant Lands representative. “Your Colombian regular and decaf and Vanilla Nut coffees are among the best in our food service programs,” he said.

The coffee bean is a seed. It grows at the heart of a small berry, commonly referred to as a coffee cherry. The development of the coffee cherry begins when the delicate white flowers appear on the coffee tree. These flowers last only a couple of weeks. Within six to nine months, the cherry develops to maturity. As the cherry matures, it changes in color from green, to yellow, to deep red when ripe.

After the coffee beans are picked, they are brought to a processing mill. The outer skin, pulp, parchment, and the so-called “silverskin” protect the fruit. Stages of processing the coffee bean include pulping, fermentation, drying and hulling.

Then, one of the most important steps, milling, begins. Milling is the process of converting the coffee fruit to a green coffee bean and separating the crop into various quality grades.

“We are the only specialty coffee roasting company in the world that maintains quality control offices at origin,” Todd says. “We are at the farms and mills, ensuring consistent quality throughout the entire supply chain.”

Recent trends in the coffee food service include development of a number of light roast breakfast blends, hazelnut has become the number one selling flavor coffee and additive, organic coffees continue to grow market share and coffee stations complete with syrups are growing in popularity.

“We offer great coffee,” Susan says. “But we’re always looking at trends and new developments to ensure we stay current and fresh and working with a partner like Distant Lands helps us do that.”

To learn more about Distant Lands and videos of sustainability, processing, roasting and packaging, visit

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