Peoples Coffee

Every 6 months or so the argument surrounding ‘The Price of a Cup of Coffee’ rears it’s ugly head. I can understand why – it pairs two of my very favourite things; coffee and lamenting the fact that it would be foolish to spend my entire paycheque on the stuff. But when we saw *yet another* news paper article outlining why ‘coffee these days is a rip-off’ we decided to use the opportunity to talk more positively about our own story and how, increasingly, personal buying power is determining what constitutes ‘expensive’.

Coffee is a powerful commodity. There is a reason that it is often referred to as ‘black gold’. The women and men at Origin work punishingly long hours planting, cultivating, growing, picking, washing, drying, sorting, preparing and transporting beans for a financial return that often does not reflect production costs. Add to this the world’s increasing demand for high-end ‘specialty’ coffee which requires a massive amount of resources for a comparatively low yield and you begin to understand how difficult it is for a farmer and their family to achieve a good quality of life.

Quality control at the OROMIA coop in Ethiopia – done by hand

Comparing a $3.00 cup of coffee and a $4.50 cup of fair trade, organic coffee is like comparing apples with oranges, sure they’re both fruit but they’re completely different. Let’s say cheap coffee is apples – the right apple is tasty, juicy and just what you want but it’s not an orange and it’s not pretending to be an orange. A cheap coffee, when it’s good, is everything it’s supposed to be and nothing more and that is perfectly fine. But if you want an orange, an apple simply won’t suffice.

New Zealanders are using their buying power more proactively than ever before and for those people who want their morning flat white to count for more, we offer an alternative.

We pay more than most for our Green Beans

We only buy high quality fair trade beans. Why? Primarily because the very best thing about fair trade are the social premiums they provide. We buy every kilo of our coffee over and above the fair trade minimum and approximately $1.32 NZ of that goes directly toward social projects within the co-op. It is earmarked specifically for that purpose and helps improve education, rights for women, infrastructure, healthcare and much more. 

We only source organic beans. Why? Because chemical run-off from non-organic farms is permanently damaging local ecosystems and adversely affecting the health of farmers and their families. Farmers are also rewarded an additional social premium for organic certified beans.

Our head roaster Rene on one of his Origin trips

We only use organic milk. Why? Because it’s better for you and for the animals who produce it and we would rather support independent, sustainable milk producers. It is also sweeter and creamier and compliments coffee so much more than conventional milk.

We only use compostable packaging and cups. Why? Well because the environment is pretty messed up and we owe it to future generations to try and turn things around.

Latte art at Constable Street

When you buy a cup of Peoples Coffee these are just some of the things you are supporting:

At Home
Barista Training at Arohata Women’s Prison
Youth Barista Training at Zeal
Food Hero Rescue at Kaibosh
A whole host of underfunded organisations

At Origin
Campaigns to protect the rights of indigenous farmers
The construction of schools, hospitals, clinics, wells and more
The funding of scholarships and the prioritisation of increased access to education for women

Perfect shots at our flagship cafe in Newtown

At our Constable Street flagship cafe we charge $4.00 for a black coffee and $4.50 for a regular white coffee. We charge an additional 20c for takeaway coffees (unless you have a keep-cup). These prices reflect the reality of what it costs for us to produce a cup of fair trade, organic coffee with a conscience. If we charged less we would be unable to increase the quality of life for our farmers, pay our staff above average wages, use organic milk, give over 500kg’s of coffee away to local groups every year and, in short, we would be unable to do everything that make us who we are.

More than good – people for the common GREAT

So yes, our coffee could certainly be considered expensive. But for our customers the price is worth it when you consider how powerful that cup of coffee can be and at the end of the day it is up to the consumer to decide how to use their dollar.

Buy Coffee. Get Change.

– Jesse F


April 7th, 2016


Posted In: Africa, Auckland, Cafes, CBD, Certifications, Coffee, Constable Street, Cooperatives, Ethiopia, Fair trade, Milk, Organic, peoplespeople, Social projects, Sustainability, Trips, Uncategorized, Wellington

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A Cooperative Meeting
Meeting with APODIP members in a small community which boasts many woman members who are involved in programs growing coffee, bee keeping and coffee roasting.

We’ve blogged before on our trading practices and business objectives, we’ve talked about the merits of various certifications, and we’ve shared stories of our relationships with the growing cooperatives that we buy from. Our kaupapa of ethical trade is the crux of our business, and the reason that Peoples Coffee exists. We’re constantly asking ourselves what it means to be a truly ethical coffee company, and we are always looking for opportunities to bring our customers and supporters in on that conversation.

Be Skeptical

You are right to be skeptical of brands claiming to be 100% ethical, we wouldn’t expect any less of you. It is true that ethical trading certifications can be subject to lots of different agendas, and sadly the reality is – there’s money in appearing to be fair (if you’re big enough). Being seen to be ethical secures access to a niche market, and there is a strong monetary incentive for brands to market their products as ethically sourced. This is fuelling growing distrust of those who claim the moral high-ground in coffee, and (yes we are biased) but we would advise consumers who are concerned about this to try and be as informed as possible about brands you interact with. So, in the interest of information and transparency, here is another soul-searching blog on what ‘ethical’ means when it comes to coffee.

The Invisible Hand

We partner with talented expert growers who provide us with high quality coffee. Unfortunately, people who rely on coffee as their main source of income have traditionally been subject to exploitative market realities. Peoples Coffee was born first and foremost out of a desire to contribute to increased justice for disadvantaged and exploited coffee growers.

A Family and their Coffee
Maria Rutilia, Olga Agelica Coc, Esperunza Pop, Sandeago Pop Ba , Sofia Ba (holding) Mina Coc Pop – Members of APODIP co-op in Chiquixji Guatemala.

Coffee is a raw commodity, and its market price is governed by the good old invisible hand. Since the end of the International Coffee Agreement in 1989, which regulated the price of coffee, its Wall Street price has wildly fluctuated, often dropping below the cost of production. Many families rely on coffee as their sole source of income, and the powerlessness that comes with this is the true tragedy of the coffee industry. We believe that what it means to be an ethical actor in the global coffee industry, whether fair trade certified or not, is an aim to assist and enable coffee growers to regain power over commodity chains, and to have the autonomy to participate in trade as equal partners.

Cracking Up
ASOBAGRI mill staff joking around with us while waiting for the next horse to arrive loaded with coffee to process.

How this is achieved is contested and controversial. Increasingly articles in the media challenge the principles and execution of fair trade (see Huffington Post, and The Guardian). And there are academic arguments to be made against elements of the fair trade system, notably the idea of cooptation: As more and more coffee producers look to become fair trade certified, international fair trade bodies need to find bigger and bigger markets for that certified coffee. These markets are becoming increasingly mainstream – meaning cooperating with large actors such as Nestle and Starbucks, who inevitably demand compromises and threaten to weaken the fair trade system as a whole. The way to challenge this, as we see it, is through the power of the specialty market: Small, dedicated coffee companies committing to ethical trade, and being completely accountable to their customers. We feel that the only way to be completely accountable is to provide the third-party assurance that is the WFTO label. However, importantly, our commitment to ethical trade does not end there.

 

What ‘Minimum’ Means

I should mention the fair trade pricing structure. There are many misconceptions about the purpose and impact of the fair trade minimum price. (Minimum being the operative word). The price is designed as a safe guard for when market prices fall below the cost of production (i.e. it costs more to produce the coffee than farmers can sell it for). This means that if growers are fair trade certified, they don’t have to worry about losing their livelihoods when the price falls. Fair trade also requires that a US0.20c premium be paid on top of the sale price, to go back into community development and capacity building.

Raking out Coffee Beans
New drying patios with freshly washed green coffee in parchment at GUAYA’B Guatemala.

Commonly, prices are determined by grower and roaster based on a number of other variables, and ethical specialty companies (like Peoples Coffee) pay well above the fair trade minimum. We pay an average of around 50% more per pound, with some coffees going for well over twice the minimum price per pound. Andy Fawkes, Managing Director of Masteroast in the UK, explained nuanced pricing structures in a recent Guardian article: “The conversation has become too much about the fact that the scheme just happens to provide a minimum price, and this has become so strong as to eclipse any correctly informed discussion about quality – like all coffee sourcing, it is down to the roaster to build strong relationships and demand/encourage/reward growers to produce better quality, Fairtrade or not.”

Real Relationships

Ah, relationships. Remove the standards, remove the price structures and the certifications and the premiums, and what it all boils down to is maintaining relationships of respect, equality, and partnership. This is implicit in the principles of the fair trade system, but it is slightly harder to measure.

Sampling Green Beans
Lucas Garcia (right) and mill staff smelling fresh parchment at GUAYA’B Guatemala.

Like many coffee roasters, we regularly visit origin, spend time with cooperatives, and witness the realities of growing, harvesting, and processing coffee. It is always exciting to sample the fruits of the latest harvest, but more important to us is understanding challenges facing our trading partners, and exploring ways we can strengthen our support for them. I couldn’t put it better than Rene does in a similar Peoples Blog post over a year ago: “We choose co-ops that are organized in such a way that our trade will have a tangible positive impact on the sustainability of production, and on the lives and communities of the farmers who produce it.” This is why we visit origin, this is why we invest in relationships. There are many companies who are not fair trade certified who place equal importance on relationships with farming communities, and there are many direct traders who have equitable and ethical partnerships at the heart of their business. This is something that you don’t necessarily need a fair trade label to do.

A Cooperative Member
Marvin Perez manager of APODIP co-op in Guatemala, the warmest man you could meet.

But we do feel that the World Fair Trade Organisation certification informs, underpins, and to a point guarantees our ethical-ness as a business. We are accountable through our certification to a set of minimum standards that underpin prices, premiums and relationships. We will always endeavor to hold ourselves to a higher ethical standard than our fair trade certification does, but our customers can be guaranteed, through our certification, that we are at least doing the least we can do.

Of course it is possible to not be fair trade certified and still be a direct trader and an ethical company. Unfortunately it is also possible to have fair trade certification and to not always be as ethical as you should. We hold ourselves to our own, very high standards of equitable trade and partnership, and we hope that our customers do too.


August 27th, 2014


Posted In: Activism, Branding, Certifications, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability, Sustainable

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Yesterday the Peoples Coffee team went on a family outing to paradise, also known as the Wellington Chocolate Factory.  Not only was the adventure pleasing to our taste buds, but it turns out that coffee geeks and chocolate geeks have a lot in common, and the roasting experts among us found kindred spirits in chocolatiers Gabe and Rochelle.

Specialty chocolate is relatively rare in New Zealand – and single origin roasts even rarer. We sampled strong, dark Dominican, plummy Madagascar,  apricotty Peruvian, and a smoky Bougainvillian roast that tasted like bacon. In a good way.

The depth of knowledge and enthusiasm of our hosts bordered on obsessive and reminded us of one or two coffee roasters we know – who had their heads together and their sensitive noses stuck in cacao pods for the duration of the visit.

There is a reason that coffee roasters and chocolate roasters are alike: The products are alike – more alike than we realised.

Like Arabica and Robusta coffee, cacao beans come in two main varieties: Forestero, and Criollo. The former is more abundant, and of poorer quality generally, and the latter is the real delicacy. Also like coffee, there is a hybrid between the two – called Trinitario, which has a higher yield, is of high quality, and is more disease resistant (like coffee hybrids.) Wellington Chocolate Factory beans are either Criollo or Trinitario.

Like coffee, supermarket chocolate is a world away from specialty chocolate. Confectionery chocolate has additives to sweeten it to the point that it loses its fruity acidity. As with high quality coffee, specialty chocolate doesn’t have additives, and until you’ve tasted that – you don’t know what chocolate tastes like.

Chocolate is processed like coffee: First fermented, then washed, then sun dried, then roasted. The quality of the soil, the age of the trees, the latitude of the farm and the cultivation techniques of the farmers all have a profound influence on the final product.

Like coffee, cacao plants are susceptible to devastating disease, which wipes out hectares of crops.

Like coffee, chocolate is known as a crop of poverty, and has been connected to exploitation and even child slavery.  However – the Wellington Chocolate Factory  buys from ethical growers, and is deeply conscious of its role in supporting its producers. So conscious, in fact, that they’re starting a kickstarter campaign to give independent farmers in Bougainville the processing equipment they need to stay afloat amid the increasing corporatization of the industry there. If cacao can generate real returns to Bougainvillians, Gabe explains, there won’t be a return to disputes over the local mine that lead to years of civil conflict. Bougainville may even be able to become truly independent from Papua New Guinea.

We wouldn’t mind a bit more smoky Bougainville roast on the market here either.

Check out the Welllington Chocolate Factory’s Facebook page, or peruse their website for more information. Better yet – head down there! They can be found nestled in Eva Street, between Dixon and Ghuznee.

 


July 30th, 2014


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, CBD, Coffee, Coffee geek out, Collaboration, Cooperatives, Fair trade

2 Comments

Mid-year for roasters is both a frustrating and exciting time. Frustrating because a lot of our green coffee is now old and roasting profiles must be regularly checked to compensate for aging…But exciting because around this time the fresh coffee harvest starts to arrive from various exotic locations. When a fresh bag is opened the Roastery is filled with the beautiful fragrance of green coffee. Almost all our coffees are now arriving in GrainPro plastic bags, which preserve the coffee from going stale or absorbing gasses. Some coffees which would usually be noticeably faded at six months, are now still tasting great because of GrainPro.

Coffee has an annual harvest, which happens at different times in different countries depending on the ripeness of the cherries. A lot of work goes into the harvest, processing and shipping of coffee, and oftentimes things don’t work quite to the schedule one might have been expecting. Involvement in this process does require a certain amount of flexibility, but from May container ships start to arrive on our shores packed with beans ready for roasting. MAF like to check containers – especially ones coming from deep Africa – and occasionally our containers are flushed with oxygen, or frozen to eradicate any bugs (organically, of course).

This year the African ports are delayed (again) and we will run a bit short until the container ship traverses the shipping routes and clears customs. This is fairly common – African coffees are regularly held up (for some reason or other) and we don’t always receive the coffee when expected.

As a customer you may not actually ever notice, but every roaster at some time will find the need to re-work a blend; to change the ratio of coffees, or to re-blend a new origin in to maintain a consistent flavour. Some coffees have a reasonably interchangeable nature and are accommodating if a blend needs to be re-worked, but others are more unique and harder to replace without drastic flavour changes.

Most of our coffees we have brought from the same farmers for nigh-on 10 years, and while it is the same land, as with all agricultural products there can be variations from year to year. Sometimes a coffee will have a slightly different fruitiness, or have more body relative to the last harvest. Over the next few months some of our coffees may be slightly different in nature, and hopefully the noticeable difference will be a fullness of flavour that is lively and pleasing.

Each year I use the new harvest period as an opportunity to assess all our coffees; what we like about them, and ways we can continue to hone our delicate roasting and brewing protocols to always bring out their full potential. Over the weeks that the coffees are arriving I am continuously sample-roasting each product in different ways to understand its subtle flavours and qualities, and to develop the retail roast profile. This maintains consistency while making the coffee taste better.

I have been very excited this year about the Bolivia, which is our current Single Origin Espresso. This is an excellent coffee and has allowed me to experiment with some new roasting techniques for espresso, by which I have been trying to eliminate all bitterness from the short black, and promote sweetness and fruity acidity.

We will also be releasing some new Rwanda, Timor-Leste, Ethiopia Wenago, and perhaps a Congo as they arrive.

Keep your palate handy,

Rene


June 20th, 2014


Posted In: Africa, Coffee, Cooperatives, Ethiopia, Fair trade

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Recently I was featured in a report about leaf rust in coffee and it sparked some very interesting responses – yes Renee is a girls name, but I’m René, it’s French, ok?! Maybe I should have listened when they said “Never read the comments”, unfortunately I did, but it did pull up some interesting questions and ideas on what is important in a media piece on coffee.

Leaf rust is one of the many challenges the coffee industry has been facing for decades and has been changing the way coffee is produced for years. Stories which are presented in the media are usually pitched at how it affects the consumer and plied with a click bait headline – “Coffee as we know it at risk of dying”. The story was reported as if rust will wipe out all coffee in the world and we all become decaffeinated zombies!

This isn’t quite true however, coffee “as we know it” is being affected by rust but it’s not suddenly dying on us. For decades work has been done addressing the issue of leaf rust – new resistant varietals are being created, and there is a change in the direction of high level information which guides the industry towards more sustainable farming practices.

The leaf rust story was more current for us early last year when I was visiting producers in Guatemala and Nicaragua and saw the impact of rust first hand as it spread through Latin America. So much so that I wrote about it then. Rust has made a palpable impact on many of the farmers we’ve bought from for years. It was heart breaking to see the farmers’ bare trees. These are producers who have worked their land successfully for years and whose coffee you have probably drunk from Peoples Coffee many times.

Coffee in a State of Change

There is something like 25 million families involved in growing coffee and statistics say the average payout is only around $250Us dollars a person/ per year (4 persons per family). Currently at least 5 countries have declared a state of national emergency due to the wider impacts of reduced production, however this has had little change to the global stocks of available coffee, (global stocks are part of what dictate coffee price). Coffee is a big deal for so many people globally, it is not going to die, but coffee as we currently know it will change, from what kinds of coffee are available and how they make up the global stocks.

Not All Coffee is Created Equal.

There are two very different types of coffee on our shelves.

Instant coffee (and most supermarket pre-ground brick coffee), which is low-grade commodity coffee, mostly robusta (low quality, high caffeine). This grade makes up most of the global production and consumption, and is responsible for dictating the street price of green coffee globally. Often when it is reported that the green bean price is at “an all time low” they are talking about this type of coffee, not the coffee we drink in our flat whites.

Cafe quality coffee, which in NZ is mostly specialty grade Arabica coffee, this require more controls during all stages to produce a product which has desirable flavours. Companies that are committed to trade justice and better living conditions for farmers will be paying far more than the “street price” quoted in the media.

The demand has been easily meet with commodity coffee and more and more is being produced. There is also more demand for higher grade coffee (for cafes), but this is harder to produce and isn’t quite keeping up with demand as fast as the cheap coffee. The progressive work done in the industry is focused mainly on two categories: development done for agronomy ( less quality flavours and cheeper beans), or development for cup profile (more expensive, better tasting). These developments are great for the future of the industry, but it will require new plants to be distributed and grown, which takes years, and may not really be the best way to deal with the issue from many peoples point of view.

Quality vs Value

Everyone can generally taste difference between expensive and cheap products, we all have our favourite beer, wine or chocolate. What we buy will depend on many different factors – it may be economic, to support local production, brand appeal, or because after trying them all- it was your favourite. But any of these factors may not necessarily translate to the highest quality.

Instant coffee has a place in this world and there is no shame in drinking it but it needs to be recognised there is infinitely more work and value put into producing a high quality product like quality cafe coffee. For a well made, high quality coffee, with organic milk, made by a well trained barista on a good wage in a nice environment you should be willing to pay a premium price. However, that flat white is not on the same playing field with a quick coffee using cheap quality coffee beans and low paid staff. When it comes to coffee, you can usually expect to get what you pay for. If cheap is what you are after, then shop around for the best price. If a good coffee experience is what you are after (all those quality factors listed above), then shop around for the best experience until you are happy, but don’t assume the two will naturally meet.

Organic

Every product in the world is full of chemicals, what we are talking about are biologically structured chemicals in potencies which are (most often by definition) harmful to humans, animals and the environment, but act as steroids for plants.

The reason Peoples Coffee chose organic is because of the negative impact chemical use has on farming families’ health and the bigger picture of food production, health and the planet. Many chemicals are available to producers (sometimes subsidised from US govt) to put on plants throughout Mesoamerica. This is something you should be genuinely worried about as it is often not known how to correctly handle these substances (there is no OSH for coffee farms). The impact is very clearly damaging, from what we’ve heard from farmers who have used them, and seeing it up close on coffee origin trips (not to mention all the research).

The goal in organic production is to produce a product which is sustainable and safe for humans to produce, not to supply you with a cheap cup of coffee. Pesticides are used in large-scale commodity farming to reduce work needed for production. But for many producers using chemicals is about choosing a higher yield and bigger pay day over the the long term health for them and their family.

It can be misconstrued that coffee roasters are bullying farmers into organic production for our own increased market share, there really isn’t enough supply or demand for organic coffee to justify this position. For Peoples Coffee it is about a holistic 21st century attitude towards having enjoyable world for ourselves and our children, and rolling these expectations for our own life into the lives of our supply chain.

Luxury and Ethics

In order to have your two cups of coffee a day, it requires a farmer to harvest around 18 trees a year. These people should be your best friend I reckon! And it’s important to remember that when sipping on your daily flat white.

Coffee isn’t a right it should be a luxury. The history of coffee is fraught when viewed with a 2014 world view, which is why it is important to keep it’s history topical in your mind when addressing the big picture. If nothing is changing in the industry, then those bad practices are still happening, which has helped to keep developing countries behind, and first world profits ahead.

Consumers can make a conscious choice to support everyone in the supply chain while also choosing a high quality product. This is true value because it benefits everyone in the process. So yes, leaf rust is a serious problem, it is a problem for farmers whose livelihoods depend on first world coffee consumption. Let’s change the conversation, from if you’ll get your cup of coffee in the morning, to how this has a profound of effect on peoples lives.

Where do you place value on your favourite products?

 

René

 

 

 

 

 

 


June 4th, 2014


Posted In: Activism, Branding, Certifications, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability

5 Comments

These days certifications are a part of almost every product we buy. We trust them to do what they say, but perhaps we are also a little suspicious of who is benefiting from them, and if it makes a difference at all. There are quite a few certifications in coffee. Some relate to the product and how it is traded – i.e. fairtrade. And some relate to conditions in which the product is produced – i.e. shade grown or organic.

Certified coffee makes up a small part of the over all global coffee sales. For a roaster to buy certified coffee they are essentially eliminating the wider range of non-certified coffee available. From there they continue with their own criteria based on taste and availability to find good partners to trade with, thus eliminating more producers and coffees again. So some criticism comes from the smaller pool of coffee available to certified roasters. However the choice to buy certified products means the process meets an ethical criteria (which is verified by a third party) rather than taking someones word for it. No singular certification system will solve every issue in coffee, but it is an important step in giving the power back to the farmers that produce this product we love so much.

It is important to understand what each certification is for – what are its main goals, who benefits from them, and how. I’ve only scratched the surface with the following certifications, but these are a few of the main players. You’ll see not all are as transparant as others. I hope this gives you a little insight into making more informed decisions. If you have any questions about certifications I’ve missed out, please leave a comment below and I’ll try and answer them as best I can.

Peoples Coffee source beans that fall under a variety of certifications – these include FairtradeOrganic USDA,World fair Trade OrganisationEcocertUTZBCS Öko-GarantieMayacertICIAIFOAM, Naturaland and Bird-Friendly. Some of these we go out of our way to choose because of their certification, others are just a bonus. We are proud to call ourselves Fair Trade, which we achieve through our World Fair Trade Organisation certification, it allows us to be accountable and transparent about all our trading processes.

World Fair Trade Organisation is different from other fair trade certifications. The idea is that it is not one product line that will make a different with the poverty and injustice in the industry, but the business as a whole. A WFTO certified business must comply with ten basic principals. Wages, business sustainability, working conditions, equality for staff (amongst others) must reach a certain standard. Compliance for this is mostly done through accounting records, business objectives and profit levels.

This program was created to address green-washing and the over marketing of ethical products by businesses who buy and sell certified FT products and promote themselves as ethical but have poor business practices like low wages and poor working hours/conditions for their employees.

This certification is extremely hard to achieve, which is the point of it, there are only two certified businesses in NZ – Trade AidImporters and Peoples Coffee.

USDA Organic (US Dept of Agriculture) is the federal organic certification which verifies that a crop, livestock, farm and handling facilities comply with the USDA’s organic regulations. This is one of the global standards which most organic coffee is certified to.

Up to 95% of the product must be organic (allowing 5% unintentional mixing). Costs to be certified vary from $700 to $3000.

Most synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can’t be used for 3 years to gain certification on land and crop. Coffee yields will drop as much as 30% when transitioning to organic, and a lot more work is required to keep trees healthy and producing good quality coffee.

If this coffee is also Fairtrade certified then 25 cents a pound is the premium, but normal sales doesn’t require a premium.

This is a stringent certification, requiring onsite checks, but many different bodies can certify to USDA standards.

 

 

Bird-Friendly (Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center) developed by ecologists to protect birds and their migratory paths across the world. It is not designed specifically for coffee quality, but coffee does benefit from it. Certification requires a 12meter shade canopy with 3 layers, at least 40% shade cover, 11 different species of shade trees, and many more complex requirements.

Coffee must already be certified organic by another body. Bird Friendly certified coffee has no required premium or minimum prices. This certification focuses on preserving forests for the birds (and the bees), it has very high standards and growing conditions which are ideal for producing coffee. There is some very good Bird-friendly certified coffees available.

Rainforest Alliance (est 1992) is an NGO who certify a variety of products, mainly forestry and agriculture including coffee, tea, cut flowers, bananas and chocolate. It is an older scheme originally for timber extraction, which until recently did not include coffee.

RFA uses SAN (sustainable agriculture research) as a basis for standards. Baseline criteria: coffee can be from non-shade and from in-organic conditions, shade grown coffee should have 2 layers of shade.

In general this certification seems to be used mainly by big businesses (e.g. McDonalds) and perhaps it isn’t specific enough to require many changes from the average diligent coffee farmer with shade grown coffee, but it does give a good basis for basic standards and practices.

However to be Rainforest Alliance approved, a product only needs to contain 30% certified beans. This means there is a lot of non-certified coffee being sold as a certified product, leaving plenty of room for green washing.

 

Fairtrade‘s focus is to raise the livelihoods of producers by addressing the imbalance in international trade relationships and unstable markets. It seeks to provide a minimum cost of production and direct trade relationships to further the benefits between farmer and roaster.

Baseline criteria: Fairtrade coffee certification is only open to small lot farmer organisations. Everybody has equal rights to vote and participate. Environmental standards restrict the use of agrochemicals and encourage sustainability.

“Producer organizations are paid a minimum price of US 1.40 per pound (for times of low market) or prices above this as negotiated. Organic coffee receives an extra minimum differential of US 30 cents per pound. A Fairtrade Premium of US 20c per pound for social and economic investments is to be distributed at the community and organizational level. Trade standards aim to encourage fairer negotiations, clarify the role of price fixing, and reduce speculation.”

Costs to join are around $2500 for producers, and 2% revenue for roasters to use the certification label on bags.

One of the main criticisms of Fairtrade coffee is that it doesn’t incentivise quality in its main criteria, and poorer quality coffee is sold under this mechanism.

The point of the Fairtrade certification is to target farmers and reward them for their coffee. It is the buyer who in charge of choosing the quality coffee they would like (Just like every system). Through FT there is an open relationship to build on better quality.

There is, of course, poorer grade FT coffee sold  and people manipulating the system by choosing who they sell the good and bad to and for how much. But I see this is a weakness in business not just the FT system as we see corruption everywhere.

Peoples Coffee have bought many containers of good quality origins for espresso blends, as well as micro lots, single farmer lots, single variety lots, zero defect lots, and all as certified FT coffee.

There are systems which incentivise quality like Cup of Excellence. However it is an entirely different trading market. COE are small amounts of coffee and is purely focused on the cup quality. It doesn’t really care who, where, how it was produced, as long as it “cups well” (scores high on a 100 point flavour based system). Comparing these very expensive coffees to the quality of the coffees we drink for $4 a cup, is like comparing a $300 bottle of wine from vineyard to a $30 supermarket bottle, because its  COE coffees we drink in out flat whites every day at our regular cafe.

 

Fair Trade USA is a fairly new offshoot from Fairtrade with whom they share many goals and criteria, but broke off to create FTUSA to further the reach of their goals. FTUSA have opened up who can join their certification to allow seasonal farm workers and estates to be FTUSA certified. This is at odds with FT who only certify small lots farmers who form co-ops. The distinction is that estates usually only have one land owner (or family) who control the business, and workers are just paid a wage and have no control.

This has caused a slight rift in the FT world, partly because some co-ops struggle to sell all of their coffee for sustainable certified prices as it is.

Also it looks like big businesses can buy the same cheap coffee they currently do, and just certify the producer through FTUSA to turn it into certified “ethical” coffee. The potential for green washing seems much higher when anyone can be certified.

FTUSA want to tackle global poverty, and want to be able to certify almost anyone producing coffee as the means of achieving this. Seasonal workers make up many pickers during harvest time and are currently unrepresented, so there is a real need. But the FT mechanism works when it uses a unified community group that work together to meet their shared goals, how seasonal workers can participate or benefit in small scale community democracy is a challenging idea, and its in early days of its growth of the certification, but one to keep an eye on.

 

Peoples Coffee have been using 100 % Fair Trade and organic coffee since we started 10 years ago, this is because we want to ensure we make a positive impact through trading and Fairtrade is built to help with this process, not because we want to be branded as certified.

Peoples Coffee continues to use certifications because of the inherent standards and practices they build into the system. It means we can have globally recognised standards as a base line and we are held accountable to these standards, not just our own.

Certification helps us to demonstrate the authenticity as a business by being transparent in our trading practices and gives the power back to the customer to make an informed decision about who they give their money to.

For more information on how Peoples Coffee trade, you can read our page on fair trade and why co-ops matter.

You can also learn more about the World Fair Trade Organisations ten principles of Fair Trade here.

 

 

 

 

 


April 17th, 2014


Posted In: Branding, Certifications, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability, Sustainable

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Blends have a long tradition in espresso history. They are generally created to build a balanced, pleasing flavour by combining different origins with certain characteristics. A traditional espresso blend may have low acidity and be full-bodied with a dark chocolate bitter sweet flavour.

Often a blend will have one main origin as the base. Beans from Brazil are common base blenders and might make up 40 percent of the blend. Then other origins are added to develop flavours, mouthfeel, and add highlights and complexity.

Blends are the bread and butter income for most roasteries — most of their business is from wholesaling to cafés. The blend plays a powerful role in this chain: it dictates the profitability of the roaster and café.

The price of a cup of coffee is often a hot subject, but the actual cost of your flat white has changed very little over the years. Whereas the price of green coffee has gone up and down due to many factors which I won’t mention here. To some degree the average price for a cup of coffee in Wellington dictates the maximum I can pay for a sack of green beans. Individual costs and ratio of profitability work their way back through the supply chain. Wholesaled blends in Wellington vary in price hugely, with blends offered by some roasters being almost half the price of others. This means there are different levels of quality available and different ratios of profit from the farmer, down through the chain to the customer.

Peoples Coffee has grown up with some basic principles which guide our decision making process. For example, we want to buy great coffee in a way which has a positive impact through added value at each step. After 5 years of visiting farmers, I have rarely heard a farmer say they hope their children will continue farming coffee. We offer terms of trade to our producers in the hope this will create a healthy life for them and that they would want their children to continue farming coffee.

Since the start of Peoples Coffee we have been 100 percent organic. For us this is about sustainability. When we travel to coffee producing origins, we see that chemical use often has a very negative impact on the people and environment. By buying only organic coffee, we support quality and sustainability and this leads to better quality and sustainability for the future. This may limit the coffee I can buy, but if we want to see change, sometimes we have to make it. Hoping coffee will become more sustainable — but buying something else until the perfect coffee is available —isn’t going to change the sustainability of coffee very effectively.

I choose not to buy Robusta or Brazil beans, cheap coffees, because they supply little more to a blend other than profitability. Brazil is the biggest producer of coffee globally. It is mainly machine-harvested, commodity grade, non-organic, and comes from large farms operating at an industrial level. These are things I don’t find very appealing in coffee. So I choose to buy from other countries because of the interesting stories involved in sourcing it and the people and communities who have been affected by the troubled history of coffee.

In 2009 I visited the co-op Guaya’b in Guatemala. With the Manager, Lucas Garcia, we visited farmers during the harvest process and talked about the specifics of production. We also went to the warehouse, and the half built drying patios, and learnt about the social projects they are running. After seeing this, and knowing their coffee, I felt the co-op fit with the Peoples objectives and chose to blend Guaya’b’s coffee into the Don Wilfredo blend. Since then we have continued selling plenty of Don Wilfredo which makes a further difference to Guaya’b, and many other co-op’s like them. When I visited them again in 2013 and was able to see the development in their production with the completion of the patio, which has led to better quality and profitability for the co-op and the coffee itself. I feel proud that Peoples Coffee was part of that story.

This is how I like to build my blends — from the knowledge of the co-op after years of tasting their coffee, visiting them to meet and understand who they are, seeing what problems they currently face and how they hope to achieve their goals. I know by carefully choosing coffees from certain co-ops to blend, I can build a beautiful blend and each cup of coffee we sell goes towards developing the lives of the producers. Many of these developments are simple things like processing machines and technical staff. But also holistically, with the goal of enabling them to be in charge of their own destiny, just like we all should be.

So a blend can be more than just a balance of flavours, it can be a bridge between people who are like minded in their attitudes towards people, coffee and business.


June 26th, 2013


Posted In: Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability, Sustainable, Trips, Uncategorized

3 Comments

Coffee has a sad history for many countries. Colonialism and slavery were used as a means to set up much of the global coffee production, which has left many farmers today living in remote mountainous villages, with coffee as the only possible source of income. Even though 70% of the world’s production of coffee comes from small lot farmers such as these, standard international business practice in coffee leaves these producers at the bottom of the hierarchy.

Peoples Coffee exists to offer an alternative to the normal basis of international trade in coffee; our goal is to use our trade as a mechanism for change in the coffee industry, as opposed to building profit for our shareholders.

At Peoples Coffee, we have a triple bottom line attitude towards trade: people, planet, profit. We measure our organizational success on much more than economic criteria: we direct our trade to those we can have a positive financial, social and ecological impact with.

WHO WE TRADE WITH:

Peoples Coffee trades exclusively with small lot coffee farmers who have joined together to form co-operatives.  Key to our vision is how much the farmers are paid in the hand, not just how much we paid someone for the beans – there is a big difference.

We are coffee lovers, and quality is very important to us in our buying decisions. We choose co-ops whose coffee has a quality and flavour profile we like, and will fit into our coffee programme. But we also choose co-ops that are organized in such a way that our trade will have a tangible positive impact on the sustainability of production, and on the lives and communities of the farmers who produce it.  We do this by paying more, and taking less profit.

Peoples Coffee purchases green beans from Trade Aid Importers (TAI), New Zealand’s largest green bean broker, who buy directly from the co-operatives. We forecast our coffee sales 16 months ahead, specific to each origin, and Trade Aid factor us in when they are setting contracts with the co-ops.  We then purchase green beans on a weekly basis from TAI, who pay the relevant profits back to each co-operative annually.

Together with Trade Aid Importers, we travel to origin each year to visit our co-operatives at harvest time. We believe regularly visiting our producers plays an important role in understanding the realities of farming specialty coffee, and is key to being able to best represent the true value of coffee. Through our visits we are able to see and hear current factors in production, and understand how and why the prices farmers receive in the hand is so important.

Peoples Coffee shares a vision for coffee farmers with Trade Aid Importers, and is thrilled to be supporting co-ops with them, knowing we have a clean and transparent money chain. Buying from a co-op means we have great traceability; we know who grew our coffee, where, how, and exactly how much they got paid.

WHERE WE TRADE:

Our coffee comes from small lot coffee farmers in Africa, and in Central & South America, where the latitude and longitude meet to form ideal growing temperatures and conditions.

Our small lot farmers manage parcels of land typically around 1–5 hectares in size, and farm at altitudes above 1000m, where growing conditions are great for high quality Arabica production, but mechanized farming is less common.

They generally live in villages in the mountains, and plant coffee in amongst the natural forest plants, shaded under a tree canopy. These are perfect growing conditions for producing the tastiest coffee, and have much less impact on the environment than mono-culture planting.  Coffee production can be good for biodiversity, and in many countries is allowed to be grown in state forests, as it encourages birds and insect life.

This is in stark contrast with industrial scale coffee that is grown in larger estates and plantations. These plantations are generally monoculture, meaning the landscape has been cleared to make room for lines of coffee to be planted and to allow machines to drive through to harvest cherries.

HOW WE TRADE:

Globally, coffee contracts (how much is paid for coffee) are almost always set using a differential from the New York Coffee Futures (the stock market), where coffee is traded as a commodity.  However, the prices we pay to farmers are set through discussions with the co-op to find a price that is reflective of the year they have had, the quality, and where the current NZ pricing market is at. These prices are set to be favorable to producers, but still competitive with other coffee in New Zealand.

Coffee is almost exclusively exported from producing countries in shipping containers that carry 250–275 sacks of coffee.  A container of coffee might costs over NZD $100,000 and takes 6 weeks to reach New Zealand via global shipping routes.

In order for any coffee to get to New Zealand, a farmer must sell, and a broker must buy, a whole container of coffee. So small lot farmers, who might only produce 50 sacks a year, are unable to directly access the international export market without a middle man.  However, this issue is resolved when producers of similar region and affiliation join together to form a co-op.  By pooling their resources, they can access the market with an export license, and through mutual profits, can buy and collectively own coffee infrastructure.  As a coffee community, they can share a vision and have the means to develop it.

Through our business objectives we want to support and help progress the small lot farmer’s family business.  We want to share and invest in goals with producers, and build relationships that are more than just a division of profit margins.  We want to change the value of a commodity, by recognising the quality and value of the raw product – not just by adding value to it through roasting.

This is the crux of Peoples Coffee.


May 15th, 2013


Posted In: Coffee, Collaboration, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability, Trips

Tags: , , ,

2 Comments

“Single origin espresso is about forgetting all the rules,”
René tells me, as we sit down to talk about the newest style of coffee on offer at the Constable St store.

Wait.  What? If there’s one thing I’ve learned working for Peoples Coffee, it’s that the world of coffee is governed by rules.
Precise timings, measurements, ratios and techniques that all spell the difference between an average coffee and an exceptional one.  So I’m not about to let René throw away the rulebook quite so flippantly.  My sanity depends on it.  I demand an explanation.

“Well, those concepts of precision are still there,” he assures me.  “It’s just that the approach to how the flavours are achieved is different from most roasting traditions.”

Standard espresso is made from a blend of coffee from different origins, René explains.  Roasters typically select beans with different characteristics to complement each other, and then blend them to create a big bodied cup with balance, complexity and synergy between bittersweet and chocolatey flavours.

This much I know.  But the reason that single-origin espresso is so radical, Rene continues, is because it removes the roaster’s ability to balance flavours by combining different beans – in fact, it removes the whole notion of balance full-stop.  Roasters can still tailor the roasting parameters to best enhance the natural flavours of each origin, but they can only work with the inherent flavours within that bean.     This means that each single origin creates a completely new and different espresso experience.

This difference is accentuated by the fact that single origin espresso is roasted much lighter than standard espresso, preserving more of the bean’s inherent flavours.  “These roasting techniques are very different to how normal espresso is roasted,” says René.   “With these single origin roasts, I try to create more of a fruity sweetness, and allow acidity to brighten up the cup.”

Single origins are nothing new in the world of soft brewing, but are still relatively new to espresso.  By offering single origin espresso, Peoples Coffee is joining the ranks of roasters, baristas and coffee geeks around the world who are applying the espresso method to these interesting tasting single origins.  And it isn’t merely a case of whacking different coffee into the same machine.  René spent a whole day at a coffee trade fair in Portland researching single origin espresso machines, and then weeks modifying the Constable St espresso machine himself.  The new mechanism allows the barista to alter the pressure when extracting single origins, a variable that significantly affects coffee flavours.

Single origin espresso is a great way of introducing coffee lovers to a whole host of new and interesting coffee flavours, through a medium most people are familiar with.  “Customers will constantly get to experience different coffees, and find their own favourites,” says René.  “Some of the origins really shine when served black, others taste fantastic with milk.”

Single origins are also a great way of linking consumers with the cooperatives in the developing world, that grow the coffee we all love.  “We’re buying more micro-lot coffee from our farmers,” says René. “There are a few reasons why micro lot coffee is special; it might be a small amount of an interesting variety, or it might be from a small part of one farmer’s land that produces particularly good coffee.”

You can try single origin espresso now at Peoples Coffee Constable St!  This month’s featured origin is  Sidamo Grade One, a high quality washed coffee from Ethiopia.  There will be a new origin on offer each month, so keep trying them until you find your favourite!

 


April 17th, 2013


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee, Constable Street, Cooperatives, Ethiopia

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Harvest season is a time when coffee trees should be thriving, and heavy with leaves and fruit.  But all too often on our visit to Central America, we saw trees bare of leaves, with only a small amount of cherries.  This was due to the effects of a new strand of Roya, a leaf rust that is rapidly spreading through Latin America.  Some of these coffee producing countries have even announced a national emergency due to Roya’s damaging effects.

And at each of the four co-operatives we visited in Guatemala and Nicaragua,  Roya was a hot topic of discussion.  Roya is common to coffee, but this new strand seems to be worse than ever before, with many farmers very quickly losing much of their coffee to it.  Since the rust can remain in fallen leaves, farmers we spoke with had been advised to clear out all the coffee from affected areas and then burn the trees!  Once the land has been ‘cleaned’ then replanting can begin, but this will cause a three year lapse in production.

This will be tough for many producers that don’t have the money to buy seedlings to replant their farms, or the means to survive for the three years it takes to see new trees through to harvest.  This year, some countries are reporting that 10 -50% of their farms are effected by Roya, causing a massive reduction in harvest.  But the worst is still to come, as the trees which did produce this year must be cut down.

This is where fair trade and co-operatives become so important.  We were impressed with the proactiveness of the four co-ops we visited, and the social development programmes the co-ops had developed to support their members through tough times like these.   PRODECOOP, a Nicaraguan co-op, was a perfect example of this.  We visited a health clinic that was originally set up for diagnosing cancer in women, but has since developed its services to meet the many needs in the remote community.  We also visited some food banks, where members could sell their beans and corn at harvest time, and loan it back when food supply was scarce.

Another very important program run by PRODECOOP was food growing diversification.  The ability to grow quality food is so important.  It is the reason that many farmers can continue to farm at a loss during the tough times.  Traditionally, corn and beans are the main food grown by farmers, but this is not a full healthy diet, so the co-op is modeling and teaching their coffee farmers to diversity their food crops.

By supporting co-ops who run programmes like these, I hope that in years to come there will still be quality coffee to buy from these regions, co-ops and countries – not just Brazil and Vietnam, who are the biggest global producers and are mainly growing commodity grade coffee.

For me, these harvest trips are an opportunity to learn about the realities of farming specialty coffee in a commodity market, and to ensure that our business objectives reflect these requirements.  Through direct conversation with farmers, agronomists, mill staff, cuppers, and co-op managers, we try to get a full picture of farmers’ lives, production practices and issues in the region.

Through our business objectives, we hope to lessen the influence of foreign exchange rates and the ever changing coffee price on the stock exchange, and to address the realities of production in the price we pay for our coffee.  Peoples Coffee is committed to working with producers on our common goal: to sustainably produce better quality coffee, with better yields, at prices well above the cost of production.  We believe that through our trade we CAN and NEED to have a positive impact on our partners who produce this product we all love.

 

René Macaulay


March 20th, 2013


Posted In: Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability, Trips

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January and February herald the harvest season for most coffee producing countries, and for Peoples Coffee, they herald the time to visit our producers.  This year, Liv and I flew to Central America to visit the co-operatives we buy coffee from in Guatemala and Nicaragua.

We spent three weeks staying in the villages of the four co-ops, and spent our days traveling between producers’ farms, processing mills, warehouses, cupping labs, and development programmes.  I had visited some of these co-ops four years ago, so I was very interested to see how things had progressed in the last few years.  We hired a translator for Spanish (and another for the local dialect) so that we could talk face to face with producers and best understand what is happening in their lives.

Our first visit was with Guaya’b, a co-operative of indigenous coffee growers in Huehuetenango, in the highlands of western Guatemala.

My 2009 visit to Guaya’b had been a sobering one, as the co-op told me about the wide-ranging and complex issues they were being confronted with.  So on this trip, it was wonderful to see that the determination of the coffee farmers, the quality of their coffee, and the support from buyers like Trade Aid, had kept them going through these difficult times.

Guaya’b co-operative has spent the last few years building a large wet mill, with fermentation tanks, a drying patio, and two mechanical dryers. At the time of my visit in 2009, financial issues were stalling the building of the mill, so I was pleased to see that it was now finished and already operating near capacity!  This new infrastructure has greatly improved the harvest process for the co-op’s members, who no longer have to spend every evening of harvest season hand de-pulping, washing and drying their coffee at home.  It also gives the co-operative better control over consistency and quality, and the ability to develop new quality processes at the mill.  I enjoyed the samples on the cupping table; their exceptional Huehuetenango coffee tasted beautiful.

Guaya’b are a small co-op, producing 11 organic containers of coffee per year (fair trade co-ops typically produce between 8 and 30 containers), and due to their size must contract out some of their quality controls and processes.  This trip was an opportunity for me to spend some time with Lucas, the manager, to do an education session on sample roasting and cupping to SCAA protocols.  We discussed the importance of standards like SCAA, to ensure that globally we are all roasting, cupping and using the same vocab to assess coffee.

I also spent time with the main staff of the wet mill (where coffee cherries are processed to beans), discussing and learning about how they operate, and how and why they do what they do.  From my experiences on previous harvest trips to other co-ops, I was able to share some ideas and standards I have seen successfully operating elsewhere, and ways to increase cup quality.

Harvest trips are an exciting time to for a roaster to learn more about the coffee production process, and after years of visits, it was very rewarding to be able to add some value back to our producers in ways like this.

René Macaulay

 

You can read more about René and Liv’s harvest trip in next week’s blog, so check back in with us!

 

 

 


March 13th, 2013


Posted In: Cooperatives, Sustainability, Trips

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Progressing our position as leading fair traders

Fair trade has always been at the heart of our business.

After eight years in the coffee trade, we remain captivated by the idea that our company can positively impact and better represent the smallest and most marginalized coffee producers in the world.

Our focus is on small-lot coffee producers, not on private estates, plantations or larger family-owned farms.  Our farmers each work with 1-2 hectares of land and are all owner/members of cooperatives. It is a priority for us that these small-lot farmers, who produce some 70% of the world’s coffee, can live sustainably and with dignity, and can determine their own futures and decisions as much as possible.

At Peoples Coffee we have set a high bar for ourselves as fair traders, and now we want to raise it even further.

We purchase only fair trade certified, organic coffees from small farmer cooperatives around the globe. We travel annually to origin, and have visited all the cooperatives we buy from at least once.  We hear and document farmers’ stories firsthand to understand the challenges they face, hear how well our trade is working for them, and to share in their dreams for themselves, their children and their communities.

This year, we are excited to share our next step on this journey to support and show solidarity with small farmers, and to deepen and create new possibilities for progressive fair trade in coffee.

Peoples Coffee are now signed, paid and fully-fledged members of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
Not to be confused with the WTO, the WFTO is not run by cavalier bankers or Wall Street cronies; rather it is the leading authority on fair trade across trading commodities and is small producer focused and engaged.

Shifting focus from individually certified products, WFTO membership is solely for those whose entire organization exists primarily to support small producers. The only other business in New Zealand to be a full member of the WFTO is (unsurprisingly) Trade Aid.

We are stepping up our position to pioneer new ways of supporting small coffee farmers. In a consumer world where fair trade messages are regularly watered down, falsely appropriated, and even written off as a passing fad, we are strengthening our unique position as progressive fair traders, not sitting around waiting for the market to dictate its terms to us.

What does this mean for our customers?

The FLO certification mark will no longer be on our packaging or be part of our branding. The Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) recognizes WFTO members as genuine fair traders, so rather than holding two independent certifications, we have simply chosen the one that better fits our unique position as a 100% fair trade principled and driven company, not just a line of fair trade products. The WFTO will launch a product mark in 2013 for customers who like to have a guarantee mark on their bags.

Our WFTO status will enable us to define more clearly the issues facing small farmers today and into the future, and to work with others to deepen the fair trade movement.  We will continue to be members of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand (FTAANZ), and will remain actively engaged in the Wellington Fair Trade City Trust.

This move also gives our business more focus. We now have policy drivers from the WFTO that require us to continually question how we can do a better job of supporting producers, advocating for fair trade, and showing more business transparency in these endeavours. The WFTO’s ten principles of fair trade will be a clear and annually present guide for asking the hard questions of ourselves, and how well we are performing as a fair trade business.

We think of this as part of our growing up as a business, as coffee professionals, and as people wanting to give small producers around the world a fighting chance of having a progressive and sustained way of life in the coffee trade.

In short, we want to be better at being who we are.
 We hope that you, our customers and supporters, hold us to nothing less.

Matt Lamason                      Liv Doogue
Director/Founder               General Manager


January 16th, 2013


Posted In: Branding, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade

Tags:

6 Comments

Progressing our position as leading fair traders

Fair trade has always been at the heart of our business.

After eight years in the coffee trade, we remain captivated by the idea that our company can positively impact and better represent the smallest and most marginalized coffee producers in the world.

Our focus is on small-lot coffee producers, not on private estates, plantations or larger family-owned farms.  Our farmers each work with 1-2 hectares of land and are all owner/members of cooperatives. It is a priority for us that these small-lot farmers, who produce some 70% of the world’s coffee, can live sustainably and with dignity, and can determine their own futures and decisions as much as possible.

At Peoples Coffee we have set a high bar for ourselves as fair traders, and now we want to raise it even further.

We purchase only fair trade certified, organic coffees from small farmer cooperatives around the globe. We travel annually to origin, and have visited all the cooperatives we buy from at least once.  We hear and document farmers’ stories firsthand to understand the challenges they face, hear how well our trade is working for them, and to share in their dreams for themselves, their children and their communities.

This year, we are excited to share our next step on this journey to support and show solidarity with small farmers, and to deepen and create new possibilities for progressive fair trade in coffee.

Peoples Coffee are now signed, paid and fully-fledged members of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
Not to be confused with the WTO, the WFTO is not run by cavalier bankers or Wall Street cronies; rather it is the leading authority on fair trade across trading commodities and is small producer focused and engaged.

Shifting focus from individually certified products, WFTO membership is solely for those whose entire organization exists primarily to support small producers. The only other business in New Zealand to be a full member of the WFTO is (unsurprisingly) Trade Aid.

We are stepping up our position to pioneer new ways of supporting small coffee farmers. In a consumer world where fair trade messages are regularly watered down, falsely appropriated, and even written off as a passing fad, we are strengthening our unique position as progressive fair traders, not sitting around waiting for the market to dictate its terms to us.

What does this mean for our customers?

The FLO certification mark will no longer be on our packaging or be part of our branding. The Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) recognizes WFTO members as genuine fair traders, so rather than holding two independent certifications, we have simply chosen the one that better fits our unique position as a 100% fair trade principled and driven company, not just a line of fair trade products. The WFTO will launch a product mark in 2013 for customers who like to have a guarantee mark on their bags.

Our WFTO status will enable us to define more clearly the issues facing small farmers today and into the future, and to work with others to deepen the fair trade movement.  We will continue to be members of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand (FTAANZ), and will remain actively engaged in the Wellington Fair Trade City Trust.

This move also gives our business more focus. We now have policy drivers from the WFTO that require us to continually question how we can do a better job of supporting producers, advocating for fair trade, and showing more business transparency in these endeavours. The WFTO’s ten principles of fair trade will be a clear and annually present guide for asking the hard questions of ourselves, and how well we are performing as a fair trade business.

We think of this as part of our growing up as a business, as coffee professionals, and as people wanting to give small producers around the world a fighting chance of having a progressive and sustained way of life in the coffee trade.

In short, we want to be better at being who we are.
 We hope that you, our customers and supporters, hold us to nothing less.

Matt Lamason                      Liv Doogue
Director/Founder               General Manager


January 16th, 2013


Posted In: Branding, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade

Tags:

Leave a Comment

Progressing our position as leading fair traders

Fair trade has always been at the heart of our business.

After eight years in the coffee trade, we remain captivated by the idea that our company can positively impact and better represent the smallest and most marginalized coffee producers in the world.

Our focus is on small-lot coffee producers, not on private estates, plantations or larger family-owned farms.  Our farmers each work with 1-2 hectares of land and are all owner/members of cooperatives. It is a priority for us that these small-lot farmers, who produce some 70% of the world’s coffee, can live sustainably and with dignity, and can determine their own futures and decisions as much as possible.

At Peoples Coffee we have set a high bar for ourselves as fair traders, and now we want to raise it even further.

We purchase only fair trade certified, organic coffees from small farmer cooperatives around the globe. We travel annually to origin, and have visited all the cooperatives we buy from at least once.  We hear and document farmers’ stories firsthand to understand the challenges they face, hear how well our trade is working for them, and to share in their dreams for themselves, their children and their communities.

This year, we are excited to share our next step on this journey to support and show solidarity with small farmers, and to deepen and create new possibilities for progressive fair trade in coffee.

Peoples Coffee are now signed, paid and fully-fledged members of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
Not to be confused with the WTO, the WFTO is not run by cavalier bankers or Wall Street cronies; rather it is the leading authority on fair trade across trading commodities and is small producer focused and engaged.

Shifting focus from individually certified products, WFTO membership is solely for those whose entire organization exists primarily to support small producers. The only other business in New Zealand to be a full member of the WFTO is (unsurprisingly) Trade Aid.

We are stepping up our position to pioneer new ways of supporting small coffee farmers. In a consumer world where fair trade messages are regularly watered down, falsely appropriated, and even written off as a passing fad, we are strengthening our unique position as progressive fair traders, not sitting around waiting for the market to dictate its terms to us.

What does this mean for our customers?

The FLO certification mark will no longer be on our packaging or be part of our branding. The Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) recognizes WFTO members as genuine fair traders, so rather than holding two independent certifications, we have simply chosen the one that better fits our unique position as a 100% fair trade principled and driven company, not just a line of fair trade products. The WFTO will launch a product mark in 2013 for customers who like to have a guarantee mark on their bags.

Our WFTO status will enable us to define more clearly the issues facing small farmers today and into the future, and to work with others to deepen the fair trade movement.  We will continue to be members of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand (FTAANZ), and will remain actively engaged in the Wellington Fair Trade City Trust.

This move also gives our business more focus. We now have policy drivers from the WFTO that require us to continually question how we can do a better job of supporting producers, advocating for fair trade, and showing more business transparency in these endeavours. The WFTO’s ten principles of fair trade will be a clear and annually present guide for asking the hard questions of ourselves, and how well we are performing as a fair trade business.

We think of this as part of our growing up as a business, as coffee professionals, and as people wanting to give small producers around the world a fighting chance of having a progressive and sustained way of life in the coffee trade.

In short, we want to be better at being who we are.
 We hope that you, our customers and supporters, hold us to nothing less.

Matt Lamason                      Liv Doogue
Director/Founder               General Manager


January 16th, 2013


Posted In: Branding, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade

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Yesterday during the roastery cupping, one of our favorite coffees on the table, was Monte Verde, a new special lot from PRODECOOP Nicaragua. With immaculate green beans giving its clean flavours of orange sweetness, grape and citrus acidity. This is definitely a special coffee.

Monte Verde is situated in Los Llanos near Esteli, and is a prime Nicaraguan coffee growing region. It is a small co-op, made up of 25 Women and 40 Men, and is a primary producer co-op for PRODECOOP. This selection of coffee has had special attention paid to its processing to raise its quality, which comes through handsomely ‘in the cup.’

Washed’ coffee is the main processing method of specialty coffee to separate quality. It involves placing the cherries in water, ripe cherries will sink, while a range of defects cause substandard cherries to float, these are scooped off and discarded.

Early in PRODECOOP’s formation, they were lucky enough to buy a second hand ‘laser eye’ processor. In a few hours, a container of coffee will proceed past the laser, with the defects being rejected. This replaces hand sorting done at the final stage of processing, many dry mills employ woman to hand sort green coffee, taking weeks per container.

Like wine, part of the inherent flavour comes from the variety of its species, Caturra and Bourbon are the varietals grown by Monte Verde, and are part of a handful of varieties which made it out of Africa many years ago.

Over the years PRODECOOP have entered ‘Cup Of Excellence’ auctions with numerous placings, and this coffee certainly meets the strict quality criteria of COE assessment. This coffee comes to us in hermetically sealed GrainPro, a PVC cocoon which preserves the original moisture content of the beans as they travel from origin to us on shipping routes.

On the roasting side, to get a diverse flavour profile out of the roast, it has been developed with plenty of heat during first crack to foster a round body and sweetness, it is then spilt at the maturation of first crack, allowing for the preservation of its acidity and clean cup characteristics.  I have no desire to develop any roasty flavours for this coffee!

The exciting thing for us is this same roast profile we loved on the cupping table, with a nice synergy of acidity and sweetness, also translates beautifully to espresso. Giving a glazed orange sweetness, buttery body, with a pleasing acidity.

 


October 4th, 2012


Posted In: Coffee, Coffee geek out, Cooperatives

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Kiwis are crazy about bananas.  We spend over $142 million each year on bananas alone, and  import more bananas (per capita) than any other country in the world.¹

But it’s no great secret that there are serious problems in the banana industry.  Over the last twenty years, the majority of small-scale farmers have been squeezed out of the market by the big gun banana companies (you know the ones) – and the majority of people working on those plantations are overworked, underpaid (most plantation workers earn less than $3 per day!) and overexposed to harmful pesticides.²

So until recently, the only truly ethical choice when it came to bananas, was not to eat them.  So it was a relief when a fair trade option finally appeared on our supermarket shelves.
In 2010, All Good Bananas began importing certified Fairtrade bananas from the El Guabo cooperative in Ecuador, and my friends and I were only too happy to pay a little more to know that we weren’t exploiting growers in the two-thirds world.

But given that bananas are such big business here, it’s no surprise that competitors weren’t too thrilled to have this new kid on the block.
Sure enough, only a few months after All Good Bananas appeared on supermarket shelves, Dole NZ rolled out a new ‘Ethical Choice’ branding.  New Zealand consumers were now presented with two seemingly ethical options – one of which, tellingly, was still as cheap as its non-ethical competitors.

In reality, the only change Dole had made to their modus operandi was to slap pretty new labels on their bananas (and pineapples).  This is another classic example of greenwashing; of a company using deceptive marketing to appeal to those consumers who genuinely want to make ethical purchasing decisions.  I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with people who bought Dole bananas thinking they really were making an ethical choice.  Why did they think this?  Not because they’re stupid; because they were misled by a company more concerned with amassing profits than paying their workers a living wage.

So I was gratified when the issue hit the media earlier this month, after the Commerce Commission issued Dole with a compliance letter raising concerns about their ‘Ethical Choice’ marketing.   The letter stated that the stickers misled consumers to believe that Dole bananas were certified by an independent third party (which they aren’t), and made their bananas seem more ethical than their competitors (which they aren’t).

And what have Dole done about it?  Well, nothing.  They’ve kept their stickers on the bananas and the bananas on the shelves – safe in their assumption that most shoppers are too busy to question whether the marketing is true.

This highlights again just how important it is for us as consumers to take responsibility for questioning and researching the products that we buy.

“It’s really hard for consumers to understand what has been greenwashed, and what is the truth,” says Chris Morrison, from All Good Bananas.  “That’s why we think independent verification is so important.”

“Those companies that do go the extra mile and pay a little bit more to be certified should be supported.”

You can find out more about our friends at All Good Bananas, and where to buy their bananas,  here.

What do you think?  Are you more likely to buy a product marketed as ethical?  How often do you question or research the products you buy?  Tell us here!

 

A huge thanks to Sam Mahayni, All Good Bananas for the photos of the banana growers at origin.

1. http://www.duncancotterill.com/index.cfm/1,159,764,43,html/Ethical-Bananas
2. http://www.bananalink.org.uk/the-problem-with-bananas


August 22nd, 2012


Posted In: Branding, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability

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It’s never easy coming home after the holidays, but if there’s one thing that made it easier this year, it was the coffee (or, more accurately, the lack of good coffee elsewhere).
Now, I don’t consider myself a coffee snob by any stretch of the imagination, but after three weeks out of Wellington, I was ready to pitch my tent in the middle of Peoples Coffee, curl up on a sack of coffee beans, and never leave again.

And to make my homecoming even sweeter, I found that the little elves at Peoples had been busy brewing up a few surprises over the holidays…starting with Brewtown!

Brewtown is a Peoples Coffee Pop-Up store, temporarily bringing fresh, single-origin filter coffee to the streets of Newtown.  If you haven’t yet jumped on the non-pressurised coffee bandwagon, now’s your chance, people!   You’ve already heard me raving about the purity and goodness of the mighty V60, and you can try one here, along with chemex and cold drip, at Wellington’s first brew bar to specialise exclusively in filter coffee.

Which might seem a little crazy, given that filter coffee hasn’t always had the best reputation in New Zealand.  If you’re anything like me, the words ‘filter coffee’ evoke images of American diners with checked tablecloths, ill-tempered waitresses, and the sort of lukewarm bitter coffee found lurking in office staffrooms of the nineties.

But trust me, one visit to Brewtown will change all that.  For a start, Danny the barista could not be further from a ill-tempered woman.  He’s nice, he wants to answer all your burning questions about non-pressurised coffee, and he’s got cold-drip coffee brewing in the front window that he’ll let you taste for free!  And once you’ve figured out your favourite, you can buy your own brewing tools and learn how to replicate it at home.

What’s more, the United Nations have named 2012 “Year of the Co-operative”, so Brewtown couldn’t be more timely.  All Peoples Coffee comes from small producers who are part of fair trade cooperatives.  While espresso coffee uses a blend of coffee beans, filter coffee showcases beans from a single origin, so you can taste the unique flavours of beans grown in different regions of the coffee world.
“Their coffee is a way of telling their story” says director Matt Lamason.  “Single origins are a way to promote our co-operatives, and connect consumers with our coffee farmers.”

Keep a lookout on the Peoples facebook page, because Rene (the Peoples Coffee roaster) will be doing weekly cuppings of different fair trade organic coffees, and you’re all invited.

“A Pop-Up store lets us trial something we wouldn’t normally do with a shop” says Matt.   “We want to see if Newtown is ready for filter coffee.”

So what do you say?  Are you ready to for it?  Get yourself down to Brewtown for a taste, and then tell me, tell me, tell me!  Leave us your feedback below.  I want to know how you rate filter coffee, and how you think it compares to espresso.  (But you’d better get your skates on, because pop-up stores tend to pop down again, when you least expect it…).

Brewtown is open Tue – Sat, 9am – 5pm.  You’ll find it at 12 Constable St, Newtown (right next to the espresso store).


January 25th, 2012


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee, Cooperatives, Fair trade

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Earlier this year Tadesse Meskela head of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-op Union in Ethiopia made a trip to New Zealand. Whilst here he visited Peoples Coffee and had an informal talk and question and answers session with staff and friends.

Tadesse is living proof that fair trade can be highly successful. He has managed to turn the lives of many thousands of Ethiopian coffee farmers and their families around. From poverty to a very respectable living.

“Tadesse’s responsibility cannot be under estimated. He represents 101 Co-operatives and the livelihoods of over 74,000 coffee farmers, which including their families is over half a million people. His relentless determination and drive to help them comes from his upbringing.

In 1999, the Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Co-operative Union was established and since then, the Union has facilitated the building of four new schools, seventeen additional classrooms, four health centres, two clean water supply stations, and $2 million have been returned back to the farmers in the form of dividends.” blackgoldmovie.com

Rene our master roaster got to catch up with him briefly before his talk to discuss some of the things that make Oromia such an inspirational story.

Read some more info on Tadesse and the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union here.


September 19th, 2011


Posted In: Cafes, Coffee, Cooperatives, Ethiopia, Trips, Video

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