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Coffee is the world’s second largest commodity behind oil, yet lacks the knowledge behind the process in which the coffee beans move from farm to cup. Meet 23 Degrees, the team initiating the step towards supplying high quality coffee beans from a sustainable supply chain that helps empower women, and supports self-contained environmentally friendly farms.
“What coffee can we find to tell a great story?” is what Tina Wendel, founder of 23 Degrees asks. Coffee – it’s a culture embedded in the café thriving city of Melbourne, Australia where Tina resides. Like herself, Melbournians are passionate about their coffee yet lack the knowledge behind the process in which the coffee beans move from farm to cup. Joined by an award-winning head roastress Anne Cooper, and First Crop green bean importers Tony and Celina, the 23 Degrees team was inspired ‘to do good’ and set out to find the best quality coffee beans grown sustainably. Their mission is to educate coffee growers and consumers in order to change the way in which coffee is consumed by developing a sustainable supply chain strategy. Currently, 23 Degrees supports female coffee growers through the Women’s Coffee Growers Program. There was something about a “women lending a helping hand to a woman” that compelled Tina to find a solution to coffee sustainability through female empowerment.
Post an extensive financial career, Tina returned back to her passion of education by becoming a part time university lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington. When asked about her ideas for a better world, Tina exclaimed “understanding comes from education”. In Tina's eyes, once the consumer is educated the negative repercussions of purchasing non-sustainably grown coffee, they will understand how large their impact can be on another human being, community, and even the environment.
The name ’23 Degrees’ refers to the bean belt that is bounded by the Tropics of Cancer and the Tropics of Capricorn. Countries within this belt such as Columbia, Brazil, and Ethiopia are large coffee bean producers, yet are still battling with gender inequality, poverty, and lack of education. Believing that women are vital to the coffee chain and essential players in the production of quality beans; 23 Degrees sought to work with these female coffee grower associations. These associations teach these women skill sets such as how to run their own farm, producing quality coffee beans and marketing their products. Thus, these women are able to have a supportable income, become role models within their communities and most importantly are less dependent on their male counterparts. With the drive of the First Crop green bean importer team to “know each of their farmers and stories behind, 23 Degrees is connecting to other sustainable farms such as a self-contained farm in Nicaragua whose revenue is used to establish schools, medical clinics, and even pay the university fees. The team is finding and connecting these environmental farmers with consumers and making consumers more environmentally conscious.
Sustainability in the coffee bean industry is still relatively new, with low consumer demand, and few retailers like 23 Degrees participating. This puts 23 Degrees in a strong competitive advantage against other coffee roasters if consumers want to purchase sustainable coffee. However, with platforms such as 3000 Thieves whom accredit artisan roasters promoting sustainability to showcase their coffees; consumers are becoming more aware of the implications of purchasing sustainably grown coffee beans on not only the farming community but the environment itself.
The possibility of providing education is essential for people caught in the poverty cycle such as many of the coffee bean farmers. It can give them the chance to provide for themselves, create judgements and opinions against social issues and hopefully make their way out of poverty.
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Tina Wendel, Founder