Cafe Imports was founded on a simple idea – to honor the hard work coffee farmers were doing around the globe by telling their stories to coffee roasters and supporting them through price premiums and capacity building support. While this is not a novel idea today, back in 1993 when Cafe Imports was founded, this was unheard of. Coffee was sold broadly as from a specific country if you were lucky, definitely not down to a specific farm, process, or variety.
Cafe Imports got its start by purchasing one container of coffee from Brazil from a friend’s father’s farm and telling his story to coffee roasters that valued being connected to their coffee in a more intimate way. Thankfully, the market was there (albeit in it’s infancy) in the early 90s for our big gamble, and today we source premium coffees from most countries around the world that grow it. We are able to pay industry leading premiums to farmers, have an incredible network of suppliers and exporters, and our team has grown to be present on 4 continents buying and selling some of the best coffees in the world.
Our big challenge in 2022 and into 2023 was working through our B corp certification application. As of this publication, we have successfully submitted our application and are awaiting the next steps from B lab to achieve our certification. We believe this step will allow us to continue to be accountable to ourselves, our staff, our customers, and our suppliers in meaningful ways that will allow us to continue to improve the way we do business and better support all those that touch specialty coffee from the tree to the cup.
Thank you for your continued support!
We want our mission to be more than a statement. We want our mission to drive us to make impactful real world change, with and for the people who matter most. To do this we commit to updating and/or redirecting our corporate & sustainability strategy based on a collaborative process with stakeholders (like you!) across the coffee value chain.
By aligning our priorities on critical topics such as business ethics, human rights, or climate change, with those of our stakeholders, we hope to achieve three key goals.
the quality of life for those involved from the tree to the cup, through the commerce of coffee.
our negative impact on the earth through responsible and proactive business practices that emphasize environmental sustainability.
our passion for great coffee through education and example.
data collected through engagement and
surveying of Cafe Imports key stakeholders including producers, exporters, employees, roasters and non-profits*
Café Imports currently has offices in Minneapolis, Berlin, Melbourne, and San Jose, Costa Rica. We are proud of our incredibly capable and passionate team. Nearly 40% of our workforce has been with us over five years, and of that group, a large portion is getting close or just passed their 10 year mark with the company. We pride ourselves on offering a place to work that is enjoyable, offers memorable life experiences through coffee, pays fairly, and offers a platform to develop professionally and personally.
In 2022, 35% of managers identified as a woman.
Cafe Imports is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. We aspire to incorporate justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion into areas of employment, including but not limited to: recruitment, hiring, training, promotion, compensation, and benefits.. We commit to pay all employees a living wage at minimum and do not discriminate based on age, gender, race, sexual orientation or other social or cultural factors. Annually, we conduct a pay equity analysis to ensure that we have no pay gaps and we adjust wages based on living wage standards and discrepancies that may arise across departments and/or demographics.
Disability & Caregiver Status
All data was collected via anonymous survey. 47 of 73 employees participated in this survey. We aim to achieve a 100% response rate in 2023*
Cafe Imports was founded in 1993 and has many long-term partnerships with suppliers. In a dynamic and ever-changing industry, we believe adapting to the needs of these partners in meaningful ways is crucial to the continued success of the company.
Countries Sourced From
Average length of Supplier Partnerships
Active Supplier Partnerships
Partnerships greater than 10 years
Average Price Premiums Paid to Producers: The C market is generally accepted as the commodity price for coffee. We have determined both our price premiums paid above this commodity level but also wanted to go a step further and provide price premiums paid above the going specialty rate to further contextualize our impact on small-holder farmers.
3rd Party Certified (Organic, Fair Trade or Both) Purchases
Cafe Imports paid on average 52% over the C-market and on average 24% over the prevailing “specialty price” for purchases in 2022.
We believe there is a synergistic relationship between coffee, community, and progress: It can take an entire community to progress in producing coffee, and coffee can create progress for a community. While we believe this philosophy to be true with most coffee grown worldwide, Cafe Imports has developed and continues to seek community-driven programs on which we can collaborate with our producing partners, designed to support and contribute local initiatives within a myriad of coffee-growing communities.
Some of our annual community engagement includes coffee-adjacent projects that allow us to provide extra revenue for producers or funding for partners’ social projects in their local areas. The Women Coffee Producers program, for instance, is a sourcing initiative designed to help create more gender equity in the coffee-producing world by supporting women coffee farmers, many of whom struggle with disenfranchisement on a legal, social, and/or familial level. To try to bridge the wage gap that women in producing countries experience, we source coffees from women’s associations or the female members of mixed cooperatives, paying a $0.10 per pound gender-equity premium.
In 2022 Cafe Imports paid $71,441.70 in premiums directly to women farmers
While the Women Coffee Producers program is directly related to the sourcing of coffee, Cafe Imports also supports our partners in their own non-coffee-related community empowerment efforts. We know that the health and strength of the community is absolutely vital, and we see that truth expressed clearly in areas where coffee is a big part of the local livelihood. Our partners at CarmoCoffees in Carmo de Minas, Brazil, also recognize the significance of lifting up their neighbors in order to keep the precious ecosystem of work and life in balance, for the good of everyone. In 2013, CarmoCoffees intimated a program called CriaCarmo that provides social and athletic programs for at-risk and underprivileged youth in the coffee-growing area; Cafe Imports’ partners have given an owners’ equity contribution to the program since its establishment.
In 2022 Cafe Imports donated $10,568 to Cria Carmo in Brazil.
The check-off fund is a voluntary program established by WCR in collaboration with participating importing companies: Any interested customer can decide to have at least one half of one penny ($0.005) added to the price per pound of any coffee purchased through Cafe Imports. (Roasters can also choose another amount; many decide to contribute $0.01 per pound.) 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 and remitted directly to WCR on a quarterly basis.
In 2022 Cafe Imports donated $8750 to World Coffee Research and raised $8,156.77 through the check-off program.
In addition to important development projects in coffee producing countries, Café Imports also donates to some important domestic issues in the areas in which its’ offices reside.
• Friends of the Boundary Waters: In 2022 Cafe Imports donated $3000 to protect the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota
Cafe Imports has set aside 1% of net profits from 2022 for 2023 donations
A main tenant of our mission is to “spread our passion for great coffee and environmental stewardship through accessible education and example from the farm to the roaster, retailer, and ultimately to the cup.”
Cafe Imports has always taken an open-source approach to educational materials – from growing, sourcing, importing, analyzing, roasting, and brewing coffee.
To take this a step further, in 2022 Cafe Imports hired two additional full–time staff members with the focus of producing new free content and resources both for coffee farmers and coffee roasters.
At Cafe Imports, we strongly believe in social, economic, and environmental responsibility. With that responsibility comes the realization that we cannot save the world, but we can make every attempt to improve it through our global business actions. For us, this means promoting social programs at origin; paying premiums and providing financing to our producer partners; and minimizing the environmental impact of our daily operations.
Leave No Trace
Coffee is an environmentally taxing agricultural product in which to work, and that impact is created and felt at every link along the value chain. Rain, wind, and temperature patterns have changed dramatically over the past few decades, which causes confusion and complication both on the farm and beyond. As harvest seasons shift, so does a farmer’s ability to get credit, to hire labor, to find space at the mill, to navigate fluctuating prices on the market. Exporters contend with receiving late samples, and with congestion at the ports. Importers scramble to cover late deliveries, quality issues caused by changes to a farm’s terroir or the drying environment during processing. No one goes untouched or unaffected by the ways the climate is changing, period.
We know that we are just one company in a huge global industry, and that we alone can’t undo the mark humans have left and continue to leave on the planet. We also recognize that the work we do is very carbon-heavy, and that it’s our responsibility to mitigate the damage caused by the ins and outs of coffee importing. Every year we add more initiatives, try to take a closer and more critical look at our actions, and seek alternative ways to manage our contribution to the global climate crisis.
Trees, Water & People is a Colorado-based organization with whom we partnered for our carbon-offset program since January of 2017, after having worked with Trees for the Future for more than a decade.
TWP’s international efforts are focused in Central America, with community projects including establishing tree nurseries to replace native trees and to create shade over farm crops; clean cookstove construction to reduce smoke inhalation and firewood usage; and helping families and groups build rainwater cisterns that provide water for household and agricultural use. In the first two years of the 10-year plan, The cookstoves alone mitigate a significant amount of carbon; each new unit provides offsets for up to 2.2 tons of CO2e annually.
Through this partnership with “Trees, Water, People” Cafe Imports is end-to-end carbon neutral through delivery of a pallet to a roastery. Our long-term goal is to remain net zero emissions in partnership with an accredited organization.
Tons of carbon (CO2e) offset to date through partnership with Trees, Water & People
Number of clean cookstoves installed to date by TWP on behalf of Cafe Imports in Honduras
Number of nut, fruit, or pine trees planted to date by TWP on behalf of Cafe Imports in Honduras
While our investment with TWP is a pivotal way we are able to maintain our carbon neutrality, a status we’ve held since 2005, we also know that there are plenty of efforts and changes that can be undertaken closer to home. In 2015 Cafe Imports North America installed a solar-panel array, which accounts for a large portion of the energy used in our Minneapolis office. (In fact, our array is so large that we’ve had the unfortunate experience of box trucks driving into and smashing the southwest-corner panel at least three times since installation!)
This year our solar usage was 11.3 Megawatt hours, equivalent to the energy produced by nearly 114 automobile engines.
Speaking of automobile engines, another way that we encourage the entire Cafe Imports family to consider our collective environmental impact is by offering both a commuter rewards program and adopting a hybrid work environment: Every staff member across our international sales and sourcing offices is offered a $1 USD incentive for every commute to and from work that avoids solo-car transportation. That’s a potential $2 every workday for utilizing carpools, public transportation, walking, or bicycling to and from work. Also, certain employees have up to four days working remote weekly, avoiding significant transportation needs. In 2022, the commuter rewards program and hybrid work environment saved 62 metric tons of carbon.
2022 was the most turbulent year for both ocean freight and domestic freight in the shipment of coffee. Cafe Imports works closely with logistics partners to identify new avenues for shipping coffee that increase both the efficiency in which we can ship coffee, but also without significantly increasing our carbon footprint while doing so. For instance, in 2015 we made the decision to move coffee whenever possible from the port to Minneapolis by rail, which reduced our carbon footprint significantly. We continue to explore new avenues like the above with our total GHG emissions at the forefront of those decisions.
Through the importation and domestic shipment of coffee, Cafe Imports produced 520 metric tons of CO2 in 2022.
This is below 2021 (561 metric tons) by 7%.
Coffee is a seasonal product that is harvested at various times throughout the year. Climate change has fundamentally shifted the timeframe and frequency in which certain areas harvest coffee. This poses a serious challenge to supply throughout the year for a given product.
Through our on the ground sourcing team, we are committed to monitoring the harvest for each country we work. We began in 2021 sharing this data both internally and externally with our customers through “buy planning” emails by country which updates harvest times, quality assessment, and any other important factor potentially affecting planning and supply for the year.
Our international sales offices have also each invested in an organics waste program, collecting food and paper scraps to be turned into compost. In our U.S. office, two compost bins of 13 gallons each are collected at least once weekly by a private waste-disposal company that processes organics nearby. In our Australian office, coffee grounds are collected for compost use by the Melbourne Zoo; this past year Cafe Imports Australia diverted 650 kilograms of coffee grounds for this purpose. The Cafe Imports Europe office submitted its compost statistics as well, having diverted at least 500 liters of organic waste for compost.
In 2022 we partnered on green coffee with 1949 roasters. In the United States, we worked with roasters in all 50 US states (+ Washington DC) and globally we partnered with roasters in 51 other countries outside the United States.
Of these 1949 roasters we would categorize them in the following ways:
- Small-Medium Roasters 78% 78%
- Medium-Large Roasters 22% 22%
We have successfully submitted our B Corp application and are hopeful to be a certified B corp by 2024. This will help us continue to provide industry leading transparency and key improvement metrics to help us do more good in our industry.
We also have now dedicated a fixed percentage of profits to be donated to charitable causes both in coffee producing countries and domestically in the areas our offices reside.
We have rolled out an employee professional and personal development fund that each employee has access to in order to advance their job knowledge or other important life skill outside of the office. In addition, each employee now gets 1 volunteer day paid per year to maximize impact in our local communities.
Our goals are to continue to reduce our carbon footprint through proactive shipping and packaging choices along with our carbon offsets. We also aim to continue to maximize our impact with small-holder farmers through price premiums and capacity building.
Due to some of the structural changes we have made as a result of our B Corp certification process, we believe 2023 has the potential for us to have the biggest impact in our nearly 30 year history.
Thank you for continuing to partner with Cafe Imports!
We welcome your feedback, questions, and comments about the progress we’ve made and the work we have to do: Feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions or concerns you may have.