Yama Coffee Studio is known for its specialty Philippine coffee sustainably grown by the local farmers of the Philippines and its Japanese coffee brewing equipment for home brewing needs. Paolo Garcia owns it, and its mission is to elevate the country's coffee industry and give farmers opportunities to sustain their livelihood.
This social enterprise prioritizes coffee social sustainability, fair trade practice, and traceability and transparency to contribute to SDGs 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth, 10: Reduced Inequalities, and 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. Through these practices, this social enterprise and artisan specialty coffee roastery focus on empowering the marginalized sectors.
De La Salle University
Yama Coffee Studio provides quality coffee and service while maintaining humane practices towards its farmers and customers. The social enterprise sources its coffee through a cooperative in Atok, Benguet. Atok, Benguet is located in the Cordillera mountains, and the people in Atok have been growing Arabica coffee as an important source for livelihood in the area. Its location makes Atok ideal for growing coffee due to its high elevation and well-drained soil. Because of this, growing coffee has become a common backyard practice.
For every purchase of coffee, 40% of the proceeds goes to the livelihood of local farmers, and 25% is used to support Yama’s roaster’s expertise and continuous education. Through Yama Coffee, Cordilleran farmers and roasters are given the avenue to promote their expertise and benefit their agricultural sector collaboratively.
Decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, and responsible consumption are the sustainable development goals that have been observed from the company. These sustainable development goals have been championed through their values: Fair Trade Practice, Coffee Social Sustainability, and Traceability and Transparency.
The social enterprise upholds fair trade practices and makes sure that the farmers are compensated justly for their hard work. Yama Coffee goes beyond the standard of Traditionally, coffee beans sell for 180 Philippine pesos per kilo. Still, Yama Coffee strives to pay a premium price, about two to three times that amount, to encourage the local farmers to continue farming quality coffee. This practice ensures that the enterprise upholds its mission and advocacy for social sustainability. This leads to coffee social sustainability or the sustainability of harvesting quality coffee for the business and at the same time benefits the farmers. Furthermore, Yama Coffee invests in the coffee beans themselves. Still, they also empower and invest in their farmers by taking the time and effort to build sustainable and long-lasting relationships with them. Paolo says, "I treat [the farmers] with dignity by seeing them as humans and individuals, not as economic actors who should merely meet [Yama's] demands." By building meaningful relationships and genuine friendships, Yama Coffee ensures that the farmers are prioritized and listened to, allowing them to sustain their livelihood with this partnership.
Moreover, the social enterprise gives utmost value to traceability and transparency. They are transparent when it comes to the origins of the coffee and the people who farmed, roasted, and produced it. It is important to have respected customers know where their coffee is coming from and what percentage goes to the farmers. They want their customers to appreciate its origins, especially the mountain-grown Arabica beans. Contributing to customer appreciation of Philippine Coffee is “[their] way of highlighting and respecting the effort of farmers and roasters.” This kind of relationship is key to helping maintain their customers and find roasters for their coffee as well as to “fight against unethical practices and untraceable coffee as businesses tend to discredit, control and hide the effort of the farmers and roasters,” he added.
Paolo started the business around May 17 but has been working on it for about a year. Throughout the journey of building the business, Paolo had the experience of knowing the farmers not only for the business itself but also personally. Paolo saw and realized the potential of specialty coffee in the Philippines and realized that the Philippines could become one of the top producers of coffee in the world. As stated by him, “My vision is to roast sustainable specialty coffee that supports the livelihood of our local farmers and spark inspiration for consumers to appreciate Philippine local coffee. Ultimately, my mission is to elevate the coffee agriculture sector of the Philippines.” This vision has been his driving force to pursue his business not just for the agricultural aspect but also for the livelihood of the farmers, wherein forming a personal relationship with them itself has made him see so many issues in the coffee community. Due to the facts known by the situation, Paolo had the courage to take a step and fill the gap to help the farmers.
Seeing that coffee is a necessity, he took this opportunity to sustain the livelihood of the farmers by making sure that they would be paid a premium price, believing that this is what they truly deserve in the first place and encouraging them more to keep farming specialty coffee. According to an article written by US-based Neil Soque, a barista and roaster, the Philippines needs a good farming infrastructure wherein, “Local roasters must work directly, hand-in-hand with the farmers, by sharing new information and trends in improving the quality of the harvesting and processing sector.” Paolo is a catalyst of this initiative, especially in how much he expressed the importance of transparency. As seen in the packages of Yama Coffee, it includes the variety, producer, elevation, and process as part of the initiative to promote local farmers such as farmers from Atok and for the legitimacy of the product itself.
The young entrepreneur expressed how empowering it was for him to hear personal stories from the farmers, which led him to be more passionate about pursuing the coffee industry in the Philippines. Paolo is a clear example of how sustainability can shed light on the importance of promoting and supporting local products leading to sustainable agriculture in the Philippines. His continuous effort and determination to bridge the gap between local farmers promote inclusive growth that fosters long-term support to the livelihood of our dear local farmers.
“We make sure that we set the high standard to something and they meet the demand they deserve. When you think of coffee social sustainability, you think about how much we’re paying will sustain the life of farmers.”
Yama Coffee Studio has consistently shown its care and commitment to its partnered farmers and sustainability. Their impact can be readily seen in the community they serve, in the environment, and as well as, of course, in their business. Their innovation prioritizes their farmers in a way that ensures the sustainability and quality of their produce. The company has a direct economic impact on the farmers by going beyond what is expected of them set by the Fair Trade International practices. Their relationship with their farmers allows them to create a safe and trustworthy environment, which contributes to the business's smooth and successful flow. This alliance also creates a mutually beneficial relationship under radical innovation where a regional and social problem is addressed. Since Paolo is dedicated to improving people's perspectives around specialty coffees by incorporating local farmers and roasters in his business plans, his company contributes to the proliferation of local products.
Paolo also plans on launching a social program called “Plant-A-Tree,” where a tree will be planted in the farmer’s land for every Php 120 that a consumer spends to help their farmers produce a greater yield and give them support regarding their lands being potentially taken by corporations. In addition to Atok Coffee, Yama Coffee Studio encourages their partner cooperatives to sell their cascara, the sun-dried skins of coffee cherries. Typically, these are considered byproducts of coffee-making processes and are eventually thrown away or used as compost. The company sees cascaras as another sustainable product where it can be treated as a tea by steeping them in hot water. This practice has also been prevalent in other coffee-producing countries like Yemen, Ethiopia, El Salvador, and Bolivia. This eco-friendly process allows for less waste production and, at the same time, serves as an additional source of income for farmers who are members of the cooperative.
In upcoming and flourishing businesses nowadays, sustainability is a salient aspect that is substantially considered. A business that does more good than bad to the environment and society is the ultimate end game. For Yama Coffee Studio, this means using eco-friendly packaging materials except for their coffee pouches. Paolo recalls a conversation he had with someone who advocates for environmental sustainability who suggested using rice sacks in the packaging of coffee beans instead of plastic. Although this recommendation is great for steering the company towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly nature, it compromises the quality of the coffee beans, which is a major aspect of their business. As Paolo has explained, the rice sacks have the potential to waft their own scent and thus affect the quality and taste of the coffee. So when it comes to coffee pouches, Paolo iterates, “We really have to go for something that will preserve the hard work of the farmers,” thereby foregoing the use of rice sacks.
From a business perspective, going beyond the expected rate for the farmers means potentially less profit for the company as they will have to price their products higher than their competitors. However, considering the advocacy and sustainability goals of the company, the higher price they pay intend to assist local farmers in their lifestyles. This is to say that the higher price is directly tied to the high quality of the company’s specialty coffees and the insurance of a better revenue for the farmers.
Yama Coffee Studio also puts special importance on honing their relationship with their chosen cooperative. They plan to form new partnerships with a new farmer or cooperative to expand their reach in the long term. As of this writing, they are currently working with another farmer and one cooperative in Cordillera. By working with one lot at a time, they foster an environment with attentive ears and hands-on guidance and uphold the quality they promise. By supporting minority groups, taking responsibility for the cooperatives, using eco-friendly packaging, and encouraging the farmers to push their limits, Yama Coffee Studio establishes itself as a net-positive company where they provide more to the environment, society, and economy than the economy they take out. Because of this, the growth of their brand relies on the willingness to share their ambition and advocacy with the public.
The business centers on specialty coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association mandates that specialty coffee must come from its green stage. It is free of primary defects, has no quakers, is properly sized and dried, presents in the cup free of faults and taints, and has distinctive attributes. It is ensured by the owner that only quality coffee beans are selected. Specialty coffee is coffee in high grade evaluated by Q-graders through taste, smell, and sight and must pass the aspect grading and cupping test. This differentiates their product from commodity-graded coffee, which includes instant coffee businesses.
Hence, Yama Coffee Studio ensures an identity for having excellent quality coffee. This attracts coffee enthusiasts and normal coffee drinkers. The business also educates its customers on the coffee business's ethical practices and sustainable processes. The business is founded on premium standards. Its business’ edge among other coffee businesses is in its mission to promote sustainable coffee agriculture in the Philippines. Yama Coffee goes out of its way to exceed expectations and give its best for farmers, customers, and other stakeholders.
Yama Coffee Studio helps farmers by giving them higher pay while encouraging them to produce higher quality coffee. This allows farmers to have an opportunity to farm sustainably and make them cognizant of what specialty coffee is. They give farmers higher pay, so they stray away from exploitation practices and empower this marginalized sector.
“More on behind the scenes, more on having heart-to-heart talks with farmers — where they get the coffee. When you hear stories from them, it's empowering. They help me become passionate about Philippine Coffee.”
Compassion in collaborating with cooperatives can be seen in Yama Coffee’s drive and desire to give the best to their farmer cooperatives. The business also shares the art of making coffee as it shares the taste of high-grade coffee through a healthy process of creating it. Moreover, it promotes better alternatives to big coffee institutions that monopolize the industry. As an alternative to instant coffee and coffeehouse chains, Yama Coffee serves as a platform in representing what local farmers deserve and highlights quality coffee production.
The business, soon to be a social enterprise, also considers the environment by taking only what is necessary and giving attention to proper planting and harvesting practices. More than that, Yama Coffee intends to implement a plant-a-tree social program soon. Wherein for every Php 120, it will plant one plant in the farmer’s land. This proactive measure betters farmers’ working environment, for the more they have trees, the more they have a higher yield of the coffee.
Yama Coffee Studio successfully promotes sustainable coffee and empowers the marginalized through three key principles— good communication, compassionate intent, and just collaboration.
Paolo Garcia, Founder
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Baguio City, Luzon, PH
Business Website: https://yamacoffeestudio.com/
Year Founded: 2021
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
Yama Coffee Studio owned by Paolo Garcia, is a local enterprise that aims to provide good quality and sustainable sourced local beans that support Filipino coffee farmers of Atok, Benguet. Their aim is to engage the curators of coffee in their shared coffee studio to promote the Philippines coffee industry while supporting the livelihood of the local farmers in the country.