Peoples Coffee

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

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

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

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

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

We pay more than most for our Green Beans

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

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

Our head roaster Rene on one of his Origin trips

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

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

Latte art at Constable Street

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

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

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

Perfect shots at our flagship cafe in Newtown

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

More than good – people for the common GREAT

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

Buy Coffee. Get Change.

– Jesse F


April 7th, 2016


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

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Two weeks ago I embarked on a little trip up to Auckland to visit Liv and Josephine and check out some of the awesome spots now serving Peoples Coffee in the city of sails (I also MAY have seen Fleetwood Mac live in concert but that’s neither here nor there…).

Liv picked myself and our awesome photographer Renee up from Britomart (Renee and I having made the rather poor decision to take the overnight bus from Wellington) and took us on a whirlwind tour – first stop Cake & Co. on Ponsonby Road.

Jackie makes a pretty mean flat white

Cake and Co. is a cosy little nook specialising in (you guessed it) cakes! Stunningly presented, absolutely delicious cakes. Owner Jackie takes pride in using only the best natural ingredients; unrefined sugars, free range eggs from happy chooks, natural colours and flavours, spelt, rye and wholemeal flours along with her own special blend of gluten free flour.

Coffee comes served with dainty mini-cupcakes in all kinds of flavours and the place has a really great vibe – children and dogs being equally welcome.

Watching the world go by

After much cooing over several puppies, we eventually departed, refuelled and ready for our next destination: Fort Greene in St Kevin’s Arcade.

Tucked away in St. Kevin’s Arcade off of K Road – Fort Greene are the Sandwich KINGS

St Kevin’s is Fort Greene’s new home and it is looking PRETTY swish, a cool new fit-out with an upstairs loft giving the spot a homely and relaxed feel. Owners (and culinary whizzes) Andrea and Liam are making a name for themselves as Auckland’s ‘Sandwich Kings’ with their totally homemade, epic sandwiches built from the ground up, starting with the bread.

We HIGHLY recommend ‘The Fish One’ – hand made house-smoked kahawai fish fingers, mushy peas, tartare and snow pea shoots served warm to order on house made bread *drools*.

Dynamic duo Liam and Andrea – the heart and soul of Fort Greene

The next stop on our cafe crawl was the lovely Florentines Tea Room in Epson. This locals secret has been serving Peoples for a few years now – our very first Auckland foray.

Florentines has plenty of indoor and outdoor seating

Florentines is a gorgeous, eclectic spot with a real ‘old-hollywood-meets-english-countryside’ aesthetic – crystal chandeliers and ornate gilded mirrors sitting comfortably next to hand-knitted throw cushions and china tea sets. They boast a fantastic selection of cabinet food including their famed chicken & avocado club sandwiches as well as a small but lovely all-day breakfast menu.

The place was PACKED when we visited – poor Renee was in the way for pretty much every single photograph she took but no-one seemed to mind, the diverse crowd shimmying this way and that to accommodate!

Scones, muffins, macaroons – a sweet tooth’s paradise

Then is was back to the city to visit the new and improved Scarecrow – an artisan grocer, kitchen and florist occupying a stunning new spot on Victoria Street East.

Maya Inca – our latest seasonal blend

Scarecrow have recently moved back in to this corner after giving it a brilliant re-furb and the place glows. Huge bouquets of flowers adorn every shelf, white globes of light hang suspended from the roof and the smells of baked bread and fresh ground coffee are delightful. The artisan grocer is retailing a varying selection of People’s best blends and single origins for home espresso and brewing.

They also do a great breakfast – but be sure to get in early, the spot was chocka-block when we arrived around midday, barely room to swing a cat!

Scarecrows new fit-out is absolutely on-point

We unfortunately didn’t quite have time to pop in to the fantastic Urchin & Amber on Vulcan Lane. I was lucky enough to sample their gorgeous menu and write a blog about them last time I was in the big city and had been keen to lay my hands on some more of their exceptional Green Bean, Sesame and Chilli Salad but alas, not this time around.

Jaime from Urchin & Amber

Storm clouds were moving in and we had a concert to catch – time to Go Our Own Way(s). Until next time Auckland, you always turn on the best weather for me – and by best I mean thunder and pouring rain – ciao!

– Jesse F

Photography by Renee Cotton Media


December 11th, 2015


Posted In: Auckland, Cafes, CBD, Coffee, Fair trade, peoplespeople, Trips, Uncategorized

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Last week I took a wee trip up to Auckland to visit Peoples Coffee superstar Josephine and check out Urchin & Amber, one of the first inner-city cafes in Auckland to be serving Peoples Coffee.

Now it has to be said – Wellingtonians are very different from Aucklanders. We are a bit more relaxed, a little more artsy and a whole lot more able to find a car-park within a 3km radius of our favourite inner-city cafe – so naturally Jo was running a touch late!

She flew through the door in a flurry of coffee beans, spreadsheets and effortless-cool and we ordered up a storm from our awesome waiter Jaime. We both went for the Panko Crumbed Fish Fingers with Tatare and Lemon and shared a Grilled Green Bean, Sesame & Chilli salad. Everything was mad tasty and the salad had a brilliant kick from the chilli.

Next up we (obviously) needed to sample the coffee, so Jo had head barista Amanda whip us up a killer flat white and long black.  Amanda is brilliant, a little ball of energy and enthusiasm with a lilting Brazilian accent that makes everything sound MUCH cooler and who never stops smiling!

Urchin and Amber’s decor is cool. It feels new and vintage at the same time, so I wasn’t at all surprised when I found out that it is housed in the oldest pub in Aukland (the building was built in 1858!?) Owner David Combs, of Vulcan Lane institution Vultures, is passionate about making Urchin a warm and relaxed place to be. From next week they will be serving brekkie and brunch through until 4pm, at which point Urchin will switch over to a gourmet fish & chips menu.

After chatting with the staff and a big ol’ meeting with Jo I decided to finish up my visit with one of Urchin’s freshly made super-juices. It was just what I needed to steel myself for the long walk down a very wet Queen Street to my hotel in a rather thin T shirt.

My trip to Auckland, whilst short, was sweet. It was great to see Urchin doing so well and to catch up with the lovely Josephine. It has been rumoured in the past that she lives INSIDE Skype but I now have proof otherwise. The more you know!

Jesse F


August 5th, 2015


Posted In: Cafes, CBD, Coffee, Fair trade, Trips, Uncategorized

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It’s pretty impossible to check out completely from work when you work for a coffee roastery, because the places you like to relax serve coffee. Last month in a whirlwind tour of Europe, I packed in six countries in three weeks. The only “rest days” were the 6 hour train rides to the next destination. Needless to say good coffee was necessary, not only for research purposes but to help us survive our jam packed days. Days spent mostly eating and walking because how many churches and museums do you need to see before they all morph into one?

There is a lot of chat about there being no good coffee in Europe. Not a bad shout when most of it looks like this…

This was in fact my first coffee when I got to Vienna, the birth place of cafe culture. But we soon discovered there is a big difference between a coffeehouse and a cafe. The coffeehouse is more about a meeting spot and not about the coffee, but they still play important part of cafe going history. Luckily we found a caffeinated oasis in amongst the sludge – The Vienna School of Coffee, started by the bubbly Johanna Berger. She’s extremely passionate about coffee, she taught herself how fix coffee machines way before she even drunk the stuff. She has since become such an expert she is now a Cup of Excellence judge. We spent an hour cupping and swapping coffee, she also roasts her own and is supplying cafes in Austria and Hungary.

Hungary happened to be our next destination and recommended by Joanna we checked out two fantastic cafes. The first Fekete, which means Black in Hungarian. It was just a small hole in the wall (photo at the top of this blog) and served me the most incredible Yirgacheffe single origin espresso, it was intensely apricotty. A perfect antidote to the piercingly cold weather.

Espresso Embassy is also doing awesome things, there we met owner Tibor Varady, who came third last year in the World Aeropress Campionships. He ran after us to see if everything was ok after we left a little bit of coffee in our cup, it was mostly because we enjoyed the place so much we ended up staying in there so long and the coffee went cold. Highly recommend this place.

Next stop Prague. EMA Espresso Bar became our regular (of three days). Wonderful coffee, excellent snacks and pretty interior. What more do you want. This was recommended to us by the wonderful Taste of Prague food blog.

Ex Peoples Coffee Blogger Anna fired through an extensive list of Berlin cafes for me to check out and Five Elephant was definitely the highlight. Testament to that is that is was also recommended to me three times by three different people from three different countries! Opened by an American and a German guy, I swear he was a NZer but turns out he’d just lived in Wellington for 5 years and had picked up a perfect nu zuland accent. Also a big fan of Peoples Coffee, ace!

I avoided the “coffee shops” in Amsterdam but I was fortuitously in London at the same time as the London Coffee Festival.  This was quite overwhelming to say the least. Everyone is herded through in 2 hour slots, it felt like one of those supermarket grab competitions they did in the 90s just slightly longer, but just as manic. Heading away from the big showy (cough cough Starbucks cough) stands and heading to the small guys, I came away with some excellent beans. The highlights were seeing familiar faces at the Karma Cola stand (we both have crazy eyes here from the amount of coffee consumed).

The very new Roasting Party, whose very light roasted Yirgacheffe was incredibly sweet with lovely stone fruits on the nose. My favourite from the whole event.

Another stand out was Union Coffee’s Panama which just smelt and tasted like strawberries was another highlight. It was also amazing to see how many NZers have set up their own roasteries in London – Caravan and Nude two notable ones.

I felt like Father Christmas coming back to the roastery with a bag full of beans. Nine bags in fact, which made for an interesting explanation every time I went through airport security. Nothing looks more dodgy than a bag full of small round objects or as the security guy in Hong Kong told me “it’s just a bit weird”. Not in Wellington my friend.

 


May 1st, 2014


Posted In: Cafes, Coffee, Trips

Coffee Seasons

Coffee grows on trees and can be harvested once a year. It is part of the drupe family, meaning the flowers will grow in to coffee seeds, which then become cherries with grape like flesh covering the seeds. The cherry spends around 9 months ripening from the flower stage. They are climacteric so must be picked when the fruit is ripe, as it won’t ripen after picking (unlike strawberries or grapes). Any positive flavours in coffee are all related to the sugars and acids present when picked at optimal ripeness.

Once the coffee is picked and processed to its green form (unroasted) it can last anywhere from 6 months to just over a year before the more lively interesting flavours start to fade. Each country has different harvest dates relating to its rain season. Throughout the year roasters receive different coffees arriving from all around the world, relating to its harvest season and shipping routes. This gives us the seasonality to freshly harvested coffee. When the coffee arrives in the roastery its always very exciting to open the bag (which are hermetically sealed) and have a good smell, they smell a bit like a banana milkshake and hay, with warm rainy day puddle smell.

Harvest Trip Seasons

Each year Peoples Coffee visit some of our producers during the harvest. We visit farms to taste some coffees which will be available that year. Harvest trips are invaluable for the roaster to understand the complexities of the work being done by the producer and an opportunity to share about our respective roles in producing quality sustainable coffee.

For a roaster fresh new coffees are very exciting and following the harvest trip the stories from the trip are still fresh in the mind. This year we have chosen to release a new seasonal espresso blend based on the coffees from Guatemala and Nicaragua, following our last harvest trip, which consists of:

50% Guaya’b

50% Monte Verde

Guaya’b (Guatemala) have been busy in the last few years finishing their new processing mill, rotational driers and warehouse. Giving them better controls and consistency over processing, and raising the quality potential of their coffee.

The flavour profile has always been great from Guaya’b, with a complex caramel body highlighted by a grapey acidity, citrus and berries notes, it has always been one of my favourite single origins.

PRODECOOP (Nicaragua) are a large secondary level co-op, who have had great processing facilities for years, and a team who are very motivated to produce excellent coffee. Monte Verde are a primary co-op who supply PRODECOOP, its membership is 25 women and 40 men. The coffee from this micro lot was processed to a level of zero defects by hand. It has a lovely up front grilled orange sweetness, a full malty flavour and buttery body.

I have roasted these coffees together, with a shorter roast time, developing a fruity sweetness as its acidity, giving a nice marmalade/ candied lemon and apple acidity, backed up with a good development through first crack to produce body, coconut and buttery caramels, with a brown sugar sweetness. I have focused this roast to develop no bitterness as espresso, looking for short brew times and higher yield shots for espresso.

I trust you will enjoy the fruits of our last harvest trip.

René

The seasonal espresso blend can be purchased online or at Constable street.


November 28th, 2013


Posted In: Brewing, Cafes, Coffee, Trips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


June 26th, 2013


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

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

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

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

WHO WE TRADE WITH:

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

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

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

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

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

WHERE WE TRADE:

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

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

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

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

HOW WE TRADE:

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

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

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

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

This is the crux of Peoples Coffee.


May 15th, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

René Macaulay


March 20th, 2013


Posted In: Cooperatives, Fair trade, Sustainability, Trips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

René Macaulay

 

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

 

 

 


March 13th, 2013


Posted In: Cooperatives, Sustainability, Trips

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

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

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

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

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

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


September 19th, 2011


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

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