A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Rapa Nui clothing company and their innovative approach to traceability. The same week I learned about an equally radical scheme in coffee, from my friend Mark Barany. We were at school together in Kenya, and Mark now runs Kuma Coffee Roasters. Based in Seattle, Kuma produces high end coffees for local grocers and for their cafe. By all accounts it’s a fine cup of coffee, but the company is also making a name for itself for its ethical policies.
This month Kuma became the first coffee roaster in Seattle to issue a complete transparency statement, showing how much was paid for each coffee, right down to the name of the farmer who received the payment. It’s a ‘direct trade’ business model based on relationships, and it generally pays well over the Fairtrade rates. There is no middle man, with sales negotiated online directly between the grower and the retailer.
“Putting it out there kind of says ‘It can be done, and this is sustainable” Mark told the Seattle Times recently. “It also says to the competition, ‘who else out there feels so good about their business practices that they could do the same?'”
In a city of coffee roasters and the home of Starbucks, that’s quite a challenge. Let’s hope some of them take it up.