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.”


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.”


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.

Direct Trade vs Fair Trade Coffee

When discussing ethical coffee, it is crucial to talk about where coffee comes from and how it gets from the coffee tree to a brewed cup of coffee. Many people and hands are involved in the coffee growing, producing, and selling process. Two important concepts to understand in this process are Fair Trade Coffee and Direct Trade Coffee.

Fair Trade Coffee

Fair Trade is a third-party certification that organizations can get to ensure that coffee producers are paid fair wages for their coffee products. A few organizations can certify coffee, like Fairtrade America, Fairtrade International, and Fair Trade Certified. On the package of coffee that is Fair Trade, there will be a logo certifying that it is, in fact, Fair Trade.
You can learn more about Fair Trade coffee here: https://www.drinktrade.com/learn/fair-trade-coffee.

Direct Trade Coffee

Direct Trade coffee is when a coffee roaster works directly with the coffee producer to buy coffee. This is done to have the roasters build strong relationships with the coffee producers and provide fair wages. Direct Trade coffee can also be preferred since the coffee goes through fewer hands before getting to the final cup, which some believe equals a better final cup of coffee.
You can learn more about Direct Trade coffee here: https://www.ethicalcoffee.net/direct.html.

Which Do I Choose?

There are pros and cons to both Fair Trade and Direct Trade coffee. One argument against Direct Trade coffee is that there is no regulatory system or guidelines, so the caliber of the coffee and roaster/ producer relationship could change. However, the impact roasters could make on coffee producers and their communities through Direct Trade can outway the lack of a regulatory system.
Fair Trade provides a regulatory system; however, coffee producers need to jump through more hoops to get the certification. This might be difficult for coffee producers and might not be entirely equitable to great, small coffee producers.

Overall, I feel striving to do better when choosing coffee products matters. Whether it is Direct Trade of Fair Trade, just picking one makes a difference.

Mocha at Moka

There is just something about a great cup of coffee that gives you a feeling like nothing else in this world. When I experience a cup of coffee like that, I spend months, even years, eager to return to the coffee shop that produced such an unforgettable cup of coffee.

There is just something about a great cup of coffee that gives you a feeling like nothing else in this world. When I experience a cup of coffee like that, I spend months, even years, eager to return to the coffee shop that produced such an unforgettable cup of coffee.

In the winter of 2022, I visited Moka Origins for the first time and was fascinated by the fact that they produce single-origin coffee AND single-origin chocolate. The expertise of this pairing made my decision on what to order very easy, an iced mocha latte. 

The mocha latte I had that day was unlike any other mocha latte I have experienced. The chocolate was rich, creamy, and flavorful, but it wasn’t too sweet. It paired well with their espresso and some oat milk. It was hands down the best mocha latte of my life.

Even though Moka Origins is only about a 45-minute car ride from me, I hadn’t found the time to go back until last weekend. I was so excited to get a mocha latte again!! I was so moved by the iced mocha latte; I did not vary from my original order.

When I got my drink, just like earlier this year, I was stunned by the excellent coffee and chocolate pairing. It really confined that this was the best mocha latte I have ever had.

If you are around the Honesdale area, I HIGHLY recommend stopping by Moka Origins and ordering a mocha latte. Grab some coffee and chocolate while you are there too! I know I won’t wait months before returning for the best mocha latte again.

Coffee in Southwest Florida

I kicked off my 2022 by spending a week in Cape Coral, Florida, and adventuring around Southwest Florida! I had some delicious coffee while I was there and wanted to share some of my favorites!

Penny’s Coffee Bar in Cape Coral

Penny’s ended up being a new favorite coffee spot! I wish it weren’t so far away from home. Not only did they have a wide variety of coffee options, but they also had neat tea and tea refresher options! I got their cold brew twice, and woah was I impressed. It quickly became one of my favorite cold brews of all time. They had baked goods there, too, and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies! I highly recommend Penny’s if you’re looking for a cold brew, a refresher, an iced latte, and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies!

Urban Buzz Coffee Company in Cape Coral

Urban Buzz was funky in the best way possible! The coffee shop was a walk-up window/drive-through. They had lots of coffee options and tea refresher options! I tried something brand new there, white coffee. I had never even heard of white coffee, but it’s coffee roasted at a lower temperature, and the beans turn white. The drink I got with the white coffee was soo delicious. Even if it did blow my mind that it was all white, haha!

Funky Rooster Coffee House & Wine Bar in Key West

This coffee shop had such a neat Kerry West vibe! The coffee was great, and they had delicious pastries! It looked like they also sold wine, so if you’re looking for a place to hang out I. In the evening this cafe could be an excellent choice! I wish I had more time to hang out in this coffee shop; the vibes were so cool!

The French Press in Cape Coral

This coffee shop also has gelato, and that’s what sold me! I got gelato twice at The French Press, and it was amazing! Each day they had different flavors! I tried key lime the one day, and it was stellar!! Their coffee was good, and they had a variety of pastry and food options there too. If you’re looking for coffee and gelato, this is the place to go!

I hope this helps on your next trip to southwest Florida! Let me know if you’ve been to southwest Florida and some of your favorite coffee shops there!

February 6th: Morning Cup

Yesterday was busy. I woke up early, went to work, checked out the Scranton Ice festival, and unplugged for a few hours in the evening.

On Saturdays I work, I treat myself to Henry’s on Clay. They recently rolled out some new specials, and I have been eyeing them up all week.

I went with the Chocolate covered Strawberry iced latte. It was amazing!

Hope you had a great Saturday! ✨

February 4th: Morning Cup

Today is the first day I’ve been back physically in the office since last week. Between a day off, snow days, and work from home days, I was at home all week. It feels good to be in the office! I feel productive in the office after multiple days working from home in a row.

On my way to work, I wanted to get coffee that sparks joy. I work Saturday, so today is like my Wednesday. I worked late last night and needed something that’ll get my brain moving too.

I choose to go with one of my favorite drinks ever: a Large Nitro Cold Brew at Kay’s Daily Grind.

This drink is not only incredible, but it also fuels me and kicks my brain into gear. I am feeling great and ready for my day ahead!

February 3rd: Morning Cup

This morning I woke up craving something creamy and sweet. After drinking black coffee the past two days, I wanted something more decadent.

I decided on quick and easy whipped coffee with oat milk. It’s creamy and sweet without being overpowering. It was the perfect treat for this snowy Wednesday!

Cheers to Wednesday ✨

February 2nd: Morning Cup

It’s day two and a half into this snowstorm. The northeast is getting pounded with a snowstorm, and it just won’t stop. I believe we have over 30 inches of snow by this point. My work has us working remotely, which is nice since I wouldn’t be able to leave my house anyway, haha.

This morning was also an early one for me. I have recently gotten very into Animal Crossings Hew Horizon in the switch, so I woke up before work to search for a new villager for my town. It was well worth waking up early since I found a great new villager to add to my island.

It just feels like one of those days, though. Up early, not incredibly motivated, and wishing for the days past if true snow days. This made me turn to my French Press. Quick and easy to brew with high flavor impact.

Today I choose my Tanzania coffee I have from Atlas Coffee Club. I love being a part of Atlas Coffee Club and love the variety of coffees they send me!

This Tanzania coffee was a lighter roasted coffee with complex flavors. The tasting notes are black tea, blackberry, and milk chocolate. I get the mouthfeel of black tea, the blackberry’s tartness, and the subtle sweetness and flavor of the milk chocolate.

Cheers to Tuesday! ☕️

January 30th: Morning Cup

I was up pretty early this morning. Due to the pending snow on Monday, I had to travel to my allergist’s office to pick up the serum for my weekly allergy shots. The office is about an hour and a half away from my house, and they are only open until 12 pm.

On mornings like this, I tend to stop at Starbucks, but I weirdly wasn’t in the mood for a creamy and sugar coffee drink. I wanted something yummy, light, and not too sweet.

One of my favorite coffee shops in the Lehigh Valley is called The Joint. There are two locations, but I love the hole in the wall shop off of Broad Street in Bethlehem. They have pour-over coffee options, which I love. They roast their coffee and have so many options for their pour-overs.

My go-to pour over there is their Bourbon Barrel coffee. They store these unroasted beans in bourbon barrels for 30 days before roasting. This coffee is robust, full of flavor, and naturally a tad sweet.

This was such a wonderful treat for an early and long car ride on a Saturday morning.

Happy Saturday! ☕️

January 29th: Morning Cup

The commute from Milford to Scranton typically takes about an hour. On mornings like this morning, this means I’m more in a treat to self kind of mood. I usually do the hour commute every other Friday. This allows me to treat myself without feeling like I’m overindulging.

Henry’s on Clay is a cute coffee shop in Dunmore, PA. It is also only about 5 minutes from my work. They have good coffee and delicious gluten-free breakfast, lunch, and brunch options!

You can place an order ahead of time and schedule a pickup time. I love this feature because I place my order in bed, get ready, drive an hour, and pick up my breakfast on my way to work. Easy Peasy.

This morning for breakfast is got an omelet with spinach, tomatoes, and Munster cheese. ( I know, weird, but it’s my fav cheese). And I got their home fries; Henry’s home fries are out of this world!!

For coffee, even though it’s in the single digits in the Pennsylvania mountains today, I got cold brew. Henry’s had unique flavors, so I got a large cold brew with cookie butter flavoring and oat milk. It’s decadent yet not too sweet.

Happy Friday! 🎉