The story behind the beans in your coffee

Coffee is like Proust’s madeleine biscuit: it brings back memories and gives comfort.

However, have you ever thought of the coffee supply chain and producers when enjoying your “mornin’ cuppa”? Coffee has an economic impact of US$225.2 billion and represents 1.6% of the United States’ gross national product. Yet many of the growers in source countries like Guatemala, Colombia, Burundi or Kenya are smallholders who live in poverty, subject to fluctuating global market prices.

One fantastic leading lady of coffee is trying to change that, together with her husband and team: Phyllis Johnson of BD Imports. Starting out of a pivotal moment in an African shop in Minneapolis 20 years ago, Johnson developed a solid coffee importer. Phyllis and the team go beyond the requirements of well-known certifications.

Together with the communities in their source countries, they start and closely follow social impact projects. When they started and visited a village of mostly female smallholder coffee growers, the women were thrilled for the highest price they had recently received for their crops on the commodity market, only to find that it was actually Phyllis who had made the purchase.

Coffee is also the story of the struggle for more gender equality. Crop optimization growing techniques, health care and schooling for the kids are just a few projects that BD Imports started systematically in its source areas. All projects operate based on the same principle of community empowerment to make them last.

No wonder BD Imports won the Responsible Supplier of the year award by Radisson Hotel Group. Next time you are enjoying a lovely smelling cup of coffee, think about the families growing those beans and about how you can change their lives by choosing wisely.