To many smaller or midsize companies, coffee can feel so vast and complex that it’s almost impenetrable: How can a 1-bag or a 1-pallet roasting company make any impact at all compared to a 1- or 100-container operation? The fact is, there is power in numbers and the small are mighty—there are myriad ways to contribute to the global good of the coffeesphere, and even to be a support to coffee producers everywhere without even taking out your passport.
One of the things we at Cafe Imports Europe love the most about our jobs is that we work with roasters who are as diverse as our producing partners: We are as happy to buy one bag of coffee from a farmer as we are to buy 100 or more, and we’re as happy to sell one bag to a roaster as we are to sell 100 or more. No matter the size or scale of your business, we want to help you make your mark and achieve your caffeine dreams (also maybe your decaf dreams—we do sell some of that, too).
In that same vein, we know that what seems like small change at first really adds up, and that every little bit helps. Which is why we’re pleased to extend a way to contribute to coffee’s future that costs literally a fraction of a cent, but which can cumulatively make an incredible world of difference: We welcome all of our roaster partners to participate in the World Coffee Research check-off fund, through green-coffee purchases made with Cafe Imports Europe.
The check-off fund is a voluntary program established by WCR in collaboration with participating importing companies: Any interested customer can decide to have one Euro cent, penny Sterling, or USD cent (€0.01 / £0.01 / $0.01) added to the price per kilo of any coffee purchased through Cafe Imports Europe. (Roasters can also choose another amount.) The total contribution per sale is calculated and included as a line item on a roaster’s invoice; the funds are tracked and collected by Cafe Imports Europe and remit directly to WCR on a quarterly basis. Participation is completely optional and as easy as filling the form on the bottom of this page or contacting your sales representative.
“The idea behind a checkoff program is not just our idea, it’s actually a way that agricultural research is often funded for other commodities,” says Hannah Neuschwander, WCR’s communications director. “If you think of the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign, it was funded by a check-off fund by the dairy council.”
Why does World Coffee Research deserve your pennies? Good question: Thanks for asking! The organization was established in 2012, as a result of the realization by many in the coffee industry that there was a huge need for a global body of research, and that the coffee sector needed to develop strategies to respond to obstacles that are particularly affecting producers worldwide. WCR is a joint effort among researchers, coffee companies, and in many cases national and international institutions, with a mission to discover and disseminate meaningful and practical data about coffee production through intensive and intentional scientific research. WCR has proved itself to be an open and transparent resource for facts and figures, extensive variety classification and study, and a means for producers to access not simply intangible knowledge but also actual plant material and farm solutions that provide practical assistance in the field and in the moment.
Hanna says that about 10 percent of World Coffee Research’s funding comes from the check-off fund, (though ideally that number would grow to be closer to 30–40 percent.) “It really funds all of our work—an overwhelming amount of things. Everything we do is funded by the check-off program. Primarily it funds our efforts to create new knowledge and new technologies for coffee producers,” she says. “Mostly we focus on genetics and agronomics: We ask the questions, ‘How do we help farmers be more profitable, produce more coffee, produce higher-quality coffee to be more effective farmers?’”
Just one example of the pivotal work WCR is doing for coffee is their ever-expanding and interactive catalog of Arabica Coffee Varieties (https://worldcoffeeresearch.org/work/coffee-varieties-mesoamerica-and-caribbean/), a gem of a resource that provides a snapshot into the history, functionality, hardiness, and morphology of 53 (and counting) varieties of Arabica coffee. (If you’re a coffee nerd and you haven’t seen this catalog, you’re in for a treat.)
As an independent nonprofit research organization, WCR relies on funding from contributing members, financial gifts, and other noncompetitive means. Its members represent the coffee industry’s entire spectrum, from huge companies and concerns like Keurig Green Mountain and even USAID to industry powerhouses like Counter Culture and La Marzocco, all the way to microroasters who buy coffee by the bag instead of by the pallet.
The check-off fund is a relatively painless and easy way for even the smallest roasters to have a lasting effect on the amount of work WCR is able to take on, maintain, and expand in the coming years. “The most really straightforward thing about the check-off program is that it’s just a way for roasters to participate in ensuring that every bean that they buy and roast and sell is helping the coffee industry, and is helping to fund this effort to innovate the agriculture,” Hanna says. “Your participation in the check-off fund is enabling that.”
What are the limits to participation? As far as Hanna’s concerned, there are none. “The dream is that every coffee roaster everywhere participates, that this just becomes the norm in the industry,” she says. “We want to see companies come together with their competitors—in a precompetitive way—to participate in [supporting WCR] for the good of entire industry.”
If you are a current customer of Cafe Imports Europe and would like to become a contributing roaster to the World Coffee Research check-off fund, or you are interested in becoming a customer and participating, submit the form below and a Cafe Imports Europe representative will be contacting you to get started. The future of coffee will thank you.