A Coffee for Every Cause

A Coffee for Every Cause

November 30, 2020 • by Robert Jones

A Coffee for Every Cause

A Coffee for Every Cause 1920 1080 Robert Jones

Statistics show that the coronavirus pandemic is changing the way Americans enjoy their coffee. With millions of people avoiding the office and working from home, our morning ritual isn’t what it used to be.

It’s hard to drop by Starbucks wearing a robe and bunny slippers, so no one was surprised when the coffee giant reported a 9% drop in same-store sales, similar to other brick-and-mortar locations. Instead of the café experience, more Americans are now making their coffee at home, driving a 10% sales spike for retail brands like Folgers and Maxwell House.

And that got us thinking: Instead of just grabbing a bag off the supermarket shelf, what if all those new home baristas tried sampling various coffees with a cause?

With that in mind, we decided to round up a few of the social impact coffee brands that are on our radar (or already in our pantry). If you know of others, drop us a comment below or tag us on Instagram @causeconsumer.

Coffee drinkers gather at A Second Cup in Houston

A Second Cup

Coffee for: Women

For more than 40 years, Women’s Bean Project has provided a pathway to independence and stability for chronically unemployed women – many with a background of abuse. A 7-month program in food manufacturing leads to a new career path, and additional resources – like healthcare, sobriety programs, and financial literacy classes ­– lead to a new life.

Boasting a 93% success rate, WBP programming is funded through sales of packaged food products including snacks, spices, soup mixes, and of course organic, fair trade coffee.

In just five years, A Second Cup coffee shop in Houston has established itself as a local hub in the fight against sexual trafficking. As a nonprofit social enterprise, A Second Cup can devote all of its proceeds to the cause. The shop has educated tens of thousands of customers, hosted more than 360 events to raise awareness of trafficking, and donated nearly $100,000 to its charity partners like Unbound and She Has Hope.

More recently, A Second Cup launched a culinary training program that “not only provides for the financial needs of survivors, but also serves as a means to independence and self-agency.” Direct donations make a lot of this possible, along with online sales of unique roasts like Tenfold Triumph and Hearts Ablaze.

A young intern works the coffee roaster at Humphreys Street

Humphreys Street

Coffee for: Children & Youth

One of our earliest article subjects, Humphreys Street Coffee and Soap, is still one of our favorite coffee roasters. (You can read their full story here.) As part of a nonprofit community development center, they provide job training and after-school programs to young people living in some of Nashville’s poorest ZIP codes. Their retail location has been hit by pandemic restrictions, so online sales are more important than ever.

When Level Ground Trading started its fair trade coffee business back in 1997, coffee farmers in Colombia cited educational opportunities for their kids as a top priority, and that’s been the company’s focus ever since. Through a foundation called Famicafé, Level Ground helps to provide hundreds of scholarships each year, plus breakfast programs, school supplies, and more.

For kids who live too far to commute daily, Famicafé has even offered a boarding house complete with a “dorm mom” – all part of a holistic effort to ensure that coffee empowers rather than exploits the people who produce it.

The team from Generous in Honduras


Coffee for: Community

Generous Coffee is the brainchild (heart child?) of three friends who wanted to build stronger, more resilient communities in Honduras, where 20% of the rural population lives on less than $1.90 a day. But it turned out that was just the beginning.

Co-founder Ben Higgins told us the mission is simple: “to sell the best quality coffee and use 100% of profits to fight human-facing injustices around the world.” Generous still donates every quarter to Humanity & Hope United, its first nonprofit partner in Honduras, but other beneficiaries include Best Buddies, Unicef, and Prison Fellowship.

Ben sees coffee as the first stage in a Generous Movement that includes apparel, accessories and more. We’re planning a feature story to unpack their mission a little more, but in the meantime, check out the eight coffee blends that started it all.

For a different approach to community, see our recent story on 321 Coffee, a North Carolina coffee shop that’s building a sense of community and belonging among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In a population where unemployment typically runs about 80%, this coffee company is showing what a truly inclusive workplace can look like. When you order their Elevate roast to brew at home, you help to realize that vision for inclusive community.

A mountain gorilla in Uganda

Gorilla Highlands

Coffee for: the Planet

There are only about 1,100 mountain gorillas left in the world, and about half that population is found in a single national park in Uganda. But even in such a protected environment, poaching is still a problem as impoverished locals venture into the forest in search of “bush meat.”

To reduce the economic desperation that leads to poaching, Gorilla Highlands Coffee helps to provide a sustainable livelihood for a farming collective some 1,500 strong. Family farmers grow high-quality, high-altitude Arabica beans that are sold to consumers from Australia to the U.S. – an economic development model that’s slowly increasing the numbers of one of the most endangered species on the planet.

Birds & Beans Coffee is tackling a different wildlife crisis. In South America, migratory songbirds are dying at alarming rates, and scientists say loss of habitat is driving the trend. Big coffee growers, in search of higher profits, are cutting down forests to grow coffee in full sun – a big change from the shade-grown varieties that have sustained smallholder farms for over 100 years.

By establishing fair trade relationships with small, family farms, Birds & Beans is helping to preserve about 100,000 acres of prime habitat for migratory birds – an accomplishment that earned Bird Friendly certification from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

A young barista works an espresso machine at 1951 Coffee

1951 Coffee

Coffee for: Hope

For refugees who lost everything in their home country, landing in the U.S. can seem like a dream come true – until they find it impossible to obtain work due to limited networks, job training, or language skills.

1951 Coffee was founded to “break the barriers refugees and asylees face in pursuing the financial stability needed to have self-determination.” Their Barista Training Program has more than 100 participants a year, and 78% of graduates get a job offer with a starting salary of nearly $17.50 an hour.

If you can’t visit their two California café locations, 1951 Coffee offers five specialty blends for enjoying at home.

With more than 2 million dogs euthanized in the U.S. each year, Jordan Karcher started Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co. with the goal of providing a second chance to unwanted pups. The company sources organic, eco-friendly beans from around the world, roasts them in small batches, and sells them online with 20% of profits earmarked for nonprofit partners like Humane Animal Rescue and Secondhand Hounds.

Over the years, those donations have had a lot of impact, like providing 2.1 million shelter meals, 8,500 toys, and 2,000 microchips. Most importantly, 2,750 dogs have been transferred out of kill shelters and saved from euthanasia.


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Cause: Community • Format: In Depth
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