Magic beans: coffee that gives back

28th July 2020 | Alison Turner

A great cup of coffee can sure lift your spirits, especially on a cold Tuesday morning. But for the people behind Campos Coffee, coffee only tastes good when it’s made ethically. And so, by investing in the communities and the people who grow their coffee, the guys at Campos are cultivating the kind of high-quality coffee that not only makes your morning better; it’s also improving the lives of the people who grow it.

When Campos first began sourcing beans, founder Will Young decided that, if they were going to buy coffee from people in other countries, he should go and visit them for himself.

“We wanted to make sure they had the same values as us – what environmental impact did they have on the land? Did they pay their staff well? Did they use child labour?” he says. “So, I booked plane tickets and visited every single one of our suppliers.”

Where it all began: the Campos cafe in Sydney’s Newtown.

Since that first trip, Young has continued to travel to the communities who produce Campos coffee. But it’s not just about the beans. Campos now funds at least one social project in each region they buy from. They’ve built a school in Papua New Guinea. They’ve been major funders in Open Heart – a program that sends Australian heart surgeons to Rwanda to perform lifesaving operations on children. They’re also major supporters of a school building project in Ethiopia and a school library in El Salvador.

“There’s a place in Indonesia, where we bought all of one village’s coffee for three years,” Young says. “When I first visited, the chief of the village was wearing a shirt with a with hole torn in it. The roads were all bumpy and people were riding old bicycles to transport beans.

“We went back three years later, and the roads were paved, the chief was wearing a nice shirt, they were using motorcycles. We asked, what happened? They said, ‘Well, we sold our coffee at a good price.’ And that really opened our eyes. We thought, if we continue to buy and they continue to grow, we can watch their communities flourish.”

Will Young (far right) regularly travels to the communities that grow the coffee.

When Young opened the first Campos Coffee cafe in Sydney’s Newtown, he thought he’d spend the rest of his career behind the counter. But once he started learning what an impact the business could have, he was driven to focus on the producers that Campos was buying from, to help them reach their full potential.

Campos buys a lot of their coffee from Kenya, and began working with one group of farmers who Young says were getting “terrible” prices for their beans.

“This region had great altitude, great trees, great farmers, but the prices they were getting were the worst for any coffee cooperative in the region,” he says. “We found their processing equipment was very old. They were also having a hard time transporting coffee to processing – many had to walk with coffee on their backs.”

Will Young works to support growers’ whole communities, including the children.

Campos bought the group a tractor for transporting coffee, getting it to processing more quickly without it being left to bake in the sun. The company also invested in new drying beds for the group, which are used to dry the cherries after picking.

“I went to visit afterwards,” Young recalls. “I arrived and looked out over their farm. I said, ‘Your beds are great, and so are your neighbour’s beds”. I could see, off into the horizon, all these drying beds. And they said, ‘No those beds are all ours, too. You guys did all this.’”

For what was a relatively small investment, the help that Campos gave this Kenyan coffee-growing community has led to their beans getting the best auction prices for the past few years, and the quality of their coffee is now the best in the region.

Superior news for a superior blend: you can now make your own Campos coffee at home.

Campos continues to build its relationships with growers around the world, and invest in their communities. By doing so, it allows the farmers to flourish, grow top-quality beans, expand their operations and keep up with Australia’s increasing demand for great coffee. Supply chains are so strong, Campos has even been able to begin selling beans at Woolworths – something that no other specialty coffee brand has done.

“The thing that excites us most is that we know these communities, we know how much we’re contributing towards them,” Young says. “And we’re seeing the results when we go back; how us buying coffee at a premium helps those communities as a whole.

“It’s fantastic, and it’s exactly why we go to work.”

Campos has a range of how-to videos you can watch to make your coffee at home as delicious as possible, from steaming milk to making your own cold brew.

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