News and views from The Kiosk, Russell Park, Bedford
Here at the Kiosk we serve a very special kind of coffee. If you’ve ever popped by for a cup of it, you really are part of something pretty amazing. We serve Ethical Addictions Coffee.
Ethical Addictions Coffee is a remarkable story of a business setting out to do something very straightforward. Just something simple and fair, but something that is at the same time, completely extraordinary. The company is founded on the belief that ethical business does not have to compromise on quality, and doesn’t have to be significantly more expensive for the consumer.
Inspired by a few years living on the West Coast of Canada, where there was an abundance of ‘great coffee with great stories’, founders Ian and Dave came up with the idea of setting up a coffee brand that dealt direct with the growers. No middle-men or complicated supply chains. Coffee, Ian told us, is the most traded commodity in the world after oil. Often there are 7 or 8 links in the supply chain, all adding to the cost of the products, but leaving many of the farmers in poverty.
When you think about it, cutting out the supply chain makes perfect sense. The farmers get a fair wage for their work – far higher than they would otherwise – and consumers pay no more than they would for any other coffee. Ethical Addictions pay the farmers the same amount as they would pay coffee suppliers in the UK. The difference is, of course, that the farmer keeps the whole amount. This also means that Ethical Addictions is not a luxury brand, it’s an affordable alternative to other coffee brands.
It is also not a Fair Trade coffee. For the villagers to register with the Fair Trade brand, they or the farm would have to put up about $1800, which, as Ian pointed out, is more than the average yearly wages of the villagers. In places like this, where the need is so great and the villages fall through the gaps of Fair Trade, Ethical Addictions is making a real difference. “Fair Trade made consumers think again twenty years ago,” says Ian “maybe it’s time to think again now”.
He describes the business as “a passion; part business, part social enterprise. We’re not doing anything amazing, we’re just doing the right thing. We can’t change the world, but we can change things for families in a couple of villages.” And yet, depressingly, even now the business model sounds quite revolutionary.
On their website, Ethical Addictions tell the stories of their coffees. This is the one about Mountain Top Coffee, and Bente. Bente is the manager of Machare Farm, who they credit with the vision, as well as helping forge the relationships with growers that has given Ethical Addictions the chance to make a difference. Bente introduced them to two small villages high up the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa who had no route to market for their high-quality coffee, and just had to sell to any supplier who happened to come along; meaning that they were getting an insultingly low price for the coffee they had worked so hard to produce.
With some investment from Marchare Farm, Ethical Addictions, and other funding, the villagers were able to produce their own coffee. Now, a few years later, those same villagers have been able to put their children through school for the first time. They’ve been able to save to repair their houses, and buy livestock. They are producing exceptional Arabicancoffee: ‘Dark and smooth with a velvety cocoa and caramel finish.’
Some of Ian’s favourite Ethical Addictions moments come from the trip he made to Machare Farm back in December 2011. “Four or five years of supporting the farms and workers has made such a tangible difference,” he explains. “There were people who said ‘the wage that we’re earning means our children have been able to go to school,’ or ‘we’ve been able to have a new roof put on our hut’. These are real peoples’ lives that we’re helping to change, long-term, for the better.”
This is Desiana Pauli, talking about how Ethical Addictions has changed things for her and her family: “Before, we used to all sleep in the same room on the same bed. Now, I could build a bedroom for my five children so that they have more space. I could also pay the school fees for all the five children, including the uniforms and the books, etc.”
And you are helping those same families too, just by drinking our coffee at the Kiosk. Great coffee, great story.