Peoples Coffee

Rebrand Blog Title Image

You may have noticed that Peoples Coffee is looking a little different of late. Our rebrand has come full circle and we are now looking a little more poised, polished and professional.

We started debuting the revamped Peoples earlier this year, easing all of our wonderful supporters (and ourselves) into the pool one toe at a time and the feedback we had was so positive that we decided to just throw you all in head first!

The biggest question we had from people who were a little hesitant about the new look was ‘why’. Why change what was working just fine? Well we thought we’d really let you ALL in on the ‘why’, no holds barred, so I sat down with the founder of Daughter & Son and the mastermind behind our new look; Alice Lloyd, to ask the hard-hitting questions.

Alice _2

Alice Lloyd, founder of Daughter & Son and the woman responsible for the Peoples rebrand

How did the rebrand come about? 

I began talking to Peoples Coffee about rebranding a year and a half ago. They had been in business for 11 years and had seen other coffee companies move to fair trade and organic products, and they knew they needed to differentiate themselves. The things that had made them unique back in 2004; have now become more mainstream in the coffee industry. With customers appetite for ethical products and services over the 2000’s building, even large corporate brands like Starbucks have fair trade and organic ranges.

There is also a growing fatigue around ‘green-washed’ brands- brands that seem like they are organic/natural/ethical on the outside because of the picture of the farmer on the packaging, or the use of rustic, ‘hand-crafted’ typography and illustration. Often, without much digging, you find that one of these product lines is made by the same company that uses less ethical practices in other parts of their business.

Peoples Coffee can stand proud in the knowledge that they have championed ethical practice and sustainability as part of their way of doing things since the start, having become a fully fair trade accredited business (one of only two in New Zealand). They are also working directly with farmers at origin, which is a unique selling point. But they don’t need to stay tied to those clichéd green visual cues to communicate those things.


Our new 100% compostable bags in our four colours

What was the driving force behind the rebrand?

A desire to tell the Peoples Coffee story in a new and compelling way. There are so many great things that Peoples Coffee do that their customers don’t even know about – yes, part of the price of a cup of their coffee goes to helping communities in the areas where their coffee is harvested, but they also do a lot locally – The Arohata Project for instance (giving inmates barista training so that they have transferable skills when they are released back into the community).


The new branding represents ALL of what we do – including social initiatives like the Arohata Project

How did you become involved and what attracted you to the project?

I have worked with Peoples Coffee for a number of years and could see how their progressive vision didn’t quite match up with their previous brand aesthetic and way of communicating. Liv Doogue, the General Manager, was highly motivated to take the brand in a fresh direction, and that is always an exciting place to start.

Collaborating with her, members of the Peoples Coffee board (namely Paul Soong), writer Glen Puklowski and designer Lisa Nicole Moes, helped push the brand in a direction that sets Peoples Coffee apart, both strategically and aesthetically.

Lauren Coffee

The Fashinii is one of our social enterprise blends designed to support special projects

Was the old branding a consideration in the development of the new branding – if so, how and what aspects have remained?

Yes, it was. When a brand has such a rich foundation like Peoples Coffee, it doesn’t make sense to wipe the slate clean and start again (strategically or aesthetically). Peoples Coffee have set themselves apart strategically by being socially driven – they will continue to produce exceptional coffee while working closely with people at coffee origin and closer to home.

We wanted to take the brand in a new direction aesthetically for the reasons I mentioned previously. Part of the rebrand exercise was establishing the character of the brand and how that translates visually. As a very egalitarian company, the ‘Everyman’ archetype rang true. And being a business that prides itself on ‘giving back’, doing an elaborate, flashy redesign did not feel right.

This led to a fairly utilitarian aesthetic – simple yet considered typography, a range of colours that can be used to create different moods and a new logo that hints at the original crest design, but is executed in a more modern way. Photography for Peoples Coffee has always had an authenticity about it, these are genuine ‘Peoples People’ doing their thing. We will continue to tell their stories and make that connection between those at coffee origin and those serving or drinking Peoples Coffee stronger.

Old vs New

Old versus new – keeping the crest was an important nod to our history.

Peoples Coffee Fonts and Colours

Simple yet considered typography and a range of colours that can be used to create different moods.

What were you inspired by when dreaming up ideas for the new look?

Keeping this idea of utilitarianism and ‘the Everyman’ in the back of out heads meant we drew inspiration from other benchmark brands that meet that criteria. Levi’s is a classic Everyman brand and the way they retain their original values while remaining modern and relevant was inspiring. Converse is another. Then there are the ethical brands that don’t subscribe to the ‘green design’ aesthetic such as Freitag.

When it came to picking typefaces, designing icons or choosing materials for signage, the idea that ‘form follows function’ was key. For example, simple, practical (utilitarian) materials were employed in the building of the Peoples Coffee exhibition stand, materials such as pegboard and plywood, as elaborate, frivolous decoration wouldn’t have felt right.

Jamie Apron

Utilitarian designs were utilised throughout the process – especially for our mobile coffee stands and aprons

What do you love about Peoples Coffee?

I love that I get to work with a truly progressive, socially driven company that puts its ethics at the heart of its business. They show that being motivated by something other than profit, can still result in being sustainable. It is a model that I wish more companies embraced because you can feel a sea-change happening currently; consumers want transparency.

I also love the fact that they didn’t shun me when I said that I drank decaf! (Their Decaf Peru Piura is pretty darn good).

How does the new branding represent the culture at Peoples Coffee?

‘People for the common great’ is what we established represents Peoples Coffee’s culture best and this will be one of their mantra’s going forward. They are a dedicated, passionate bunch who are striving for excellence.

Main 5

‘People for the Common Great’ – because we want to be more than just good.

What is your favourite thing about the new look?

It is the kitset of elements that we have to play with – a fresh colour palette, interesting typefaces, patterns, and a way of communicating that is uniquely ‘Peoples’.

What would you say to people who think the new branding has ditched it’s ‘rootsy’ look in favour of a cosmetic upgrade?

Well I hope after reading this, they can see that the rebrand exercise wasn’t just a cosmetic upgrade. It was more about uniting Peoples Coffee’s progressive ideals with a more progressive look.

Peoples Peoples Collage

June 15th, 2016

Posted In: Auckland, Branding, Cafes, CBD, Coffee, Constable Street, Fair trade, Organic, peoplespeople, Social projects, Sustainability, Uncategorized, Wellington

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Pinaman Owusu-Banahene is kind of amazing, she is the founder of social enterprise ADJOAA (Africa Design Journey through AustralAsia) the brains (and brawn) behind Wellington’s first ever Africa Fashion Festival and is (aptly) perhaps the most fashionable person I have ever met.

I sat down with Pinaman last week at our Constable Street café to talk about her long-gestating vision for Africa Fashion Festival FINALLY coming to fruition, what she’s most excited about and why the festival is about so much more than beautiful clothing. We also got to tasting some of the bespoke ‘Fashinii’ blend that Peoples Coffee has crafted to support the festival!

Pinaman Owusu-Banahene – founder of ADJOAA and the Africa Fashion Festival

The Festival

Here’s the lowdown – designed to help promote and celebrate African designers the Africa Fashion Festival is ‘an opportunity to experience the richness and vibrancy of African culture through fashion and other art forms’. From the out-set Pinaman wanted to create a platform that celebrated not only established and emerging African artists but also the heritage of the continent and the traditional techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Six esteemed international designers will be showing at the festival as well as two local emerging talents.

The festival is also about giving back. A percentage of ticket sales has been earmarked for the establishment of three key social initiatives for young Africans in New Zealand as well as a fund for social projects on the ground in African communities.

Ghanaia-made Luxury Footwear from sisters Nana & Afua Dabanka for MONAA 

What to Expect

Pinaman has curated an experience that speaks to the heart of the festival at every turn. She has bought together an exceptional group of designers including Nana Brenu, Laurence Chauvin-Buthaud and Nana & Afua Dabanka showing collections ranging from dresses and accessories (handcrafted raffia bags and sustainable wooden eyewear) to men’s wear and stunning hand-made leather shoes.

Attendees will be treated to a showcase of local and ethical products on arrival from Peoples Coffee and Wellington Chocolate Factory to the The Body Shop, Good Buzz, Karma Cola and more. On top of all this there will be a whole range of surprises throughout the evening!

Patterns, prints and colour for men from Laurence Chauvin-Buthaud for LaurenceAirline

Pastels and androgyny from Nana Brenu for Studio 1981

Eco-Luxury Wooden Sunglasses from Nana Osei Boateng for Bohten

Why We’re Involved

When we first met Pinaman we were struck by her enthusiasm – she was so excited to bring the festival to life that you couldn’t help but get excited too, it was infectious. Behind that however was a driving passion to use art to create change.

Pinaman has put all of herself to use in this venture; her knowledge and love of the fashion industry, her prowess as an event manager, her years studying Public Policy and her own personal experiences as an African woman.

The Fashinii is one of our social enterprise blends designed to support special projects

Help Us Help the Festival

Peoples Coffee have developed a bespoke blend specially for the festival; the Fashinii blend.

Meaning ‘fashion’ in the Ethiopian language of Oromo, the Fashinii is a two-bean blend from the Ethiopian regions of Guji and Sidamo with fruity nuances of cranberry and mandarin.

$2.00 from the sale of each bag will go directly to the Festival’s Social Enterprise fund. You can purchase the Fashinii from our online store or at our Flagship cafe in Newtown.

Our Nitro Cold Brew – Fashinii style

We’re incredibly proud to be involved in Wellington’s first Africa Fashion Festival. We’ll be pulling pours of our world famous Nitro (made with the Fashinii blend) for all those lucky enough to have snagged a ticket. There are a VERY limited number of student and GA tickets still available HERE – but get in quick as they won’t last long!

What: Africa Fashion Festival 2016
Where: James Smith Arcade, Cnr Cuba and Manners Streets
When: Saturday 28 May

– Jesse F

May 24th, 2016

Posted In: Africa, CBD, Coffee, Collaboration, Ethiopia, Fair trade, Nitro, Organic, peoplespeople, Social projects, Sustainability, Sustainable, Wellington

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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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Kaibosh have a vision: Zero Food Poverty. Zero Food Waste.

It’s simplicity belies the true nature of the work that goes into achieving such a bold campaign, New Zealanders throw away over 122,547 tonnes of food a year, but Kaibosh are equal to the task.

Fresh Broccoli from the Newtown Farmers Market

Founded in 2008 Kaibosh and it’s team of over 100 volunteers ‘rescue’ food from Wellington businesses and provide it to community groups and charities that support people in need.

In the last 12 months they have provided 139,575 kilograms of food (that’s the size of a blue whale) from 31 businesses to 32 local community groups and charities.

Kaibosh by the numbers

The businesses involved are wide ranging; from supermarket behemoth Countdown and food-to-go experts Wishbone to smaller outfits such as Wooden Spoon Boutique Freezery and Astoria Cafe. Check out the full list here.

Newtown and Harbourside Farmers Markets make invaluable contributions over the weekend – ensuring a large supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Fruit and vege from the Farmers Markets is an invaluable contribution

Food is collected by the Kaibosh drivers and taken back to HQ (one in the central city and a newly opened hub in Lower Hutt) where it is sorted by volunteers – the game is simple; if YOU would eat it, keep it. If you wouldn’t, throw it in the compost.

We want people to open up their food box and be really happy to find great, fresh food – for it to really brighten their day’ says Driver and Fundraiser Ryan O’Connell of the sorting process.

As well as composting the team send any food that doesn’t make the grade along to Black Sheep Animal Sanctuary for their animal feed.

Happy pig – one recipient of Black Sheep Animal Sanctuary’s animal feed

Recently Kaibosh have teamed up with some like-minded businesses to create the Food Rescue Heroes initiative. Becoming a Hero is as easy as donating from $15 per month to Kaibosh – in return you get a Food Rescue Heroes card with awesome deals all round Wellington, a welcome pack from Peoples Coffee, Wellington Chocolate Factory & Ideal Cup plus invitations to Food Rescue Heroes evenings at Kaibosh HQ.

One of the Food Rescue Heroes Welcome Packs

If you’d like to know more about becoming a Food Rescue Hero or getting involved with Kaibosh, jump onto the Kaibosh website and grab the lowdown.

– Jesse F

February 12th, 2016

Posted In: CBD, Coffee, Collaboration, Fair trade, peoplespeople, Social projects, Sustainability, Sustainable, Wellington

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Vic Books is an institution for anyone who has toiled their way through a degree from Victoria University. They are the difference between an enjoyable, thought provoking lecture or a one and a half hour nap session. They are the life blood of the student body (OK so I might be laying it on a bit thick there but you get the idea – they are AWESOME!).

Two hot chocolates please!

Peoples are super proud to be a part of the Vic Books story and so we thought we’d give you all a little update on what they’ve been up to and where they’re going.

Vic Books Manager and all-round good-guy Lars Bringzen

For those of you who haven’t experienced Vic Books here’s the deal: Located in the thick of Victoria Universities Kelburn Campus, Vic Books smashes out over 2000 cups of Peoples Coffee a week. They pride themselves on having a sustainable approach to business and from their inception have partnered with like-minded entities such as Zany Zeus, Karma Cola, Trade Aid, Peoples and more.

Our trainer James kicking at the Vic Books kiosk in the Hub

Vic Books has been KILLING IT over the last few years under the guidance of General Manager Lars Bringzen, opening takeaway coffee kiosk’s in the Hub and Pipitea Campus’ Rutherford House, the latter a little preview of what’s to come when the dust settles on this under-construction campus.

A glimpse of what the new Pipitea Campus will look like once finished

Throughout 2015 and ’16 the Business School hub is undergoing a massive facelift; a full redesign of the existing structures, an eight story addition and at the centre of it all a new and improved Vic Books Pipitea.

Right now the site is under lock and key; a hundred and one tradesmen guard the entrances with pick-axes and eye-wateringly orange vests BUT we will be bringing you a little insiders look quite soon.

Some little gift bags from a recent Peoples Coffee event at Vic Books

Our training session ‘Coffee One-oh-One’ in action

Until then keep an eye out for some exciting events, giveaways and other cool things at Vic Books Kelburn. We’ll be bringing back our popular ‘Coffee One-oh-One’ training sessions in the next month and rumour has it there is a cheeky little Cold Flat White giveaway coming up…

Go Vic Books  – you guys rock!


– Jesse F

January 28th, 2016

Posted In: Cafes, CBD, Coffee, Collaboration, Fair trade, peoplespeople, Sustainability, Sustainable, Wellington

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2015 has been absolutely mental – we’ve gone from strength to strength and honestly we’re all pretty exhausted! Time for one more quick blog though – we thought ‘Peoples Coffee in Numbers’ was a fun way to end the year.

We were blown away by some of the facts and figures we unearthed, the number of flat whites we made at the Constable Street store was especially staggering. To make it exciting we’ve put everything into this awesome infographic because, let’s be honest, stats can be a little dull…

PC by Numbers

All in all a pretty successful year we think.

Time for a rest and some recuperation (and a couple of sneaky beersies) and then we’ll be ready to take on 2016!

Merry Christmas from all of us, stay safe and happy and we’ll see you all on the flip side 🙂

– Jesse F

December 23rd, 2015

Posted In: Auckland, Cafes, CBD, Coffee, Constable Street, Fair trade, peoplespeople, Social projects, Sustainability, Wellington

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Last week I took a little trip to the Free Store on the corner on Ghuznee and Willis to take a look at a new venture the fantastic team there have started.

If you haven’t heard of the Free Store before here’s the lowdown: Opened in 2010, the Free Store is a not-for-profit organisation that redistributes surplus food from over 25 cafes, bakeries and restaurants throughout Wellington. Their small army of volunteers collect the food, transport it to their repurposed shipping container home on Willis Street where, at 6pm, they throw open the doors and serve the food to the masses – completely free of charge. In the last 10 months they have redistributed over 55,000 items of food to, on average, 65 people each night.

Managing Director Benjamin Johnson was passionate about creating a space that was ‘by the community, for the community’. It was important to him that The Free Store be as open and accommodating to people from all walks of life – hence why there are no restrictions on who they serve the food to and how much is given – it’s an open, honest space where people take what they need and respect the needs of others.

Recently Benjamin felt that more could be done to create a sense of community for those people frequenting the Free Store and has reached out to several Wellington roasteries in an effort to offer hot coffee for the half hour prior to the store’s opening. Peoples Coffee are sponsoring the Friday night offering and we couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this really great initiative.

People were shy at first but the two young ladies manning the coffee station made them feel at home. Sugar? Milk? No problem and after a bit everyone was chatting and warming up with some Ethipoian Sidamo. The group was really diverse – men, women, students, pensioners and everyone in between – all just trying to keep their head above the tide.

It was pretty cool to witness the coming together of all of these people. Everyone supporting one another, helping each other out. One lovely gent even helped me with this blog by graciously pointing out that I was unlikely to get any particularly good pictures with the lens cap on…

Free Store 5
The thing I came away with is how multi-faceted the Free Store’s ambitions are. They’re working collaboratively to minimise needless waste whilst providing food, coffee & a safe, non-judgemental environment to those who need it most. If you get a chance to pop in and congratulate the team – do it. If you know a cafe or restaurant who you think would like to be involved – do that too! Every little bit really does help these guys make a big difference in a person’s life.

Jesse F

September 3rd, 2015

Posted In: Cafes, CBD, Coffee, Collaboration, Social projects, Sustainability, Uncategorized

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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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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.


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?









June 4th, 2014

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


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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All Good Organics believe that in an enlightened world we should treat the people who grow our food as if they lived right next door, it is an ethos that we share at Peoples Coffee. The supermarket supply chain removes us from understanding the journey our favourite products take. (Wellingtonians coincidentally seem to LOVE bananas, they consume a third of the All Good bananas eaten in New Zealand). So it was a unique occasion that All Good Organics bought over one of their farmers – Wilson Sanchez and his daughter Kelly to put a face to their product and a first hand account of how Fairtrade can affect a farmer’s life and the flow on affect to their family’s lives. Wilson, who has a wide and infectious grin, seemed very humbled to be here. “We are very happy to come and visit New Zealand to talk about the way we work, how we look after our farms, the environment and biodiversity. Everyone benefits from growing things organically. Everyone should know where the product comes from.”

Moore Wilsons hosted the All Good gang, Wilson and Kelly, where they will only be selling All Good bananas from now on. In contrast to green coffee beans that are sturdy and can travel well, Rene asked Wilson how hard it was to make sure they all arrive safely and the challenges that come with growing organically. “We have to be really careful. We have to make sure we comply to all the industry standards, we take our time and we have to be patient. It can be difficult to comply with the standards only the most committed do it. There are lots of people growing lots of bananas. They can sell anywhere, but we don’t want to be like that. They don’t control the pollution or chemicals during farming or processing. That is the difference between Fairtrade and conventional farmers.”

For one of the Co-founders of All Good, Simon Coley, helping these committed farmers is important to him, “We only deal with small lot farmers, these co-ops have to coordinate the efforts of around 30 farms to fill a container. We know everyone of those farmers. These are people working for the cause.”

Simon goes on to explain “through Fairtrade, farmers like Wilson and his family are able to move into what we call ‘middle class’, which is hugely important. You can see the pathway to a stable happy future, because the alternative is despair – being poor for ever. The fact that Kelly is now able to go to university means one day she’ll be able to help us as much as she will also help her family. She is the future of this industry”. Although it was obvious that Wilson was not keen for Kelly to become a banana farmer (which is similar for many coffee growers, they do not wish the hard life of a farmer on their children), she explained she hopes to one day own a construction company. “I see different ways to help the farm, like building roads, because at the moment my dad can only transport the bananas by donkey to the main road. That can take 40 minutes each way. A road will reduce that time”.

Wilson’s life has changed dramatically since moving to organic banana farming. “It is good for the family because we still get to be together. I don’t need to go and get another job in another city. I’d be working on a shrimp farm, which is so far away from my family. I used to grown cocoa, which only has a short harvest, but I can grown bananas all year round. I couldn’t survive on cocoa, so had to get other jobs. Now I have a more stable income, which allows me to send Kelly to university.”

Despite having a translator for the whole conversation, there was something that didn’t need to be translated – coffee. We shared a coffee and as we were just finishing up I saw Kelly looking inquisitively at the asparagus and other weird looking vegetables. Which is pretty much my favourite thing to do also when I travel to a new country as well. We talked them through what each one was and what they tasted like. With each of our trips back to origin it is important to meet farmers and their families, and bring their story back with us to share with our coffee drinkers. That is why we name our beans after our farmers to remind us all that they are the start of the supply chain. We love that All Good Organics have gone a step further – enabling the farmer to tell their story directly, connecting the consumer directly to the grower. It was a wonderful experience to meet Wilson and Kelly and we look forward to following their story.



November 13th, 2013

Posted In: Activism, Fair trade, Sustainability, Sustainable

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In the last year there has been a bit of talk about the cost of coffee in the Capital and the naive assumption that because of the falling bean prices, our long black prices should be falling with it. It’s a touchy subject I suppose, us Wellingtonians we know a lot about coffee. But how much do we really know about the commodity market that green beans are traded on and what determines the price of a pound? It is a bit like feeling you can discuss the intricacies of American Politics just because you watched the first season of The West Wing. I asked Rene to shed a bit of light on the cost of green beans and how that translates to the cost of our coffee – Beth.


Over the last four years green coffee has gone through some huge price changes. At one stage it seemed like the market finally realised it needed to pay more for coffee, but now with most of the 2013 harvest sold, the market has returned to low 2009 prices.

Like all international commodities, coffee prices are set via trading on a stock market: supply and demand, and stock speculation of coffee, amongst other factors, are responsible for fluctuating prices. 2009 prices were around $US1.30 per pound but rose fast through 2011 to around $US3 per pound.

There was a lot of discussion among people in the coffee industry about the sustainability of coffee. Specifically we were talking about how much farmers are paid, and around the wider issues which affect price, but which the farmer has no control over — like global warming. There was a feeling with some regarding the rising price, that the market was finally maturing to acknowledge and meet the tough realities of production.


None of us want to pay more for stuff, right? But many of us in the industry believe it’s hugely important for quality coffee to continue to be produced. This means the price of green coffee needs to increase and the work of coffee producers needs to be better rewarded.

During times of high prices, roasteries are challenged to tighten their belts and smarten up, or source poor quality coffee at cheaper rates.

As I said before, over the last 2 years the price has fallen back to 2009 prices of around $US1.13. The International Coffee Organization states this price is actually below the cost of production.

We’re talking about farmers who have very little to spend on living. They often grow their own food and live in low cost accommodation — a wooden shack with dirt floor.

For farms with good trees growing already, farmers may not have to spend much actual cash through the year, payment for transportation and pickers at harvest time might actually make up a significant part of the cash payments.

This triggers a decision for coffee buyers: make more money sourcing coffee at basement prices or recognise the market is mad and not follow it to its extreme lows.

Peoples Coffee buys certified fair trade organic coffee. This has a minimum price of $US1.65 per pound. This minimum ensures we cover costs of production for coffee growers. However, Peoples has always paid more, an average of around 50% more per pound, with some coffees going for well over twice the minimum price per pound. This way we ensure decent quality coffee at a price that the co-op is happy with, helping to ensure we can buy the same coffee coffee again in years to come.

The challenge for green bean buyers is to keep up with the market changes, but also ensure growers’ wellbeing is taken into account with the price payed. Sometimes this means accepting less profit.

When visiting growers, we always have a good discussion about prices and the cost of production. We hoped the higher prices during 2010–11 signaled a sea change in the industry, not a price spike which would create more insecurity in the market for producers.

But sadly it seems like the mad international commodity pricing mechanism wins out again.

Each year there are developments in the industry which continue to capture my interest – micro lots becoming more available, environmental issues having negative impacts on quality, computer monitored roasting and new brewing methods. But the pricing of green beans has always had a curious disconnect from reality. We should be trying to think of a way roasters, like myself, can have more ownership over the trade relationship we have with growers.

Interestingly Trade Aid Importers have recently started a new “sustainability fund”. We now have an opportunity with specific co-ops, to pay extra with each trade on top of the standard market price Trade Aid set. This is quite a revolutionary idea and one we are very keen to get behind. It’s a bold step by Trade Aid and allows the roaster to better support producers as they see fit.

For Peoples Coffee this is very inspiring and another initiative from Trade Aid Importers’ long list of innovative funding programs. Respect!

So while the green bean price is falling, we forget who is out of pocket. It has enormous repercussions for the farmers. Is that really worth the 20c saving you would make on your cup of coffee?

What do you think? Should the price of a long black be falling and following suit with the green bean prices?


October 1st, 2013

Posted In: Coffee, Fair trade, Sustainability, Sustainable


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


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.


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.


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.


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: , , ,


We’re lucky to live in a time when businesses are rising to the challenge of producing goods that are just that: good.   But this increased consumer demand for ethical choices has paradoxically prompted a wave of ‘greenwashed’ businesses, who market themselves as ‘green’ or ‘eco’ ( without actually living up to those claims) in order to compete for their slice of the ethical pie.  So how do consumers know who to trust?  How can we sort the ethical wheat from the greenwashed chaff?

Conscious Consumers was launched in 2010 to do just that: assess and accredit businesses in the hospitality industry according to their ethical business practices.  Specifically, Conscious Consumers award businesses with badges that indicate where ‘smart waste’ (ie recycling, composting, eco-packaging), ‘ethical products’ (ie fair trade, free range, organic), and ‘community’ (ie. food rescue and locally sourced products) practices are in place.  In short, they do the background research for consumers, so that we can be confident that the places we’re choosing to support are the real deal.

“We aim to make it easy and fun for consumers to find and support the great New Zealand businesses that are committed to environmentally and socially responsible business practices,” says Melissa Keys, Wellington’s Regional Coordinator.

The scheme takes a ‘vote with your feet’ approach, rewarding businesses for good practice by endorsing them to the thousands of conscious consumers nationwide.  More than 3000 people and 150 businesses have already signed up to the movement, and there are more joining each week.

And they’ve just made it even easier to find great businesses on the run.  The brand new Conscious Consumer App is now available for free download.  Consumers can find all the accredited cafes and restaurants nearby with only the click of a button, as well as local specials exclusively for conscious consumers.

Peoples Coffee has been an accredited business since the movement began in 2010.  And now Peoples is proud to take their involvement one step further, as a Conscious Consumer Ambassador.

“We invited Peoples Coffee to be a Conscious Consumer ambassador because we recognise them as a New Zealand leader in ethical business,” says Melissa.

“The Conscious Consumers movement empowers consumers to make informed choices, and businesses to employ better social and environmental practices” says Peoples Coffee General Manager Liv Doogue.  “As a 100% fair trade company, it made good sense for us to join.”

“We want to promote the values of fair trade and encourage other businesses to do the same. Consumers have the power to drive this change.”

For more info or to become a Conscious Consumer (it’s free, and takes only a moment!) see their website:

April 3rd, 2013

Posted In: Cafes, Collaboration, Fair trade, Sustainability



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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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.


August 22nd, 2012

Posted In: Branding, Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability



You can’t beat a flat white in a hip cafe, served by a barista who knows your name and understands how you like your coffee.  It’s an experience we all hold dear, even in these tough financial times.  But it’s not merely the flavour in the cup that I hold in such high regard.

What really gets me interested is its value.  The quality in the cup is directly related to the extremely wide range of factors involved at every stage of the process that got it there.  My mind boggles at the scale of hurdles there are in making a high quality cup of coffee, and (arguably) its true value is only understood when these factors are appraised during its preparation.

This quality starts firstly in the soil, where the (not so wide) variety of coffee species resides.  Coffea Arabica, the main species of quality coffee, was voyaged by conquistadors many decades ago to the mountains of equatorial countries.  There it lies entrenched in soils with a diverse makeup, set against (what were once) stable micro climates, and grown by people with their own unique cultures, traditions and farming practices.  The production techniques favored by coffee farmers at origin forever impact the makeup and flavour potential of the coffee beans.

The financial value of this ‘commodity’ is traded by brokers, bloated by demand shortages due to frosts in Brazil, diminished by weather, insect damage and currency exchange.  All the while, this simple bean is carried on the backs of men, and processed and sorted between fingers of women, or the pulse of a machine.  These beans are then stockpiled in warehouses, traded and marketed as fair/ethical/real/certified, floated between ports, and inspected by customs for bugs.

Only then are they ready for the next vital link in the chain: 16 minutes turning at 50 revolutions a minute in 200 degree heat.

Ahh…the roasting of the bean.  Thermally coaxing out the desirable flavours by balancing airflow with the volume and moisture of the beans, controlling the temperature development curve throughout the roast, allowing Millard reaction to take place and brown the multitude – until that optimum moment when the beans are liberated from the roaster.   Ambient air stalls the roasting process and cools them at the point when their flavours are most heightened and palatable to the human condition.

An exponential range of variation in quality is then introduced through the brewing process.   Grind size and uniformity, water condition, temperature, contact time, pressure, agitation; all these factors combine to seriously influence the quality of the cup being held up to the looking-glass mind of a coffee maker.

Only after years, even decades, of cultivated secrets employed and passed on to fellow confidants, do we have a set of parameters which, when followed with fervor, can produce a beverage which any of us industry people would care to approach with confidence.


As I’ve started to point out, quality in coffee is complicated and interdependent at every level, as is its value.

What do you value in your daily coffee?
What defines its value , and how does that compare to wine, chocolate, bread, veges..?
Leave me a comment below!

I hope I have interested you in searching for some intrinsic value, and hope Peoples Coffee can contribute to this, even if its just in a cup.

April 18th, 2012

Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee, Coffee geek out, Sustainability

Tags: ,


I don’t like waste.  I couldn’t possibly.  That good old protestant ethic, “waste not, want not” was drummed into me so effectively as a child, that to this day I cannot leave anything uneaten on my plate without fear of locust plague or death.  And as for disposable takeaway cups, well, they are merely string telephones waiting to happen.

But there are only so many string telephones that one household can take (ask my flatmates).  Which is why I’m grateful that Peoples Coffee have taken another step up the environmental ladder and introduced a new composting system for their biodegradable takeaway cups at the Constable St store.

It’s all part of a new sustainable innovation by the Wellington City Council called “Kai to Compost.”  The name says it all really.  You pop your biodegradable takeaway cup in the compost bin at Peoples.  A Kai to Compost truck picks it up (along with green waste from cafes and restaurants all over the city), and takes it out to the southern landfill at Owhiro Bay.  But it isn’t dumped in the landfill like regular rubbish – instead it’s shredded and then heaped into long piles, called ‘windrows’.   These windrows are turned with a forklift each week, and left to biodegrade for about 100 days, until they are safe and clean enough for a child to eat.

And then, voila!  The green waste is mixed with bark and sand, and sold for use locally as compost.  Your old coffee cup is now feeding golf courses, gardens and roadsides all over Wellington.  Genius.

“This is not a silver bullet to waste problems, but it’s one more thing we can do” says Matt Lamason.  “At the end of the day, plastic will always be plastic, whereas our biodegradable cups will degrade back into organic compounds.”

A similar system in Christchurch was composting up to 300 tonnes (that’s 300 000 kgs) of green waste, per day prior to the earthquake (which has sadly put the system on hold).

“Kai to Compost has a huge capacity for green waste.  It’s currently only operating at about 10% capacity in Wellington.  The key is getting our biodegradable cups into the correct waste stream.”

That means putting it into the right bin!  You can find one now at the Constable St store.  Go on, make the effort.  If only to fend off that locust plague…

So, string telephones aside – what would you normally do with your biodegradable cups and lids?  Do you compost your cups at home?  Do you have any other creative solutions for reusing your biodegradable cups?   Tell us here!

February 23rd, 2012

Posted In: Cafes, Coffee, Sustainability