Adventures of a coffee consultant by Raf Mlodzianowski

Adventures of a coffee consultant by Raf Mlodzianowski

Sustainable supply chain seems to be all we have heard about since the start of 2019 with 'coffee extinction' and global warming hitting the headlines. 

However, these should not be the priority. Making sure coffee starts to have more of a positive impact in the communities where it is produced, and the venues it is served in, is a much more important issue to address. Coffee has the ability to help create a lot of positive social change.

Let's start with the 'I am one person, what can I do?' excuse. If you work in a cafe or coffee business how about looking to supply free drinks or food to the homeless or people in need? I worked for many years around London's Soho area (a place with lots of homeless and drug addicts) and on most days I would hand out left over food (obviously with the owners permission). We often provided hot water, tea, hot chocolate or coffee on cold days to those people too. A small thing like this can create a lot of positive change.

Then there is the 'we are not in a producing country, what can we do?' excuse. If we look at producing countries there are obviously systems, politics etc. to contend with. However, every cafe could ask their roaster to help them source from a farm directly.  The cafe would pay direct to the farmer and help pay for medical, school and other fees. Vagabond in London works directly with a Colombian farmer and also collects money and sends it to that village to help the local school with supplies. Again this is a small change with large impact.

The key point is that we need to look at who is around us, who can we help and what we can do to provide that help or change? If your business is in an area with an underfunded local school perhaps that is where you can focus.

But for coffee the question we should all be asking is 'How much did the farmer get paid?' We need to make sure coffee is actually profitable for the farmers and asking this question would start to create the awareness and drive for a sustainable supply chain.

If cafes were more transparent, customers would also be more understanding of price increases.

In essence, if everyone becomes more transparent with their businesses, and also used a percentage of income to try do something positive, we would end up with a more caring and sustainable industry.

After all isn't 'speciality coffee' based on the idea of doing things together and better? Wouldn't making 2019 a year to focus on positive changes be the best way to exemplify that?

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