Have You Heard of Coffee Leaf Tea?

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Consumed in Ethiopia for more than 200 years, coffee leaf tea is exactly what it sounds―the leaves of coffee plants roasted and then brewed into tea. While coffee leaves barely contain any caffeine at all, they are believed to be more nutritious than both coffee and many blends of tea. They also have “…a clean and smooth flavour without the bitterness associated with conventional green and black teas.”

Wize Monkey is one of the companies currently popularizing the blend, and their goal is “to improve the livelihoods of coffee-dependent communities by harvesting a sustainable & healthy product.” Wize Monkey was founded by Max Rivest and Arnaud Petitvallet, who are both business school graduates from France with a focus on ethical practices and international sustainable development.

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Other than oil, coffee is the second largest industry in the world, worth approximately $15.4 billion in 2009/10. Even still, the coffee business is incredibly seasonal; coffee beans can only be harvested for 3 months out of the entire year. As a result, most workers cannot be kept on year-round. According to Wize Monkey’s site:

“In the last few years, the coffee market has become flooded and revenues have been plummeting for all coffee farmers worldwide. We figured that if the farmers could also sell coffee leaves, they could create a second source of income and help make ends meet. After three months of searching and meeting with dozens of organic farmers, we have come home to Vancouver BC with a one-of-a-kind revolutionary tea. Not only does it do your body some good, it does the farmers some awesome.”

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The good thing about coffee leaves is that they can be harvested year-round. Wize Monkey sources their leaves from one of the top coffee growers in Northern Nicaragua, who has over 18 years experience in the industry. This particular farm “pays workers 80% more than the industry average, which means more funds in the worker’s pockets to support their families…” If Wize Monkey is successful, coffee leaf tea could potentially provide long-lasting benefits to families and communities around the world that normally make a living selling coffee beans.

Curious about how you can try Wize Monkey’s coffee leaf tea for yourself? Their online shop has a preorder bundle available with shipment due for spring of 2015 (soon!), or a two sample pack.

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What is Direct Trade?

CCC_DTCseal_CCCThis week, we’ll be taking a look at the idea behind direct trade. A few weeks prior, we discussed the practice of fair trade: it’s an agreement that allows producers in developing countries to sell their products at a fair price, helps to keep their products sustainable, and makes sure their workers are being treated fairly. Fair trade acts as a sort of partnership which aims to make sure that no one is being taken advantage of.

Some consumers take issue with fair trade for a multitude of reasons, the most prevalent of which involves a lack of substantial evidence proving that fair trade practices positively impact the very countries which it claims to benefit, and that much of the money does not even go to the farmers who produce these goods (or their economy). Some critics claim that while fair trade is a good idea in theory, in practice, fair trade has “…evolved from an economic and social justice movement to largely a marketing model for ethical consumerism.”

Regardless of your opinion on fair trade, direct trade is worth taking a look at. It’s seen by many as an alternative, better, and more personalized version of fair trade. One of the biggest names in direct trade certification belongs to the co-owner of Counter Culture Coffee, Peter Giuliano, who self-identifies as a student of coffee (despite being in the industry for decades). He is also the director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

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Counter Culture Coffee boasts its own direct trade certification. According to their site,


“Counter Culture Direct Trade Certification is based on the principles guiding our coffee purchases and our relationships with coffee growers and grower groups. We engage an external auditor on an annual basis to verify Counter Culture’s compliance with four quantifiable measures, and coffees that meet the following standards qualify for Direct Trade Certification:

  1. Personal & direct communication: Counter Culture has visited all growers of certified coffees on a biennial basis, at minimum.
  2. Fair & sustainable prices paid to farmers: Counter Culture has paid at least $1.60/lb F.O.B. for green coffee.
  3. Exceptional cup quality: Coffees have scored at least 85 on a 100-pt. cup quality scale.
  4. Supply chain transparency: Counter Culture maintains direct communication between buyers, sellers, and any intermediaries (like importers). All relevant financial information is available to all parties, always.”

If you’ve read our fair trade post, you’ll probably recognize many of those practices. The difference is that with direct trade, a lasting relationship is built with the growers. Additionally, rather than meeting an extensive list of requirements (many of which may not apply to some growers, and may completely exclude those who are poor), requirements are personalized. In this way, direct trade is built to directly benefit the growers.