Natural Process Coffee

Have you ever tried natural process coffee? If you have, you probably noticed a difference! Known as “naturals” in the specialty coffee industry, these coffees impart a heavy, expansive mouthfeel and flavor notes that are fruity and complex. Equal Exchange now offers natural process coffee — and fans of this style are devoted. But what makes naturals so distinct?


Drying Coffee with the Natural Process

Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee plant. Like other seeds, they’re found within the fruit. In coffee-growing regions around the world, farmers wait for this fruit to ripen. Once the sugars are fully developed and the cherries are mature, it’s time to harvest them from the bushes where they grow. But what happens next? That depends.

Hundreds of small round coffee cherries are gathered on a cloth
These coffee cherries have just been harvested in Honduras.


Often, farmers remove the pulp that surrounds the seeds. Because this is commonly done with water, the method is called wet processing. But in some cases, the de-pulping step is skipped entirely. The coffee bean is processed within its cherry. The result is dry-processed – or natural-processed – coffee.

After farmers harvest the cherries, they spread them out on raised drying beds or bamboo mats to dry, with the beans still inside the fruit. The flesh shrinks down, making the beans resemble large raisins. They lose moisture over the course of the drying period, creating a dense sweetness. The process may sounds simple, but it takes skill. Workers must carefully remove unripe or defective beans by hand. They must also turn the coffee cherries regularly so that they dry evenly in the sun. Once drying is complete, which can take anywhere from twelve days to three weeks, beans are put through a hulling machine. This removes the dried pulp, parchment and silverskin. The green beans are now ready to be roasted.

Natural process coffee fruit dries in the sun on raised platforms
Ethiopian coffee farmers dry their beans as part of the natural process.

Environmentally Friendly – and Innovative

Natural processing is the most environmentally friendly method of processing coffee. Unlike with wet processing methods, there is no wastewater that must be evaporated in soak pits or filtered before it can be safely returned to rivers and streams. And when access to water is limited, as it is in many parts of the world, natural processing is especially practical. It makes sense that this method is very common in Ethiopia, where the coffee plant originated!  Equal Exchange works with small-scale farmer partners at SCFCU, located in the Sidama region of the country, to source the natural process beans we use in our popular Organic Ethiopian coffee.

The success of the dry-processing method in Ethiopia has encouraged coffee farmers in other parts of the world to turn to natural process coffee, too. Experimenting with processing is a one way to improve quality. Farmers at the COMSA co-op in Honduras are leaders in innovation. They’ve discovered that beans from the same lot can sometimes garner a higher score on the Specialty Coffee Associations of America’s 100-point scale when processed naturally, as opposed to with the wet process. COMSA’s willingness to try new things and their commitment to quality results in a final product that tastes phenomenal! In Fall 2018, a limited-edition seasonal in Equal Exchange’s Women in Coffee series featured natural-processed beans from COMSA.

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A group of twenty five people pose together under tropical trees.
A group of coffee farmers with their families and EE visitors at COMSA in Honduras.

Almond Butter Cups

Offer a snack that is vegan, paleo, gluten-free … and tastes decadent! You and your family can enjoy while feeling good about the ingredients you used and knowing how they were sourced!

Three chocolate almond cups on a plate next to a bag of fair trade chocolate chips.
5 from 2 votes

Almond Butter Cups

We like that these cups take very little time but fully satisfy your cravings for something chocolatey, sweet and crunchy. Plus, they’re made with organic, fairly traded ingredients!

Course Dessert, Snack
Keyword almond butter, Chocolate
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 12


Almond Butter Filling:

  • 1/2 cup almond butter (Make your own with Equal Exchange Almonds or use store-bought if you’re short on time.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon organic maple syrup

Chocolate Mixture:

  • 10 oz. Organic Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • 2 tablespoons melted organic coconut oil (We like Dr. Bronner’s because it’s fairly traded and whole kernel which gives it a nuttier flavor!)



  1. Add almond butter, vanilla extract and maple syrup to a bowl. Mix until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Place chocolate chips and coconut oil in a heatproof bowl. Set over a pot of boiling water (but not touching the water) and stir until melted.

  3. Place paper cupcake lines inside the cups of a muffin tin. Add a tablespoon of melted chocolate to each cupcake liner. Use a spoon to work the chocolate up the sides of the liner. Place the whole muffin tin in the freezer for five minutes, until the chocolate hardens.

  4. Remove tin from the freezer and place one scoop of the almond butter mixture in the center of each chocolate filled cupcake liner.

  5. Top each filled cupcake liner with remaining chocolate until the almond butter is completely covered. Place two whole almonds on the top of each almond butter cup.

  6. Place the cups in the freezer for five more minutes to firm up.

  7. Remove from the freezer and garnish the tops with coarse sea salt if you’d like.
  8. Note: It’s recommended to store the cups in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them. The airtight container ensures that the chocolate doesn’t absorb any other food smells and flavors that are also in the fridge.

Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from

Ballet 5:8 is on “Pointe” with Fundraising

We love to celebrate our many fundraising catalog partners. Each participating group makes a direct and positive impact on farming families across the globe as they offer their products to their communities. For this, we thank you! 

Ballet 5:8 logo

Ballet 5:8 is a 501(c)3 nonprofit based outside of Chicago. They’ve been partnering with our catalog program for over 5 years, raising $10,126 for their organization in that time! Successful fundraising is a crucial part of their mission to bring high-quality ballet performances and educational programs throughout Chicago and beyond. They take fundraising very seriously.

Photograph of Amy Sanderson, Executive Director of Ballet 5:8, Fundraising CoordinatorBallet 5:8’s Executive Director Amy Kozol Sanderson offered her insights about the nonprofit’s continued success with our fundraising catalog program. We asked Amy why an Equal Exchange fundraiser matches up so well with their organization. Here’s what she said:

Fundraising Tips from Ballet 5:8

Coffee and chocolate are great items that everybody loves! The items available in the catalog are great options especially for families that eat healthy and wouldn’t order other products such as frozen cookie dough.

We appreciate the generous profit margin of 40% that is available for nonprofit fundraisers. Many other similar fundraiser options only donate back 10-15%. The 40% makes this fundraiser very worthwhile for the time and effort of everyone involved.

The funds go directly to our dance education center, Ballet 5:8’s School of the Arts. This helps us keep our tuition low and accessible to community members of all walks of life, so all can reap the benefits of high quality dance education. The funds also help support our scholarship programs for students in particular financial need, as well as our professional-quality ballet performances, which we also work to keep accessible to our local community through low ticket prices and donated tickets. We are huge advocates of the ways the fine arts can strengthen and inspire communities!

Image of young students with teacher at Ballet 5:8

Planning and Promoting Raises More

We make sure to communicate very clearly to families about our mission and the nature of our organization as a 501(c)3 nonprofit that relies partially on donated funding. From there, with the enthusiasm about our mission, we communicate clearly on how families can help out with the fundraiser. Communication includes fliers and handouts, emails, and in-person reminders from instructors and staff people.

We ask each of the families participating on our dance education programs to take part in the fundraiser, and we give out prizes related to our school – Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts swag like t-shirts, and tickets to our upcoming Nutcracker production for the top sellers as an incentive to sell more.

Image shows students practicing at Ballet 5:8Organizational Tips

We’ve found it is best to have one person in charge of collecting orders and inputting them into the order spreadsheet; this minimizes typos and other errors. Make sure to double check once everything is in. Then, when it comes to sorting the orders, make sure to have plenty of volunteers ready to help! We’ve found there are usually some human error made during the sorting process, but it helps if the volunteer coordinator and the volunteers all know to keep going back to re-check sorted orders until they find the problem. Most of the time it can be spotted even if it’s on the 3rd or 4th try!

We have several office staff people who are involved in organizing. As mentioned earlier, having enough hands to help is crucial, but for the sake of organization and accuracy it is also helpful to have specific, individual people in charge of each area of responsibility.

Thank you Amy and Ballet 5:8! Your fundraising success is also a huge win for small farmers. Keep up the outstanding work!

What has worked for your organization? Let us know in the comments below or share with other Equal Exchange Fundraising organizers on Facebook. If you or someone you know would like to receive more fundraising tips and news from Equal Exchange, click here and sign up for our e-newsletters. 

Super-Savory Snack Mix

Party animals won’t be able to stop reaching for this snack on game day — it’s tangy, salty and a little spicy!


A close up of a snack mix containing fair trade nuts
5 from 1 vote

Super-Savory Snack Mix

A twist on an old favorite, using fair trade cashews and almonds, this mix pairs well with iced tea or ice cold beer!
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Keyword Nuts
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6



  1. Preheat oven to 250.
  2. Melt butter on stovetop or in microwave.
  3. Pour into a large bowl, stirring in sesame oil, hot sauce and soy sauce. Add the spices, tasting and adjusting to suit your preferences.
  4. Break pita chips into bite-sized bits.
  5. Add pita chips, nuts and popcorn and stir to coat everything with the butter mixture. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Bake 10 minutes, stir, then bake another 10 minutes.

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Silver Rail PTA Finds Success Fundraising

At Equal Exchange, we’re proud to help schools, nonprofits and organizations of all sizes raise money with an easy catalog program. Participating groups often reach – and exceed – their fundraising goals while also supporting authentic fair trade!

Silver Rail Elementary School is working to be a collaborative culture that encourages curiosity, critical thinking and problem solving as we engage in academics, wellness and service to the community.”

Silver Rail Elementary School opened in Bend, Oregon four years ago. As a new school in need of funding, the Silver Rail PTA is very active raising money for the school’s various programs including field trips, assemblies, reading programs, artists in residence, and a new LEGO® robotics program.Image shows Brant Himes of Silver Rail PTA

In the fall of 2018, Silver Rail PTA participated in the Equal Exchange fundraising program for the first time with a goal to raise $3,000. The campaign far exceeded that and they raised over $5,000! To learn just how, in their first year participating, their campaign did so well, we asked Silver Rail PTA President Brant Himes to share his insights to help empower others to succeed. Here’s what he said:

Why Equal Exchange?

Equal Exchange was a good fit for the culture of our school. Our school motto is ‘kindness matters. Equal Exchange gave us an opportunity to participate in a fundraiser where we could feel good about promoting and selling fair trade and organic products that aligned with our values of supporting community.

Planning & Education is Key

We started actively planning for this fundraiser during the Summer before the school year started. We ordered sample products to share at our September PTA meeting, and then had catalogs ready to go home in October. The samples and catalogs arrived very quickly, which made it easy to get organized.

We also appreciated the educational materials that were available, so our students could learn more about what makes fair trade different, and how Equal Exchange works with local farmers.

Good Promotion & Incentives Raise More Money

We sent home catalogs and a letter with every student, and promoted the fundraiser on our Facebook pages and in the school newsletter. We also had a kick-off assembly at the school where we challenged them with our school-wide goal: if we raised $5,000 profit, then the entire school would earn an ice cream party. To help foster a larger sense of community at the school, we opted for a school-wide prize instead of individual seller prizes.

Image of Silver Rail PTA volunteer organizing Equal Exchange chocolate.Organizational Tips

EE provided great resources for organization. I would advise making sure to review everything that EE provides as you go through the fundraiser. We devised our own system for counting and sorting orders, but then realized the EE had a great order form spreadsheet and so we ended up using that in the end.

We had our fundraising chair take charge of the organization for the launch of the fundraiser, and then our board helped support the fundraiser throughout, especially with counting and entering the orders.

Distribution Made Simple

We rallied a group of volunteers to sort the orders upon arrival, and things went quicker than we anticipated. Again, EE had great strategies for organization (like setting out all the products around the room in order of the order form), and this helped keep the process clear.

We had great enthusiasm for this fundraiser and I anticipate we will want to do it again next year. People loved the products.

Planning Now for Future Fundraising Success

Next year, we will promote more with local businesses to consider purchasing the gift packs for their holiday employee gifts, as we had a couple of large orders for these that really pushed us over the top of our goal. We will also be able to process the orders more quickly just having done this before. From beginning to end, this was one of the more smooth and successful fundraisers that we have done! Thank you for your support of our school!

We did meet our goal, and so it was exciting to provide the ice cream for the school!

Image shows interior of Silver Rail Elementary School

Well done, Silver Rail PTA! Your success is also a huge win for small farmers.

Do you have fundraising tips to share? Join other Equal Exchange Coordinators on Facebook and let us know.

Looking Behind the Barcodes

Next week, the Equal Exchange organizing deparment will be cohosting a webinar with Oxfam America on their Behind the Barcodes Campaign. Join us on Tuesday, January 29th from 4-5pm EST by emailing

Reposted from June 22, 2018 from Oxfam

By: Becky Davis, Oxfam

whole foods banner

Activists demonstrate outside a Whole Foods in Boston as part of the launch of Oxfam’s Behind the Barcodes campaign. (Photo: Elizabeth Stevens / Oxfam)

An estimated 22 million people around the world work for food manufacturing companies alone. But that number is just the tip of the iceberg. Millions more work in formal or informal roles, such as seasonal labor on plantations or on fishing vessels at sea.

And while supermarkets earn big profits, many of these workers, year-round or seasonal, face harsh and dangerous working conditions, earn low wages and live in poverty, struggle to feed their own families. From forced labor aboard fishing boats in Southeast Asia, to poverty wages on Indian tea plantations, and hunger among fruit and vegetable pickers in Southern Italy, human rights abuses are widespread among the women and men who produce the food that we buy from supermarkets around the world.

The global food industry generates billions in revenue every year, but the rewards are increasingly skewed toward the powerful. The eight largest publicly-owned supermarket chains in the world generate trillions in sales and billions in profits, and are keeping a growing share of the money we spend in the checkout line – while the small-scale farmers and workers producing the food get less and less. Human suffering should never be an ingredient in the food we eat. That’s why Oxfam launched a new campaign this week seeking to expose the economic exploitation of millions of small-scale farmers and workers face in food supply chains and to mobilize the power of the people around the world to help end it.

In our research, we found that:

  • The average earnings of small-scale farmers and workers in the supply chains of 12 common products—from South African grapes, to Peruvian avocados, to Indian tea—is not enough for a decent standard of living, and where women make up most of the workforce, the gap is greater.
  • Supermarkets have kept an increasing share of the money their consumers spend, while the share that reaches workers and food producers has fallen, sometimes to less than 5 percent.
  • The eight largest publicly-owned supermarket chains generated nearly a trillion dollars in sales, $22 billion in profit, and returned $15 billion to shareholders in 2016.
  • Food insecurity is common, according to surveys of hundreds of small-scale farmers and workers across five different countries working in the supply chains of supermarkets.

As part of the campaign, Oxfam looked at the policies and practices of some of the biggest and fastest growing supermarkets in the US and Europe, focusing on four themes: women equality, worker’s rights, small-scale producers, and transparency.

In the US, Oxfam assessed and ranked six of the biggest retailers, including Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons, Costco, Whole Foods and Ahold Delhaize, the parent company to retailers such as Food Lion, Giant, and Stop & Shop. In general, US supermarkets scored very low across all four themes assessed, demonstrating that they have little awareness on these issues and have not yet chosen to prioritize human rights, due diligence, supply chain traceability, living wages, and gender inequality issues.

Oxfam and the Sustainable Seafood Alliance Indonesia looked specifically at working conditions in seafood processing in Southeast Asia, interviewing workers from some of the biggest shrimp processors and exporters in Thailand and Indonesia that supply to supermarkets like Whole Foods, Ahold Delhaize, Kroger, Costco, Albertsons and Walmart. Through the interviews, we found that wages are so low that 60 percent of women workers surveyed in Thailand were severely food insecure, workers in both countries struggled with controlled access to drinking water and toilet breaks, and were forced to put up with routine verbal abuse by supervisors.

One woman, Melati, told us that she was trained to peel 600 shrimps per hour but was never able to attain that goal. The conditions she was working in at the processing plant in Indonesia were dangerous and she struggled to breathe and burned her hands because she didn’t have proper protective equipment when handling cleaning chemicals like chlorine.

Melati and women like her toil in processing plants in Indonesia and Thailand for little pay. In fact, we calculated that it would take women like Melati 4,000 years to earn what the chief executive at a top US supermarket earns in a year.

Our analysis found that US supermarkets can do much more to support the millions of workers, small-holder farmers, and fisherfolk who grow and produce our food every day. And it isn’t just about paying a higher price, though that would help. As supermarkets have gotten bigger so too has their power. This allows them to set the terms for how they will source their food, from quality and timing to price and risk. Throughout supply chains, more and more risk is being placed on farmers and suppliers and the pressure to produce quality products under extreme time pressures is being borne by workers as well. As our US Supermarket Scorecard shows, the industry has more to do to take the human suffering out of our food.

You and I spend enough at the grocery store to ensure women like Melati have decent working conditions and earn a living wage. Supermarkets depend on us, their customers, so they have to listen. Call on supermarkets to help end the human suffering behind the barcodes by taking action and joining the Behind the Barcode campaign today!

To learn more about how you can be an integral part of Behind the Barcodes join our webinar on January 29th from 4-5pm by emailing

Guacamole Recipe

Time for guacamole! Our favorite recipe comes from our friend Scarlett de la Vega Ochoa, a native of Puebla, Mexico. Here’s how she makes it!

Bowls of food, including fresh guacamole and corn chips, crowd a table
5 from 1 vote

Scarlett's Guacamole

Try a guacamole recipe from Mexico! This creamy dip is sure to delight you and your party guests. Fair trade avocados = perfection.

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword Avocado
Servings 6


  • 4 avocados
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1-2 limes, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Finely chop the garlic, onion and cilantro and juice the limes.

  2. Cut avocados in half, remove the pit and slice. Detach avocado from peel with spoon and place fruit in a bowl.

  3. Pour juice of one lime along with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. With a fork, smash the avocados until all ingredients are mixed.

  4. Add onion (if it's too strong, rinse with warm water first), cilantro, and tomatoes.
  5. Mix and taste it. If it needs more lime, add the other one and mix again.

A single avocado hangs on a long stem from a tree

Equal Exchange proudly works with PRAGOR, a group of small-scale avocado farmers in Michoacán Mexico. Corporate interests have made it difficult for small-scale farmers to compete in the market. But the farmers of PRAGOR organized to control the entire process, from growing to exporting.

Ask the produce department at your local grocery store to carry fairly traded avocados from Equal Exchange!


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Fundraising with a Spring Theme

Fundraising with Equal Exchange is effective any time of year, but add in a special theme during the first half of the year can help you get to your goal faster. Here’s how…

Planning a campaign with a holiday or a seasonal theme gives you the power of suggestion. People automatically will view the fairly traded, organic products featured in the fundraising catalog >> as a gift-giving opportunity. Gifts are priced higher than the other items in the catalog, so you’ll raise more money. For example, five individual chocolate bars sold during your fundraiser will raise approximately $8.00 for your group. If those five chocolate bars were instead five gifts of the Equal Exchange’s Chocolate Bar Collection, you’d raise $62.00 instead of $8.00! It’s the same amount of work, but gifts will help you reach your goal much quicker.

Themes also inherently provide a special energy! People can get excited for Mother’s Day, for example. And, the deadline for your campaign becomes relevant to your supporters so they can get orders to you in time.

If you’re not sure how to promote your fundraiser, themes give you plenty to talk about throughout your campaign. (Click here for more tips to help you promote.) Use social media, newsletters, website, flyers and whatever works best for your group to tell them.

“Mother’s Day is a few weeks away! Our fundraiser ends Friday so order her perfect gift today!”

Pick a Theme for your Fundraiser

Every calendar year offers plenty of themes to choose from. And don’t overlook your organization’s special dates, such as an anniversary. Pick what works for you, then use this guide >> to plan your schedule. Here are a few springtime suggestions to kick off the new year with a successful fundraiser:

  • Small-farmer Products for 1st Day of Spring (March 20) or Easter (April 21)
  • Organic for Earth Day (April 22)
  • Delicious Gift Giving for Mother’s Day (May 12)

To raise the most, we suggest that you give yourself as much time as possible to run a successful fundraiser. Why wait? Request your free catalogs>> today and get the first step out of the way.


Image shows Equal Exchange Tea with text, "Small Farmer Teas for Spring or Easter"
Image shows female farmer picking coffee beans with text, "Organic for Earth Day"

Image shows Equal Exchange coffee with text, "Delicious Gifts for Mother's Day"

What theme has been successful for your fundraiser?

Equal Exchange fundraising organizers want to know! Share your fundraising experience with our special group on Facebook>>.

Sharing + Saving = Buying Club

Buying clubs offer you the opportunity to make a real difference for small farmers around the world while paying less for your favorite organic and Fair Trade foods.  Order together and get staples like coffee, tea, chocolate, olive oil and more at low wholesale case prices. We’ll ship orders of $75 or more for free.

We’re not talking about ordering a pallet’s worth of coffee!  Although we do offer some bulk products, most products come 6 or 12 items in a case.  And you’re still welcome to purchase individual items at retail pricing too.

Buying clubs not only make financial sense and build community, they also minimize your environmental impact.  They help you use less packaging and achieve a lower carbon footprint by consolidating shipments. Buying clubs are also ideal for folks who don’t live near a natural foods store or food coop and want access to affordable, high quality, ethically sourced products. Ordering together also means a unique opportunity to try-out new products at a lower price than if you had to buy something individually off of the shelf.

Follow these 5 steps for a thriving buying club:

1.Gather your group

Reach out to

  • Family or friends
  • Members of your gardening club, book club, or social justice group
  • Neighbors
  • Co-workers

Pro Tip: Host a coffee or chocolate tasting when you introduce the idea of the buying club. Not only will it make it easier for folks to decide what to order, but we’ve found that once people taste the quality, they are likely to want a regular supply! Use these key talking points to get people on board.

2. Get organized 

Once you have a group together, select a coordinator and a treasurer.

The coordinator:

  • Takes individual orders from members and collects them into one group order
  • Places your group’s order with Equal Exchange
  • Distributes products to members or sets a pick up time and location after the products are delivered

The treasurer:

  • Collects payment from members
  • Pays Equal Exchange within 14 days of each order
  • Loves numbers and is organized


3. Plan an order

  • Visit to see our full product range. You’ll see price options for an individual item and the discounted cost per case. Buying clubs must purchase a full case of  a particular product to qualify for wholesale pricing, although you are still welcome to purchase individual items at retail pricing as part of your order.
  • For your first order, we suggest limiting the range of orderable items to some of Equal Exchange’s most popular products, but for a larger selection you can print out our colorful product and price list for each member so they can see how many items are in each case and what the cost per item would be if there are enough orders to fill a case. Requiring pre-payment, at least on your first order, is a good way to make sure that the members of your buying club are serious about participating responsibly.
  • Equal Exchange’s best sellers include:

    Pro tips: Ordering 5-pound bulk bags of coffee to share? Order our tin-tie bags for easy  labeling and distribution. If your buying club is small, consider requiring that members purchase products in full or half-case quantities to minimize leftovers.


    4. Place the Order

    Gather individual orders from club members. Use our order form, or create your own that includes only the products your group orders.

    Pro Tip:  Order $75 worth of products to qualify for free shipping.

    Then, place your master order:

    You’ll pay in full at the time of your order, but if your group is interested in paying an invoice after receiving the shipment, Equal Exchange allows Net 14 payment terms. To apply for credit terms you’ll need to have one order pre-paid with a credit card then fill out our form agreeing you will pay within 14 days of receiving your order. Contact Customer Service at 774-776-7366 to find out more.

    5. Distribute, Enjoy and Reorder

    When products arrive at the designated pick-up location, have a consistent system for distribution. Collect payment when people pick up their orders, if you do not require members to pre-pay. A payment app like Venmo is an easy system to use. Enjoy your good deals, your good food, and place another order when you have critical mass.

    Pro tips: Why not make the pick-up time a chance to enjoy each other’s company? You could hold a chocolate tasting or taste-test newer product releases. Equal Exchange offers a rewards program where you can earn “beans” to be redeemed for things like discounts!

    If folks tend to want the same products regularly, we’re soon going to debut a subscription order program so buying club members don’t always have to remember to re-order. It can arrive at monthly or on your own time-line.

    You can even expand your buying club to include sharing larger quantities of products from local farms. Imagine the feeling of knowing where almost all of your food comes from and the farmers behind the food!


    Not sure buying clubs are for you?

    Read why Edith Stacey-Huber, who runs a successful buying club, chose to start one. Maybe you have some of the same goals?

“The first buying club I started was in the early ‘90s. That club was started out of financial necessity, and as I look back, I was motivated by my view of a monopolized grocery system. There were very few stores, thus the lack of competition didn’t evoke any savings to the consumer. I was also looking for organic food, real food, and there were only two small health food stores in the city.

Since my relatives were farmers it wasn’t outside the box for me to seek out food from farms. Seeing the commitment of our local organic farmers to grow food the way they do, some for years, barely making it, but still staying committed to what they know is right–I couldn’t turn a blind eye to that. I found a small natural foods distributor, gathered a few friends and the first club was born.

Once I started procuring food this way, there was no turning back.  The club model has changed over the years with the obliteration of small distributors, and my deeper awareness of food justice and buying local, but I was always either a key member, treasurer, coordinator, or founder of a club.

Our current club model has taken bolder steps to remove ourselves completely from the commercial food system. Personally, our family has a direct connection to our food and I would say 80 percent of the food we eat, we know who grew it or the source it comes from.

I think consumers have the potential to hold all of the power, if we organize, become diligent in our efforts and become truly informed voters and active in spearheading the changes we want to see.”

  • Edith Stacey-Huber is passionate about food. She is the creator of the food buying club Authentic Provisions just outside of Ann Arbor, Mich. Authentic Provisions aims to reconnect people in the community to the food, land and farmers who sustain them, through collective purchasing outside of the corporate food system. Her quote above has been excerpted from a longer interview with Edith  on our blog from May 2017.

Hot Chocolate Bar With Toppings!

Winter days and bad weather mean … hot chocolate season! Share a steaming cup of cocoa with friends, dressed up with custom toppings. Line up your favorite fixings and gather a group for a DIY hot chocolate bar. This is a fun, hands-on activity —  and an effective way to raise money or raise awareness. We’ll show you how!


First, you’ll need the cocoa!

You can’t have a roof without a foundation. And you can’t have toppings without a good cup of hot chocolate! Mix up one huge batch of cocoa for everyone, keeping it warm in a carafe or thermos. Or give each person the opportunity to pair their own dairy or plant-based milk with the cocoa of their choice.

Milk, soy miilk, almond milk and pother options

Equal Exchange offers a variety of amazing organic and fair trade cocoa options. Traditional Hot Cocoa keeps it super-simple, with powdered milk from Organic Valley right in the canister. This simple mix can be stirred with hot water for instant satisfaction. Looking for more adventure — or a dairy-free option? Our Spicy Hot Cocoa adds a touch of cayenne and cinnamon for a Mexican-inspired kick. And our special Dark Hot Chocolate includes shaved chocolate as well as cocoa for double the rich, chocolatey goodness. These two are Vegan and contain no dairy ingredients. Prepare them with skim, whole, soy, almond — whatever you like best.

For a truly gourmet experience, you can mix up hot chocolate from scratch, the European way. Just combine one tablespoon of Organic Baking Cocoa with 8oz of heated milk and a sweetener like sugar, honey, or agave, and blend it all together. Or try this decadent recipe for Rosemary Drinking Chocolate that calls for baking cocoa and chopped chocolate. Yum!

cups and organic hot chocolate

Set Up Your Hot Chocolate Bar

Here are some set-up ideas for your Hot Chocolate Bar. Ask members of your group to bring in mugs and arrange them all at one end of a long table. Then, line up toppings in low dishes or clear jars, so everyone can see what’s up for grabs and add what they like. Don’t forget serving spoons — and something to stir with.  Make sure to label the toppings, including allergen information for safety.  If different people are bringing in toppings, you might want blank labels and pens. This activity can get messy, so we recommend a tablecloth and napkins.

Cocoa Topping Inspiration

What will you put in your cup? Think outside the box! Once you’ve heated up the cocoa — one serving at a time or in batches — and poured it into people’s mugs, give them lots of treats to choose from.

a linke of toppings in jars

SWEET: marshmallows, fluff, candy hearts, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, sprinkles, candy canes, truffles, shaved or crushed chocolate bars (try our top picks, Dark Chocolate Mint Crunch or Dark Chocolate Orange), ice cream, whipped cream

SAVORY: pretzels, sea salt (or perhaps a Caramel Crunch and Sea Salt chocolate bar in Milk or Dark), peanut butter topping, peanuts, almonds, coconut shavings, churros, waffle bits

SPICY: Cinnamon sticks, peppermint sticks, peppermint drops, candied ginger, shakers of ground cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg or allspice

ADULTS ONLY: Try spiking your cocoa with a shot of whiskey, rum, or the flavored liqueur of your choice. Or add in fresh-brewed fair trade coffee — our favorite thing!

Make This Work For Your Group, Cause or Event!

A hot chocolate bar is truly DIY and customizable. We think it’s a great activity for people of any age who like to have fun together — whether you’re a scout troop, an underground dance collective, a book club or a religious study group! DIY cocoa is also fun for parties and class celebrations. Just make sure to provide appropriate toppings for the size and tastes of your group.

A hot cocoa bar with finished cups of cocoa

Maybe you’d like to raise some money for a local charity, a school trip, an adoption or medical fundraiser, or some other good cause. This is a great way to do that! Ask for a donation for each cup of cocoa. Make sure it’s enough to cover the cost of the toppings — we recommend $2-3 a cup. Earn even more cash by ordering Equal Exchange cocoa at low wholesale case prices and selling it to folks for home use. We find people are willing to pay $7-8 per canister — a markup from the $5.30 per canister cost — when they know the profits are dedicated to a worthy purpose. (Especially once they’ve experienced how delicious it is!) This is called a table sale. Learn more about how do run one here.

Stacked of cocoa cans with a sign pricing them at $7 each

A hot chocolate bar is attention-grabbing and fun. So it’s a perfect way to get attention for an upcoming event. Invite your supporters over for some cocoa and tell them about the concert or book launch you’re planning. Combine it with an informal training or use it as an icebreaker at a meeting. Planning to run an Equal Exchange catalog fundraiser? Kick off your campaign with a hot cocoa bar — use it as an opportunity to let potential supporters taste the great fair trade products you’ll be selling.

toppings with a sign that says "try before you buy"


Ideas we didn’t cover?

We’d love to hear from you! If you tried this, let us know how it went. We’ll share our favorite pictures and tips on social media.

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