coffee with the power to influence

Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability’

Kenya AA Othaya Microlot

In Coffee Projects, New Products, Product Reviews on June 22, 2011 at 10:52 am

Othaya originated from the words “on their own” which came about as the indigenous people were trying to defend their land, “on their own.”

The heart of the Aberdare National Park is home to numerous species, including the rarely seen Bongo Antelope. Other wildlife includes the endangered black rhino, elephants, leopards, bushbucks and many others. It’s also famous for safari lodges Aberdare Country Club, The Ark, and Outspan Hotel; a tree-top hotel famous for housing Queen Elizabeth II on the night of her coronation.

We are pleased to have aquired this spectacular Kenya microlot which is expected in the roastery mid-July (flavour notes of lychee fruit and blackcurrent acidity) Even better, Speakeasy will have a first access “relationship” opportunity on future lots.

Location: Nyeri district and on the western side of Mt.Kenya

Othaya co-operative society constitutes several factories

e.g. Kagere factory, Iriaini factory, Kagonye factory

Altitude: 1700 – 1800 metres

Nearest town:  5Km from Nyeri Town

Soil: Rich Volcanic Sandy Soil

Coffee Variety: SL 34 and SL 28

Flowering season: Between March and April

Harvesting Time: Between November and December

Fermentation: Fresh River Water from Mumwe River.

Drying method: Sun Dried

Organization: Small-scale farmers in well-managed central pulverises

Growing area: Central highlands mainly at high altitude

[tweetmeme source= “SpeakeasyCoffee” only_single=false] 


Make Grounds for Health

In Coffee Education, Coffee Projects, In the news, Social Justice & Environment on May 31, 2011 at 5:21 pm

We have the best coffee…and now we’re making it even better

On the heels of our international win for best new blend at SIAL 2011, Hamilton’s Speakeasy Roasteries partners with Grounds for Health to help raise money for their award-winning Cervical Cancer prevention program.

This fundrasing event is coupled with the launch of Speakeasy Cafe this Saturday June 4th at 445 Ferguson Ave. North

For the entire month of June, Speakeasy will donate $1 from the sale of every pound of our award winning Kochere Gayo to Grounds for Health. Buy 5 lbs and we’ll douible our commitment to $10.

Despite being one of the easiest forms of cancer to screen for and treat, cervical cancer kills more women in coffee-growing countries than any other form of cancer.

Women are dying from cancer that is preventable.

“Grounds for Health develops sustainable community-focused cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment programs in coffee growing communities so that no woman need die in her prime from this preventable and curable disease. This is not only the moral thing to do; it also makes great economic sense. Research clearly shows the premature death of a mother in the developing world sentences her children – especially girls – to lives of poorer health, and fewer economic and educational opportunities. Lost productivity to the community is almost incalculable. We applaud Speakeasy Roasteries for caring about women around the word whose labors brings delicious coffee to our daily cups.” August Burns, Executive Director, Grounds for Health

Help us combat cervical cancer in coffee producing countries. Stop by Speakeasy Cafe between 8 am and 6 pm any weekend in June, or place your orders for Kochere Gayo through our webstore.

Speakeasy Cafe

445 Ferguson Avenue North

Hamilton, ON, L8L 4Z1

Saturdays & Sundays: 8 am – 6 pm

Google Map

Fresh roasted beans on-demand

“To-the-cup” brewed coffee

Espresso / Americano / Latte

Black,  green, & herbal teas + soft drinks

[tweetmeme source= “SpeakeasyCoffee” only_single=false] 

Business Scene: Speakeasy Roasteries

In Coffee Links, Coffee Projects on July 9, 2010 at 12:16 pm

by Dave Hall for CanWest Global Media

A local micro-roaster recently became the only Canadian roaster to acquire a prestigious Cup of Excellence coffee crop from Nicaragua and is now the worldwide exclusive supplier of Linda Vista coffee.

Speakeasy Coffee, which was established in Hamilton four years ago and has operated from Kingsville for the past year, is also rated as one of the top micro-roasteries in North America.

Owner Stephen Armstrong, a Londonderry, Northern Ireland-trained chef, first opened a fair trade store in Hamilton but quickly realized there was money in coffee beans, especially fair trade, direct trade, organic and specialty coffees.

“I knew I wanted to do something ethical and sustainable and it’s become very exciting,” said Armstrong.

“For someone with a social conscience, this was a match made in heaven.”

Once a roaster becomes involved in the direct trade market, the investment skyrockets because, as Armstrong says, “you can’t buy by the bag, you have to buy the entire crop which means needing $15,000-$20,000 up front so you can buy it when it comes up for auction.”

The Cup of Excellence is a competition conducted in nine coffee-producing nations with the winners chosen by a select group of judges who assess the coffees at least five times during the competition. Only those which score consistently high are allowed to continue.

Armstrong was the winning bidder for Linda Vista, a coffee produced in the region of Nueva Segovia in Nicaragua. Judged in a similar fashion to fine wines, Linda Vista is said to have the characteristics of chocolate, honey, apricot, vanilla, butter and raisin with a creamy feel on the palate.

Armstrong said that 80-90 per cent of what he pays for unroasted beans goes directly to the grower and “I’m paying between four and seven times the fair trade floor price for beans, which is $1.25 USD.”

Speakeasy coffees include Linda Vista from Nicaragua, Amaro Gayo and Longberry Harar from Ethiopia, Espiritu Santo from Costa Rica, San Julian from Guatemala, Altamira from El Salvador, Serrano Superior from Cuba, Mandheling Gayo from Sumatra and Purosa from Papua New Guinea, as well as a selection from Bolivia, Rwanda, Mexico and Brazil.

Speakeasy’s coffees are available online at

[tweetmeme source= “SpeakeasyCoffee” only_single=false]

“How many hands does your coffee have to go through?”

In Coffee Links, Social Justice & Environment on July 6, 2010 at 12:20 am

Asnakech Thomas was born on a coffee plantation and is proud that her family comes from coffee land deep in the Southern People’s Region of Ethiopia. In February 2007, her coffee placed first in a pre-selection process for Ethiopia’s first-ever private coffee auction. The result? She sold her coffee for $2 per pound, a 50 percent increase from what she received before. Asnakech is a client of Fintrac’s USAID-funded Agribusiness and Trade Expansion Activity (ATEA), which improves specialty coffee production and quality in Ethiopia.

Fintrac helped Asnakech install a coffee processing machine and showed her how to run the eco-friendly pulper. The project also deployed agronomists and consultants to her mill to advise her on how to create specialty coffee at every step of coffee processing — from looking after trees, to picking, to drying cherries. At the same time, Fintrac was working on the other side of the coffee chain by organizing an open outcry private specialty coffee auction. The 2007 Ethiopia Limited Coffee Auction connected Ethiopian farmers with buyers from more than 40 countries. Whereas the current standard buying price for coffee is $1.30 per pound, at the auction, lots were purchased for as much as $5 per pound, an increase of over 280 percent.

While Asnakech was finishing up processing coffee for the season, samples of her coffee and samples from 20 other growers were shipped around the world for buyers to taste and grade. The Fintrac-supported auction gave producers like Asnakech an opportunity to reach new markets and showcase their specialty coffee. The lots sold at the auction were small and select, and enabled buyers and producers to connect and make long-term trade commitments. Asnakech’s lot was bought by an exporter in the US, and, because of the auction, she has made connections with other buyers and set up sales accordingly. With Fintrac’s help she went all the way from planting her trees to selling her coffee.

“Before,” Asnakech says, “I only knew coffee in the cup.” She mimics holding a delicate porcelain cup between her thumb and forefinger and drinking from it. “Now I know exactly how many hands the coffee has to go through to get there.” As for her coffee placing first, Asnakech says that it was good, but not good enough. “I received a score of 95. Next time I want 100.” USAID-ATEA is going to help make this happen by educating Asnakech about more technical selection processes to make her coffee even better. “I have two containers this year,” Asnakech says. “Next year I want four.” Asnakech knows she stands out in the coffee industry as a woman, but the fact that she is the only woman coffee producer and exporter makes her just want to try harder. “In the beginning, the farmers who bring their cherry to my mill could not believe a lady was in charge. Now they are used to it. It’s good — almost 80 percent of the people who pick my coffee are women. I want to encourage them.”

The information in the preceeding article was taken from a Fintrac presss release

Both of Asnakech Thomas’ award winning coffees,  Amaro Gayo Natural & Amaro Gayo Washed, will be available in August @

[tweetmeme source= “SpeakeasyCoffee” only_single=false]

10 things I love about Specialty Coffee…

In Coffee Links on March 1, 2010 at 11:12 am
  1. The coffee…I love everything about the stuff: the look, the smell, and feel of beans roasted & green; the breadth of flavours and aromas; the “gear” (brewers, grinders, roasters, espressos)…the day I bought a TDS meter for my coffee was the beginning of the end.
  2. Collaboration & information sharing. In my experience, there’s an absence of the cloistering of “secret knowledge” often  rampant in other industries.
  3. Excellence supports the artisan: from farmer, to mill worker,  to roaster, to barista.
  4. Personalities that take what they do very seriously, but not themselves.
  5. Anyone with the inclination can be an expert…but every coffee expert I’ve met readily admits that they “have so much more to learn.”
  6. Commitment to quality, ethical sourcing, and sustainability. Whether or not there’s agreement about the “how,” there is a diversity of approaches with more-or-less the same ends: Rainforest Alliance, Direct Trade, Cup of Excellence, UTZ Certified, Smithsonian Bird Friendly, FLO-Cert Fair Trade, national & international Organic standards, and 4C association.
  7. An almost collective rejection of over-roasting as a way of masking bean defects; letting coffee origins stand on the merits of their quality.
  8. Specialty coffee is a “culture”…a slow-food approach of sitting down with people and making connections over a cup of the world’s most complexly glorious beverage. This ain’t no “double-double to go.”
  9. Education of the reseller and consumer thanks to institutions like SCAA and SCAE, “the world’s largest coffee trade association with members representing more than 40 countries and every segment of the specialty coffee industry,” with a commitment to creating opportunities for success in specialty coffee.
  10. Great coffee doesn’t just happen by accident – it’s with the energies of people personally invested in improving quality through better growing & processing practices; strict roasting and cupping protocols, renewed attention to “one-cup-at-a-time” brewing, and a better understanding of coffee science.

[tweetmeme source= “SpeakeasyCoffee” only_single=false]

Is Fair Trade sustainable?

In Social Justice & Environment on July 25, 2009 at 8:59 am

Is a guaranteed premium price without a guaranteed premium cup sustainable?

In December 2006 The Economist argued that “guaranteed pricing could not only supplant the reflex to diversify crops, but encourage more producers to grow coffee; driving down the conventional price even further.”

Fair Trade guarantees that farmers are paid an economically sustainable price. The Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO) markets and creates demand for fair-trade products; consumers are made increasingly aware of living wage issues, and that certified products can improve the lives of workers. Fair Trade continues to grow – less than ten years ago all Fair Trade coffees came from Central America. Today, certified coffees are available from almost every coffee producing country.

The suspicion is that Fair Trade is designed to sell low quality coffee at higher prices. Fair Trade co-ops are composed of hundreds of farmers producing different qualities of coffee often blended together. Money flows back to the co-op and is allocated equally amongst its members. The argument then is there’s no motivation for individuals to improve farming techniques, experiment with other coffee varieties, or access new markets.

According to Coffee Review the average cupping score for Fair Trade coffees in 2004 was 87.3, whereas the average for non-Fair Trade certified coffees was 86.8; bringing into question claims that Fair Trade coffees are inferior to specialty non-Fair Trade. Furthermore, Fair Trade coffees seem to be improving. The average rating for Fair Trade coffees rose from 85.0 in 2001-2002 to 87.2 in 2003-2004; supporting the position that paying more money on a guaranteed basis will improve quality.

TransFair explains that Fair Trade has a floor price rather than a fixed price. While the floor price may be irrelevant when farmers are selling above it by virtue of quality, Fair Trade certification often ensures that these same small-scale specialty coffee farmer have direct market ties. Nevertheless, despite continued market access and a guaranteed price, farmers are still struggling. Many coffee professionals believe price increases based on quality is the solution

Non-certified coffees that earn fair trade or higher prices are what some call the next wave of sustainability. Cup of Excellence (CoE) and Intelligentsia’s Direct Trade programs aim to reward quality in the cup. With the primary goal of selling coffee at a profit, organizations that self-certify face a conflict of interest that’s hard to ignore. Third parties like FLO are invested in the integrity of their certification label, not profitability. This is not to say that models like CoE or Direct Trade do not operate with integrity.

Fair Trade fills the gap between the micro-lot coffee aficionado, and the grocery store Robusta buyer. Consumers rely on the seeming transparency of certifying bodies to help guide their purchasing choices; they’re off to a good start with any specialty coffee, including Fair Trade.

[tweetmeme source= “SpeakeasyCoffee” only_single=false]

Fair Trade vs. Rainforest Alliance

In Social Justice & Environment on April 2, 2009 at 2:59 pm
At Speakeasy, we try our best to inform our opinions and purchasing choices with the most current and accurate information. It is never our intention to undermine or misinform. If you believe there to be inaccuracies or glaring ommissions, then feel free to give us a constructive kick. At Speakeasy, we are committed to engaging larger social dialogues…it’s about more than just beans. However, we hope that our attempts to “keep it simple” aren’t interpreted as essentialist – coffee is, after all, the most complex beverage on the planet!
Once I started to look at Fair Trade vs. Rainforest Alliance, it became clear to me that it’s a multi-faceted debate.
I’ll admit from the start that I carry some corporate skepticism into the equation. It’s not a moral “right or wrong” assesment of business practice; but rather, informed by the assumption that “corporate” is governed by profit margins and shareholder returns. A certification sytem that is endorsed by Kraft (owned by tobacco giant Phillip Morris) lacks social credibility in my opinion. In recent past, corporate coffee has not demonstrated itself to be a leader (neither in quality or in social justice); why assume so now?
The bigger issue I have is the perception in the marketplace that Rainforest Alliance certification is somehow a reasonable alternative to Fair Trade. Retailers participate in this deception by charging a premium pricepoint for RA products when they are (in my experience) significantly cheaper at the “green” supply level.
Rainforest Alliance coffees are cheaper for the reasons that differentiate them from a fairly traded, organic bean:
  • Only 30% compliance to receive certification; ie. up to 70% may be conventional, non-organically grown bean
  • No guarantee of a minimum price for it’s workers
  • Production models based on mass land holdings (private estates & corporate plantations), and indigenous subsistance workers
The question is further complicated by issues of quality…some Rainforest Alliance certified estates are CoE (Cup of Excellence) winners, others produce lowest common denominator coffee. The sad reality is that the majority of the high-end bean will not end up in the mainstream “consumer” market.
In fairness, Fair Trade faces similar concerns in a marketplace that’s becoming convoluted with low quality, non-organic, fair trade certified coffees. Fair Trade is also limited by it’s “blended” co-op product; making it difficult for the serious coffee afficiando to aquire certified single-estate beans. A reputable artisan roastery that deals in gourmet  “direct trade” or “fairly traded” coffees is often worth investigating.
I’ll give Rainforest Alliance some recognition for it’s commitment to the preservation of the natural canopy…particularly when countries like Peru are saturating the market with low cost organic coffees being produced on large tracts of clearcut (because it’s easier to organically certify cleared land compared to a natural canopy.)
That said, it’s our opinion that corporates are invested in the sustainability of coffee producing land; their commitment to environmental stewardship has little to do with improving the quality of life in the communities these multi-nationals occupy.
Fair Trade vs. Rainforest Aliiance? Don’t believe the hype.
For environmental commitment, social justice, and economic equity…
I’ll take a shade grown FTO coffee over Rainforest Alliance any day.
[tweetmeme source= “SpeakeasyCoffee” only_single=false]