Higher Grounds Coffee | Our Purpose
High quality coffee is sustainable only through a human-centric approach. It's a simple idea. And as we like to think of it, our secret recipe for the best cup of coffee in the world.
Our circle model. We provide coffee drinkers with the opportunity to engage in a cycle that begins with, and returns to, our partners in coffee-growing regions. We’re fully engaged in that cycle, sourcing coffee directly from farmers through ownership of our importer Cooperative Coffees and circling back to the farmers and their communities via our sister nonprofit, On the Ground.
Exceptional coffee from a world of good friends. That’s right, friends: we visit the farms; we meet with growers—even if that means traveling dirt roads, past washed-out bridges, through riverbeds, and up mountainsides. We drink coffee together, talking about the best ways to keep their farms sustainable and profitable. (2020 may have thrown a wrench into our travel plans recently, but we'll be back off the beaten path as soon as it's responsible to do so!)
People + planet + profit. Craft is important when it comes to coffee, and we could go on all day debating processing methods or the best way to pull an espresso (really, don't get us started). But somewhere along the line it became clear to us that even the most talented, hard-working people can't focus on quality if they don't have access to basic human needs and rights, if they don't feel empowered. And that goes for everyone—from the farmers we work with to the staff we employ.
But you’re a business! you might say. Don’t you want to keep yourself sustainable and profitable? Well, sure. But we’re not so worried about ourselves. Our friends in coffee-growing regions have long struggled to stay afloat—small-scale coffee farming isn’t exactly a lucrative livelihood. Coffee farmers put in countless hours for an average yearly income of less than $300: that’s less than 2% of what a full-time worker on minimum wage in the U.S. makes in a year, and pocket change compared to what many of us spend per year on coffee alone. (Those two $4 lattes a week? Take a second to appreciate the luxury.)
The way we trade. Global fair trade standards dictate a “living wage” for these farmers, which means they’re guaranteed a certain price for their product despite fluctuation in the market. But that price isn’t enough. It’s not enough for families to afford access to clean water. Not enough for children of growers to attend school. Not enough to implement sustainable methods and develop communities with models for growth, not just models for hanging on by a thread. HG goes beyond fair trade to be direct and long-term in our relationships (with people, not just company names on paper) and transparent in all our business transactions.
Through our importer Cooperative Coffees (which we co-own), we pay a minimum $2.20 for all certified coffees, as opposed to the global fair trade organic floor price which is currently (as of February 2021) $1.90/pound. We provide premiums for quality and social impact projects. We provide pre-financing to our farming partners and work with open contracts, giving growers the power to determine their own prices when the C price lingers near our minimum. And three cents per green pound purchased goes to an Impact Fund which supports grower-led sustainability initiatives.
Go to fairtradeproof.org to follow the path each of our beans follows from field to cup. You can trust us to work for growers’ benefits far beyond what a minimum standard can provide.
Higher Grounds donates at least 1% of our profits to On the Ground, our partner nonprofit. On the Ground empowers coffee farming communities through gender and social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic security.