Plainville has bragging rights on organic fair trade thanks to the Sun Coffee Roasters company. Since last April, they’ve grown their coffee company through a bad economy. While other industries felt the sting of a sinking Dow, organic fair trade has seen growth. That’s largely due to two main reasons: Investors willing to secure their excess cash in an upstart instead of a volatile financial market and, well, a bunch of college kids.
In fact, the college and university market is their biggest fan. It seems that college kids drink a barge load of coffee. That, plus an insatiable desire for all things environmental and socially conscious, makes for a good cup o’ Joe on exam night.
“The college market is our core focus right now,” said Ken Lewis, Chief Marketing Officer and Partner at the Sun Coffee Roasters Company. “It’s a growing business. We’ve got 37 licenses with schools around the country.”
But while the college scene is a main goal for them, the company has not ignored other marketing angles. They sell under their own name as well as other branded and private label coffees. Their coffee retails at Stop & Shop, Big Y, and some Whole Foods Markets. They have also branched out into institutions like hospitals and retirement communities as well as commercial arenas like sports complexes, theme parks, and casinos. “We’re dedicated to the collegiate path,” said Lewis, “but we’re not ruling out other paths. We’re happy to diversify.”
But the fair trade aspect of the business is only one facet. They employ environmentally friendly and sustainable practices as part of their business model. Even their roasting equipment is energy efficient and the lining on their coffee bags is biodegradable.
Lewis said that they get their beans from the “coffee belt” between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. So their importers come from all around the world. “All the companies we work with have open books so we even know the specific plantations,” he said.
Elan Organic Coffee, an organic fair trade coffee importer run by Karen Cebreros, is a company Sun Coffee works with closely. They cull their imports from partnerships with village co-ops in 20 different countries, including Central America, South America, Ethiopia, and Papua New Guinea. For over 20 years, they’ve been “connecting farmers and consumers from tree to cup.”
Organic fair trade coffee companies have been increasing largely because the demand for a cup of java, sans the pesticides and low wages for workers, is what many consumers are reaching for these days. And, Sun Coffee Roasters is not alone in the New England area. With Green Mountain Coffee in Vermont and Dean’s Bean’s in Massachusetts, Sun Coffee is just the new kid on the block.
According to a press release posted on July 22, 2009 from Drinks Media Wire, a survey of the North American Organic Coffee Industry showed the U.S. with largest sales of organic coffee. Based on data from 2008, nearly 90 million pounds of organic coffee were imported into the United States and Canada. Compared with sales in 2007, this was a 12% increase. And in 2008, the coffee market topped out at $1.3 billion.
There has also been an increase in coffee houses that consider coffee an art form. According to an article dated March 9, 2010 in The New York Times, over 40 cafés and coffee bars have popped up all over Manhattan in just the last two years. These are places with a hardcore approach to coffee: Many of them either roast their own beans on site, grind them per cup, or refuse to serve milk as that would mar the pure taste of the brew.
Like our interest in organic food, Americans are catching up with the rest of the world when it comes to coffee. We’re drinking more and more of it and we’re picky about how it grows. In a previous article on this site, we discussed products that offer the “finest” whole beans you can grind yourself here in Connecticut.
As a society, we are becoming more conscious of what we eat, what we drink, and how it affects the world around us. That’s not such a bad thing and, frankly, it’s about time.
Images courtesy of CoffeeMarvel.com, Sun Coffee Roasters, and Elan Organic Coffee, respectively.