With the rise of independent coffee chains across the UK and their ethical conscious becoming more prominent in the market, it can be tricky to decide who is the most credible.
If you’re looking beyond the Starbucks and Costas of the high street, we know that searching for great coffee isn’t just about helping you wake up for the day, but what they give back to the community. At Honest Food, we’ve been tracking down (and tasting) the most authentic coffee brands on the market right now – and this is why you need to check them out.
1 – Cafédirect
If coffee that has bagged more than 30 Great Taste Awards in the last 8 years isn’t enough to get your taste buds tingling, then this brand’s unique business model may persuade you.
Cafedirect prides itself on investing up to 50% of their profits back into the grower communities that they buy from. In real money talk, this has equated to about £6 million for their farmers.
Not only do they build quality relationships with face to face meetings with every farmer, they also have two board members who are producers. This gives them a real say in what governs the business. Almost half of their farmers are shareholders too, committing to re-invest 1/3 of their profits back into their communities.
If that wasn’t enough, they care about the environment too, committing to their Gold Standard certification. Their care for both people and the planet ensures that you get the best quality beans!
2 – Grumpy Mule
Ever since the company was founded in 2006, Grumpy Mule have been on a mission to fight the blight of bad coffee. In their own words, this is coffee that’s throwaway, unethically sourced and tastes like an industrial accident.
To combat this, The Mule has opted for long term standards that focus on their growers, their producers and their customers, driving their roasting and sourcing practises.
It’s even in their name, as once upon a time, mules were the unsung heroes of the coffee trade. While it’s all trucks and pick-ups now, it was the trusty mule who trekked up to the highest altitudes to be loaded up with the freshest coffee cherries to bring them back down.
They’ve worked hard to earn Rainforest Alliance, Organic and Fair Trade certifications, confirming that every single brew has a conscious story.
3 – Volcano
Volcano are like no other brand we’ve found on the market, challenging the industry on what it means to be ‘fair trade’. Champions of ethically-traded coffee, Volcano tackle the problems with fair trade head-on by doing more than offering farmers a fractionally higher price for their work, instead paying a significant margin above the fair trade price, to reward their farmers for the premium product they produce.
This practise stretches far beyond the farmers growing the coffee, running through the entire production chain, as well as the wider coffee-growing community. You can be assured that Volcano will only work with partners and importers who share these values, ensuring their brand is both sustainable and the benefits are always shared throughout the community.
4 – Union
Open since 2001, Union pride themselves on hand roasting small batches of beans to perfect the process and deliver some top notch coffee. By working in these small quantities, it ensures that the brand find and work directly with talented farmers and roastmasters, paying them all fair wages. This is so they can invest back into their farm, families and workers. They even have their own sourcing principle called the Union Direct Trade, which breaks down this truly sustainable business model, highlighting that third-parties are never used.
With these aspirations in place for their farmers and roasters, the quality of coffee produced by Union is scored 84 and above on the SCAA’s International scale – the definite measure of coffee quality.
These guys even have in-house trainers who teach baristas and coffee enthusiasts how to brew the best coffee.
5 – Old Spike
Pop down to Peckham’s Old Spike Roastery shop for coffee with a conscience. Owned by Richard Robinson and Cemel Ezel, this store joins the many other not-for-profit stores in London which provide barista training for those who are homeless or recovering from addiction.
The idea was born from Cemel’s visit to a silent tea house in Vietnam, ran solely by deaf and mute women, alongside coffee shops in New York who roast their beans on site.
If you get to meet Lucy, you’ll soon learn that she was the first employee at Old Spike when the founders met her selling The Big Issue outside of London Bridge station. After arriving from Romania three years ago, the owners are helping her learn English and are giving her training to perfect the flat white.
On the view to expansion, Old Spike now offer coffee subscriptions and have started selling into offices. These bag of beans start at £7.50, with their espresso and Americanos in store being priced at £2. Other brews are £2.50. The brand even partner with other local enterprises, such as baked goods from The South Cakery and sourdough bread from Breaking Bread – a microbakery that works with ex-offenders in Nunhead.
While it may seem a little daunting to find the most honest coffee brands, it’s as refreshing as your first sip of caffeine in the morning, to see this new, more caring movement growing so rapidly. If you’re ever unsure of what you’re reading is as credible as it could be, look out for awards such as Rainforest Alliance, Organic and Fair Trade certifications. These can tell you a lot about the conscious of a brand and what drives them to serve a perfect brew. With these awards, you know you’ll be in safe hands. So sit back, relax and enjoy your favourite blend, knowing that you’re giving back to the people all around the world.