In the world of specialty coffee, sustainability is a term of varying definitions. Some roasters focus on economics, some on environmental impact and others on social change. Throughout our more than 35 years in business, Kobos Coffee has learned true sustainability comes when all of these issues are addressed.

BEGINNING BACK IN THE 70’S

David Kobos opened his first shop in 1973. He began roasting his own coffee shortly thereafter. At that time people were accustomed to paying just pennies per pound for their coffee. The beans David hand roasted would sell for $2.00 per pound. It was a risky venture that required the very best coffee and a sound economic platform – not only for David but the coffee farmers as well.

“I needed to give incentive to the coffee farmers by paying a premium price for the best coffee beans. I got great coffee, and they got the means to further their livelihoods”

David Kobos

It sounds simple, but the consequences for the farmers could be life changing. When you pay a coffee farmer the standard market price for his crop, the farmer continues living in poverty. And he has neither the means nor the incentive to make improvements. However, when you pay a farmer a premium price for the best coffee beans, the farmer is able to:

– ensure clean water for irrigation

– buy organic fertilizers instead of less expensive chemical fertilizers

– withstand an occasional lower yield during a bad growing season

– begin to climb free of the cycle of poverty

It was, and remains to this day, a model with lasting impact.

ORGANIC COFFEES

Almost twenty years ago – longer than some local roasters have been in business – Kobos Coffee became certified by the Organic Crop Improvement Association. We were one of the first Northwest coffee roasters to do so; a full ten years before the U.S.D.A.’s National Organic Program. We then began roasting and selling organic coffee, furthering our efforts toward economic sustainability and forging into greater environmental sustainability.

Kobos Coffee uses only organic espresso in our own coffee bars.

SOCIAL CHANGE & THE LONG TERM COMMITMENT

Any roaster can purchase fair trade coffee from a coffee broker; it doesn’t mean they’re in it for the long term. To accomplish meaningful change requires a commitment to the coffee farmers and their families. It means developing relationships built on trust, and trust takes time. At Kobos Coffee our relationships are built over the long term.

CAFÉ FEMENINO

One example of this commitment is our relationship with the Café Femenino Foundation. The foundation supports a collective of women coffee farmers. These women, some of whom have been abandoned and some abused, came together to grow and sell organic fair-trade coffee. They receive more than the typical fair-trade price and use the extra money to better their lives and communities. Brian Dibble, one of the owners of Kobos Coffee, has visited, on several occasions, the farms in Peru where some of the women work. Their determination has been an inspiration. Brian has a seat on the foundation’s board of directors – as the only man on the board, he was good-heartedly given the nickname Masculino (the counterpart to Femenino). Kobos Coffee roasts and sells Café Femenino coffee. We make an extra donation for every pound, which has led us to become one of the foundation’s largest contributors.

BRINGING IT HOME

Our efforts towards supporting communities and bettering the lives of their people do not happen only overseas. Every year we give to numerous local charitable organizations. Whether it be donating money, giving freshly roasted coffee or setting up and running our espresso cart for fundraising events, we believe in giving back locally.

And the state of our local environment is also a concern. We use low-energy lighting, recycle above and beyond that which gets picked up at our back door, offer environmentally friendly cups to our customers, and our coffee roasting facility surpasses D.E.Q. environmental standards. In fact, we were one of the first specialty coffee roasters to install an after burner on our roaster ensuring better air quality in our neighborhood. David Kobos had to have the first one custom built because he couldn’t buy one.

We are proud to have been at the forefront of economic, environmental and social change within our industry. And we look forward to continuing these efforts in the future. It’s all part of our goal to bring you the best cup of coffee, and to do so with honesty and integrity.