A Deep Dive Into Ethical Coffee

This article is written for Engl 540.01 Course: Creating Digital Content at Marywood University.

On a snowy March day, I drove through the winding roads of northeastern Pennsylvania to get to the Moka Origins Factory. We went for the coffee but left with such a passion for single-origin, ethically made chocolate. After my trips to Guatemala in 2014 and 2015, my passion for coffee has grown into something wonderful. I adore spending my time trying new local/micro-roasted coffees and learning about the coffee industry. Moka Origins was like taking a trip to coffee heaven!

Moka Origins currently has a factory store and cafe in Honesdale, PA. You can visit for a tour of the facilities where they make the chocolate and roast the coffee. You can grab bags of coffee and chocolate there, and you can even order a coffee or chocolate beverage at the cafe! If you are near Honesdale and want to stop by the factory, check out this blog post on what I recommend getting while you are there.

Moka didnt begin as a factory store, though. It began in 2014 in Cameroon as a farming venture.

“Our mission in Cameroon is creating food security, market linkage, and employment opportunities by partnering farmers as well as directly cultivating local food crops and cash crops (such as cacao), and starting a Farmers Field School.”

https://mokaorigins.com/pages/faq

Driven by their mission, Jeff Abella and Ishan Tigunait, the husband and wife duo that created Moka Origins, grew it into the amazing company that it is today. Today not only have they created amazing programs in Cameroon for the farmers and their communities, but they also have their factory store and sell their chocolate in 40 retail locations across 9 states.

Why talk about Ethical Coffee?

When discussing coffee production and economics, is important to realize that so many coffee farmers and workers are not properly compensated for their work or coffee products. Large coffee companies undervalue the coffee and underpay those involved in the growing and processing process. Talking about the coffee industry and all the steps in coffee economics and production can empower people to make wiser coffee consumption decisions.

Understanding the economics of coffee is the first step in understanding the importance of the work a company like Moka is doing.

The graphic to the left does a great job breaking down all the parts of the coffee industry. You can learn more about this graphic here: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-economics-of-coffee-in-one-chart/

What this graphic doesn’t show is how many hands it takes to produce one simple cup of coffee.
Here is a simple break down of that process.

Coffee is planted by coffee farmers, taken care of by farmers, then harvested by those farmers.

Then the coffee needs to be processed. This means transforming it from cherry to bean that is ready to be roasted.

For many large coffee companies, the coffee is brought to them to be sold or to brew, or maybe even both.

Then the beans are roasted and packaged. You can see part of this process under stage 3 in the graphic as it relates to the economic process of coffee.

Then someone needs to grind the coffee. That might be to bag the coffee to sell it or the baristas who are brewing the coffee for a customer.

Lastly is the cup of coffee you experience at home or in a coffee shop.

There have been efforts to minimize the number of hands and the number of economic stages coffee passes through. This is the concept of third-wave coffee. Third-wave coffee is the wave of the coffee industry we are in currently. It began in the 2000s with a focus on coffee consumers caring about where their coffee comes from and how it is produced. You can learn more about third wave coffee here: https://essense.coffee/en/waves-of-coffee-explained/

The efforts to decrease the number of people and production through the coffee process is where the idea of direct trade coffee came from. Fair Trade and Director Trade coffee are a part of the third-wave coffee movement. They both call for a more ethical way to produce and consume coffee. If you would like to learn more about Fair Trade and Direct Trade coffee, check out my article here.

Coffee drinkers around the globe desire ethical and high-quality coffee. direct trade coffee has made its way into its own segment of the industry, giving companies an edge in the third-wave coffee industry.

So how does this relate to Moka Origins?

Moka is one of these companies that has chosen to not only produce high-quality coffee and chocolate but they are also producing ethical coffee and chocolate.

“165 million people depend on cacao or coffee for their livelihood. Many aren’t paid a living wage and are stuck in poverty. We’re out to change that.”

https://mokaorigins.com/pages/social-impact

Moka Origin’s mission is so much more than fairly compensating people for their work or product. They are working to build strong communities and show people their worth. This is crucial since the coffee industry has devalued coffee products and production for such a long time. Since third-wave coffee is super popular, there is definitely a customer base who really cares about this and wants to buy products that are ethical.

Moka Origins has been a shining example of what direct trade should be. They are connected to a whole community in Cameroon, making sure its people are taken care of in all aspects.

Where can I learn more?

On Moka Origins’ website, there is a tab just for their social impact. Check in out here: https://mokaorigins.com/pages/social-impact

Their whole website is a wealth of information; however, the social impact section provides a map to understanding how Moka Origins is truly helping people with their coffee and chocolate. They give hard-hitting yet digestible facts to begin understanding the complex issues people in other parts of the world face in the coffee and chocolate industries. There are graphics that break down important information for consumers to easily understand. The website provides photos of the people who have been positively impacted by the work Moka Origins has done. The varying modalities they use to convey their story on their website paint a detailed picture of who they are as a company. I highly encourage you to check out their website to learn more.

Author: Maria

👩🏻‍💼Higher Education Professional ☕️ Coffee Connoisseur 🗺 Traveler

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