Angelo Oricchio traces his roots to the Brazilian coffee-growing region, so other than in a geographic sense, he’s right at home in his role as chairman and CEO of Paramount Coffee, one of the largest coffee roasters in the Midwest. Founded in Lansing, Mich., in 1935, Paramount turned 75 in August 2010.
Oricchio is Paramount’s resident expert in cupping, the art of evaluating the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee. He has traveled to Central and South America and Africa on coffee-buying tours and has also been recognized as one of the industry’s top evaluators of raw coffee beans.
The native of Brazil is an engineer by training, but he grew up surrounded by coffee trees. His grandfather grew coffee on a plantation. Oricchio, who was working for a Brazilian exporting company in the late 1980s, was wooed to Lansing after striking up a friendship with then-Paramount President Ron Radway while giving him a tour of the plantation.
Oricchio started out in 1990 at Paramount as director of coffee, later moved up to vice president and was elected to his current position in 2005.
The Radway family sold Paramount to its employees in 2000. The sale helped secure Paramount’s status as an independent roasting company. It has grown consistently since employees bought the company. Even in a sluggish national economy, Paramount’s sales were up in 2011, and the company has increased its presence regionally and nationally through marketing to large retailers, private label customers, cafés and directly to customers on the Internet.
Oricchio has made sure the company’s growth has been accompanied by social responsibility. Recently, proceeds from Paramount’s Fair Trade Rwanda blend purchased 400 goats for coffee growers in Gashonga, Rwanda – greatly improving the quality of life in the village. Fair Trade Rwanda is part of Paramount’s line of socially responsible specialty coffees.