Peoples Coffee

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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Seeing as our recent blog all about Lauren was so well received we thought we would talk a little more about some of our #peoplespeople!

René Macaulay is a fixture here at Peoples. The Roaster Formerly Known For His Moustache has been with us since 2007, working with our farmers at Origin and here at the roastery – from crop to cup.


Rene in Guatemala with the growers from the ASOBARGI co-op.

Five things you may not know about René:

1. He once lived, for a time, in the Himalayas.
2. He can convert a non-believer in minutes (to the importance of fair trade).
3. If he could have any coffee-related toy in the world it would be a colour grader ‘laser eye’ (for those of you, like me, who have no idea what that means – there is a picture below)
4. His first flat white was procured from Cuba St institution Olive.
5. He is the hero that Peoples Coffee deserves. (OK I stole that one from Batman but Rene is kind of the man…)


Laser Eye

René’s ultimate christmas gift; The Laser Eye.

Each trip to Origin is quite different and very sobering, René explains. A lot of the time the trips are focussed on things that have nothing to do with coffee – issues that affect the whole community like food security and access to health care. The co-ops that we work with in Africa have been rolling out pharmacies and midwifery to all the farmers and this is making a tangible difference in peoples lives.

“It’s not about assessing fair trade – on the whole it is to assess the needs of the farmers. To get a feel for each co-op and ensuring the needs of the farmers being met by the co-op leaders.”


Cupping Harar in Africa earlier in 2015.

Peoples are resolutley fair trade – so I asked René a few questions about fair trade and the coffee industry to get a better idea of why:

Is fair trade actually making a difference in the lives of farmers at Origin?

What farmers really need is to be paid a whole lot more. As roasters we are all limited in what we can achieve by the wholesale price and the street price of a cup of coffee. The most powerful mechanism of fair trade is the social premiums and the ongoing positive value they add. They put the power and the means back in the hands of the community.

Why did Peoples Coffee change from Fairtrade certification to World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) certification?

We felt that WFTO’s 10 principles of fair trade were better suited to help us challenge ourselves, ask hard questions and analyse how well we were performing as an ethically minded business. WFTO allows us to apply the ethos of fair trade to all of our business practices, not just our product.

In your opinion what is the most dangerous emerging trend in coffee that is affecting farmers lives?

Luxury. Specialty Coffee has relentlessly prized quality as the most desirable element of coffee and this has huge implications for farmers. The highest quality coffee doesn’t necessarily mean better tasting – it just means there are zero defects and nothing getting in the way of tasting the coffee. The higher the quality, the harder it is to produce and environmental changes are making it increasingly MORE difficult. Very often retail prices roasters sell for don’t reflect the difficulty of production and chasing this level of perfection is super challenging for many of these communities.

We have been working with many of the same producers for years, in the last few years climate change has had a huge impact on yields and quality, we continue to work with these groups buying their coffee even though they have been struggling with producing enough of the quality coffee we desire, rather than just buying from someone else who we don’t know.



When he’s not half a world away at Origin, René is hard at work at the Peoples roastery in Newtown. Back in the early days of Peoples Coffee René would often pop in to the roastery to watch his friend, Matt Lamason, roast.

“I roasted at home and but had very little ‘coffee experience’ so to speak. He (Matt) hired me as junior roaster and then flew to Colombia soon after – so I was definitely chucked in the deep end.”


Rene talking through the roasting process at Caffeination 2015.

René has certainly come a long way from the junior roaster that used to take a sugar (?!) in his flat white – in addition to being the Head Roaster for Peoples Coffee he is also the chair of the New Zealand Roasters Guild (which he helped set-up). The guild is a formalised community that aims to stimulate roasters to progress in research, development and knowledge. Their main goal (that they share with sister organisaton The Barista Guild) is to ensure everywhere in New Zealand has good coffee.


Rene presenting at a defect cupping Roasters Guild event in Wellington.

The guild is volunteer based and holds events and meetings across the country. Membership is open to anyone with a passion for specialty coffee & the roasting craft  and the desire to develop skills as a professional roaster. You can read more about getting involved here.


At home in the roastery.

René is a pretty humble guy. He has a passion for coffee but much more important, he believes, is coffee with a conscience.

“There is lots of suffering in the world and it is so easy to live in our society and be blind of the repercussions of all of the little things we do.”

Jesse F

September 28th, 2015

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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.


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

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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.”

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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