Equal Exchange belongs at the Farmers Market

This guest post was written by Rev. Cynthia Wickwire Lundquist (pictured above, left, with Anneliese Bruegel, manager of the Fredonia Farmers’ Market.)

The Idea: Food Justice

It happened at a planning session for our church mission program. We had recently established a food justice program and wanted to expand it. “How could we better serve our community?” we asked ourselves.  And one of our church leaders said, “Why don’t we sell our fair trade food at the local farmers market?”

We had sold some Equal Exchange products to our church members for several years. Then we started to use the coffee in our coffee hour, then the sugar packets, and eventually the compostable paper cups. But this was a chance to do more. It would allow us to take the message of fair trade beyond our four walls.

It seemed to be an inspired idea in the truest sense. First, we were in a university town so we felt sure that there would be a market for these organic and fair trade products. Also, it meant that we were expanding our international mission outreach in that we could increase our support of the farmers all over the world who are Equal Exchange trading partners.

 

A group of elderly churchgoers show off the fair trade products they plan to bring to farmers market.
The group of people who reached out to the farmers market: Cindy Rechlin, Tom Gordon, Carrie Divine, Tom White, Betsy White and Cynthia Wickwire Lundquist.

 

Approaching the Farmers Market

But, we asked ourselves, would the farmers market welcome us? Their mission was to provide a market for crops raised by local farmers. We made contact and described our goals:

  1. To help international farmers
  2. To spread the word about the importance of buying fair trade products
  3. To increase the availability of organic products.

We also agreed to sell only products not carried by our local farmers, such as granola bars and jams. Finally, we told them that we would be selling the products at essentially wholesale prices so this was a non-profit endeavor. (In fact, we did round up the prices in a few cases. We use this to cover the cost of renting space at the winter indoor market and the cost of a tent, tables and display pieces. If we ever make a true profit, we plan to donate it to the Freedonia Farmers’ Market.)

 

Bring Fair Trade to your OWN Farmers Market with these tips >>

 

Success!

Then the market agreed to let us come and the experiment started. And what a success it has been! We are now in the top 5% of Equal Exchange’s sales to churches and community groups.

But that was not the biggest surprise. The biggest surprise is that our presence has benefited the farmers market. At the beginning, we only participated twice a month (two Saturdays out of four) but soon, if we weren’t there, people began to ask about us. We became a draw for the market. As the market manager said recently, “It is a symbiotic relationship.” They helped us spread the word about fair trade and we helped them bring more customers to the market. And the real winners are, of course, the farmers near and far.

Now, we have expanded our participation in the market and the variety of products we sell. We are grateful to Equal Exchange for their high quality products, of course, but most of all, for helping us expand our ministry of food justice for all.

 


This article was born at the Presbyterian General Assembly this year in St. Louis when the Rev. Cynthia Wickwire Lundquist, pastor of the Fredonia Presbyterian Church in Fredonia, New York visited the Equal Exchange booth in the exhibit area and told us her story. Peter Buck from Equal Exchange asked her to write it up and send it along —  and here it is!

Do you have a story to tell us? Send it (with pictures if possible) to Kate Chess, the editor of our blog, at kchess@equalexchange.coop.

 

 

What Do Folks Say About Our Coffee?

This summer, Equal Exchange brought our coffee and chocolate on the road to Austin, Texas for the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. We shared a table with our partners at Episcopal Relief & Development and poured out our fairly traded brew to all comers.

Over the course of nine days, we had a lot of wonderful conversations about fair trade values, fellowship, and favorite blends! People were excited to hear about the new low price of Organic Breakfast Blend, which makes it easier than ever to serve it at church.

Here’s a mosaic of just a small sampling of the folks who enjoyed our coffee, with their names — and their thoughts — below.

A collage of fifteen photos of diverse people enjoying Eqyal Exchange coffee at the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church.

Who are these happy coffee drinkers?

Read their stories, in their own words.

1. The Very Rev. Joseph Kerwin Delicat, Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

 The newly elected bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Haiti stopped by the Episcopal Relief & Development booth to enjoy a cup of Equal Exchange coffee!

 

2. Carol Folbre, St. John’s Episcopal in New Braunfels, Texas

“I’m part of a Ministry of Contemplative Action (MOCA). The philosophy is to go to social action events together and then reflect. Coffee is perfect for this ministry. We use the phrase ‘sip by sip.'”

 

3. Captain Louis Cavaliere (U.S. Navy Retired), Grace Church, Merchantville, New Jersey

“The coffee is great and the dark chocolate is good for you!”

 

4. Sharon Hilpert and Ardel Hansen

These two women stopped by the booth after going by bus to show solidarity to the women at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. 

 

5. Terri Bays, Church of the Holy Trinity, South Bend, Indiana

“I’m the poster child for coffee addiction.”

 

6. John Chilstrom, St. Matthews Episcopal, Austin, Texas

“Before the end of General ​Convention​, I wanted to make sure I placed my first order for coffee, and I did — online!”

 

7. Ann Bustard, Christ Episcopal Church, New Bern, North Carolina

“My favorite Equal Exchange coffee is African Roots.”

 

8. Margaret Moses, Church of the Ascension, Mt. Vernon, New York

“Your coffee is delicious. It’s a nice roasted flavor which reminds me of Blue Mountain coffee in Jamaica, where I grew up.  That’s why I keep coming back.”

 

9. Chad Brinkman and Sean McConnell, Episcopal Relief & Development staff members.

“Both of us love the Equal Exchange dark chocolate bar with Lemon, Ginger, and Black Pepper. It’s our favorite.”

 

10. Sarah Lawton, St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco, California

“We use Equal Exchange coffee every Sunday. It tastes really good. We have a lot of connections as a church to Central America. We know that coffee is so important to that region and we like to support farmers there.”

 

11. Abraham Ndungu, Trinity Episcopal Church, Columbus, Ohio​

​”Fantastic coffee, super chocolate.”​

 

12. Xerxes Eclipse, Episcopal Relief & Development staff member.

Xerxes enjoys coffee and coloring at the Episcopal Relief & Development booth.

 

13. Timothy Kimbrough, Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, Tennessee

“I could not have gotten through General Convention without it. It’s been my pick-me-up through the afternoon sessions. Thank you for being here.

 

14. Bernice Turner, St. Katherine’s Episcopal Church, Baltimore, Maryland

​​”I love the taste of your coffee.”​

 

15.  Alex Merritt, St. David’s Episcopal, Austin, Texas

“Episcopal Relief & Development does so much important work; it’s work that impacts some of the world’s most vulnerable people. And the coffee is delicious.”

Za’atar Roasted Cauliflower with Dates and Almonds

This recipe has elements of sweet and savory, zesty and crunchy and goes well with any main dish or atop a bed of quinoa or other grain.

Roasted cauliflower
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Za'atar Roasted Cauliflower with Dates and Almonds

Course Side Dish
Keyword Palestinian Products

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower cut into florets
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Za'atar
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 5 Equal Exchange Medjool Dates pitted and chopped
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese optional
  • Quinoa, freekah, maftoul, or other grain for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, garlic powder, and za’atar spice. Place the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil mixture. Sprinkle salt and pepper and toss to combine. Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes or until golden brown, stirring halfway through.
  2. While the cauliflower is baking, heat a small pan on medium heat. Toast the almonds in a dry pan for 2 minutes, then add 1 tsp. olive oil, the chopped dates and thyme. Stir together for an additional minute. Once the cauliflower is done, top with the date mixture. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese if desired.
  3. Serve warm on a bed of quinoa, freekah, maftoul, or other grain.

Recipe Notes

Recipe & photo courtesy of Blanche, feastinthemiddleeast.com.

 

The Birth of Portland, Equal Exchange Goes West to Stay Series

By Jennifer Pruess, Equal Exchange 

Equal Exchange has been operating in the Portland, Oregon area since the mid 1990’s. As a worker-owner of Equal Exchange, I was curious about this transition of the company from being east-centric to bicoastal. How did it all begin? Who was involved? What is the unfolding story and how did it take shape? Where did we come from and where are we going?

Luckily, Equal Exchange still has several key figures in its ranks to speak with, so I first spoke to fellow coworker and co-owner, Tom Hanlon-Wilde. Through this process, many more names have risen to the surface, bringing with it the opportunity of sharing many more stories of how Equal Exchange has grown over the years. I hope to share the story of Equal Exchange and its presence, purpose, and mission in an ongoing series. To start things off, here is the conversation Tom and I had late July, 2018.

I want to hear about how you started with Equal Exchange. What was your role in the beginning?

I started when we were in Stoughton.  I had worked for the government on Latin American economic development and activities and then I went to work for a private company startup importing fresh produce, alternative trade with Latin America.  It was nice to do a government job but depending on tax money was a downside.  Working in the private sector was good but there wasn’t as much a development aspect in just the business side of it.

When I was done with the produce job, I was out shopping at the local co-op near our house out here in Allston, Massachusetts.  and there was a sign up for Equal Exchange hiring a sales rep and one of my friends was like you should apply for this and when I came here I was like “Oh, this is where all my folks are.”  I interviewed and started in March 1995 at Equal Exchange and we were in a small warehouse in Stoughton, Massachusetts.

Ok, Wow! That was even before we were located at what I refer to as “Head Quarters” out in West Bridgewater. You started off as a sales rep and then how did the topic of Portland or going out West emerge?

We were doing a four-year strategic plan at that time and we kind of broke up the work to draft different ideas on what could be in the Strategic Plan.  We had had a really good group of co-op customers out West — Bellingham and PCC, Food Front, Rainbow, and Olympia.  We even had the second privately owned grocery store to ever carry an Equal Exchange bulk bin unit, a coffee unit, that was Storman’s Thriftway Bayview Market in Olympia.

Rink (Dickinson, co-founder and co-executive director of Equal Exchange) and Mark (Sweet, previous board member) and I included having a regional office in the West as part of the strategic plan just to be out there more with more people, on our customer’s own time zone and everything.  Jennifer, my wife, and I were willing to go because we were at a point where we were willing to try living somewhere else.  When opening an office in the West was approved as part of the strategic plan, Jennifer and I took a small leave of absence because I had never really had lived at origin with small scale farmers. My wife and I stayed in Condega and Estelí, Nicaragua, with PRODECOOP – a coffee co-op EE still buys from – for five months and then flew from Nicaragua right to Oregon to open the West Coast office for Equal Exchange.

I was just working out of our apartment at that time and I visiting accounts and we definitely got new customers. There was a need for more work, it was drafted, it was put in the strategic plan and then it got done.  It was one of those weird things – a plan that went according to plan.

So, it started because you had accounts out here, it sounds like. Big supporters like Storman’s Thriftway, PCC Markets, and local co-ops.  Equal Exchange landed some accounts out west and, if I understand correctly, you all thought strategically that it would be good to have more presence out here where you were starting to get these accounts?

At that time on the West Coast, Equal Exchange and fair trade was kind of a new idea for those accounts. We talked to them, introducing them to the idea of fair trade with democratically organized, small scale farmers. We were calling them from Massachusetts, but, you know, we were three hours away in the time-zone and ten days away with deliveries.  Not that many people were willing to go through all of that. But when I could visit accounts personally and sign up some new ones, things grew faster.  I think one for me, a real breakthrough was Nature’s Northwest, a chain in Portland (part of that group, later formed what’s now New Seasons Market).   All the consumer co-operatives made things possible, then Nature’s was an important breakthrough account for me and a bunch of the Thriftway’s, family-owned grocers in the Seattle area were also super supportive.

Shortly afterward, Todd (currently working as our Director of Purchasing and Production) and Beth Ann (currently working as our Quality Control Manager) moved out west. Todd had gotten hired at Equal Exchange out here in Massachusetts and then he came out to Oregon, and he won a bunch of accounts. Beth Ann happened to be living in Oregon at the same time, so we brought her over from the company where she was working back to Equal Exchange. She got new accounts for us, like Bulldog News up in Seattle, and it kept rolling from there until we needed a warehouse.

The first warehouse location was actually out in Gresham, correct?

I lived out in Mosier, because that’s where my wife got her job, and I was just working out of the home. Todd wanted to stay in Portland, so we rented a small place in Gresham which was not a great space, but, it got us through until kind of the next stage. Then Todd and Beth Ann moved back to Massachusetts to get the roaster started at what you would call “headquarters.” Rink proposed having them do that, which was brilliant.

At that time, you know who else was really key?

There was a person who is now at Life Source Natural Foods in charge of marketing, Roxanne Magnuson, she had been working for a food broker that represented Frontier Coffee.  We always won accounts away from Frontier except in Portland. I remember wondering “what’s going on?” But then Roxanne and I had lunch at Marco’s Cafe and I figured out it was her that was basically doing that. When she came to Equal Exchange, then we got all kinds of stuff. We got New Seasons private label, she was a big part of that. Natural Grocers, to me, she won that account single-handedly, and that was a major one. Back when Roxanne started at Equal Exchange, she not only just got us new accounts for the bulk side of things, she helped develop our entire grocery strategy. All the retail packaged coffee, tea, chocolate bars. She was really good at using brokers and distribution systems and figuring out that system.

It sounds like it was a time for really laying the foundation for introducing fair trade out here in the west to accounts and getting that off the ground, slowly kind of building momentum? Hood River for four years, was that next to the brewery downtown?

We were in Gresham and then Hood River for four years. In Hood River, the Equal Exchange warehouse was there, Island foods was right there, and Full Sail Brewery, which was worker-owned at the time. We definitely had a nice little enclave of progressive businesses.   That’s how the Provender Conference ended up being in Hood River.

We started shipping coffee, people were getting accounts their orders in a day, instead of three days from the east coast or ten days from the east coast. That was super key for us in improving that level of service the customers received, allowing us to focus more on talking about the farmers and what it’s about. We were just going through a big boom. Coffee was going through a nice wave, fair trade and organic coffee was gaining popularity, so, as you approached stores, you could just switch them over from what they were doing to what we were doing.

The other key people in all of this was PCC. Rink and maybe even Michael had set them ups as customer when EE started.  But they were key to our evolution.  You know how there are friends that say nice things to you, but your really good friends that will say mean things to you that you need to hear.  Well, PCC was one of those really good friends.  At some point, they were like: “You know what guys? This is nice, but if you’re not going to come deliver to the store, we’re not going to carry it. Everybody else comes in and puts it in the bins and cleans the bins.” They said: “You’re going to have to do that or get out.” They gave us a long lead time and we started running a truck and making a delivery system.

You ran a truck from Portland to Seattle to get to them?

No, we hired somebody in Seattle, Scott Serchen. That was great. He did that for years and got us into Madison Market as well and was our Seattle delivery person.  He really helped us get our delivery system going in the West and almost nationally, right? It was one of the biggest, highest volume route for a while. So, he stayed with us for many years, and bless his soul, after he left Equal Exchange he only lived five more years. Young guy, but yeah, that was one person who I got to work with and is no longer here.  Jim Feldman is another person. He was a community organizer.

Go ahead and speak about Jim. I definitely wanted to make sure to ask you about Jim today and his work with Equal Exchange, especially in the early days.

He was one of the community organizers we hired to really do some outreach and grow what was going on at the grassroots level.  Jim helped us develop some grassroots organizing in the West and build some momentum.   And he was a key person when we outgrew the Hood River office and moved to Portland. Those two, Scott and Jim, are really key figures in what happened out west and yeah, I miss them both.

Then you all are hanging out in Hood River while Equal Exchange was experiencing really steady growth locally. Operations were expanding and the momentum was building.

We had to move every four years because we kept growing! We outgrew the office and went to a warehouse and outgrew that. We signed a lease for five years and outgrew it in four years and moved to the Portland building on Main Street. I think we signed a five-year lease and outgrew it in four years and had to come over to Northwest Industrial.

I would argue that Equal Exchange West has way outgrown Northwest Industrial.   Now that we have all the chocolate for shipping to distributors in the West in the Portland warehouse, it’s going to be bursting at the seams. If you look at the coffee roasting in the west, we’re not roasting in the West. If we brought that in-house, you know, then that building wouldn’t be big enough for us.

Absolutely, I think it’s something to think about as we are in such a coffee mecca. One of my questions I have on here is the line of products and main customers. I feel like you got to that already. It was definitely coffee and then you started in on the grocery set. Is that correct?

From what I remember, and I might be a little off by a year or two, we really focused on placing bulk bin units of coffee, bulk coffee because that was a real way to get a store to make a real commitment to what we were doing.  For me, that argument that I would give to the stores and I would still make here is if you dedicate a four foot display of bulk coffee in a supermarket, basically that bulk unit will move as much coffee as a farm-family grows. It’ll move a ton of coffee through there and that’s about what a farm-family produces in a year.

So, get a family-owned grocery store, community-owned grocery store to dedicate, at least do one farm-family’s harvest for your set here, to do fair trade, co-op supply chain. Of course, some stores do much more than that. One bin at Rainbow Foods does as much as a farm-family grows in a year. And as you add cashews, almonds, and other things, you can really capture that average farm-family’s growth. Like 6,000 chocolate bars, that’s what the average farm-family grows in a year using cocoa beans. So, that’s a real way to kind of make it real for the store, but also get the store to dedicate something substantial.

To really focus on the bulk side of it was good, and after Equal Exchange did well, we started to say: “Hey, let’s try to relaunch package coffee, relaunch packaged tea, and let’s expand the chocolate bar line.” How do you get that to stores if it’s one of thousands of grocery items they carry inside their stores using the existing distribution system, using the existing broker network? Roxanne helped me really think through that piece of it and I think that you could argue that went really well between 2005 to 2015. We really ramped that side of it up and that grew real strong. It always felt like it was never as successful as it should be and I think looking back, it probably was just ahead of its time. Whereas now, that tea line and that packaged coffee line does quite well and I think all that footwork that Jim, Roxanne, Todd, Beth Ann did in years past is starting to pay off.

Just reflecting back on our presence in Portland over the past roughly twenty years, do you have any highlights, moments that still stick with you to this day?

To me there are a few. One of Juana Pezo Suero, who was vice president of the women’s group of a coffee co-op from Cusco, Peru. When she was standing at a PCC store speaking about the importance of fair trade during the WTO, that was a time when I felt like we had very strong presence. A farmer, to my knowledge, the first woman coffee farmer in the fair trade system, at a store in Seattle, was just great. She was touring northwest. This was 2000, WTO is going on, and I remember Todd came back with a pin from a teargas grenade from that weekend up there. So it was a major time I think in people’s consciousness of trade and they realized Equal Exchange was way ahead of the curve, having Todd and Juana up in Seattle speaking at PCC, at Olympia Food Co-op, and other places at that same time that was fantastic.

And then we started taking our customers down to live and work with the farmers for a few nights every other year and we did that every other year from 2001 to 2017.  Overall, managers and owners of grocery stores that sell half a billion dollars a year have traveled with Equal Exchange to live and work with farmers in their houses. Those are the things that I remember and that seem super important. Bob from El Cerrito, Mike from Bellingham, Sanya from Ashland, Bill from Briar Patch, it’s been decades of these relationships, that’s what I think about.

I did want to take this opportunity to talk about Jim and the work he did for Equal Exchange, especially in those early days. Again, it sounds like you did cover that a little bit. Is there anything else you’d like to share about Jim and the work he did?

I would certainly say Jim was so caring for his coworkers, our customers, the activists who supported Equal Exchange.  That care just came through and people remembered it. And for me, one of the things that I really remember is him calling me from Seattle and saying: “Hey, I just found out that Seattle’s Best Coffee is getting out of the bulk coffee business.” So, he and I talked about what to do.  Then he very carefully and respectfully went around to all the family-owned grocery stores that had a Seattle’s Best bulk coffee unit, Starbucks was discontinuing that program, and he had to tell them: “Hey, you’re not going to have this in your store anymore.”

They didn’t really believe him because they hadn’t heard it either. He heard it before the customers even heard it. He then very carefully brought them up to speed on what was happening in a compassionate way, letting them know what was happening and of course that lead us to placing eight Equal Exchange bulk displays in a three-week period. To switch all of that over, he took really good care of those family-owned grocery stores in such a respectful way, but in such a way that a lot of volume moved over to co-op supply chain. It’s just had this lasting impact so, yeah, I still think of that key time when because he was taking care of people really well, he was way ahead on what was happening out there and was able to help people make a really positive transition.

So, Tom, you’re like a moving piece in the Equal Exchange story, like you seem to go where you’re needed and where Equal Exchange needs you the most. Do you still consider yourself rooted in the Portland office? Your work has taken you many places. Do you want to reflect on that at all and maybe where you see the Equal Exchange presence in Portland continuing to grow?

Yeah, one of the many, many things I love about working at Equal Exchange is that you work as an owner. So, you get to act as an owner and I think when we’re discussing how to support, how to keep the worker-owned co-op dedicated to fair trade in Canada going, I was able to be like yeah, I think I can spend some time there to do that. My family all moved with us for a year to do that and I still go up there every month.  I like that about Equal Exchange – work like an owner. When I think about it right now, I’m an owner of Equal Exchange and I work for La Siembra to kind of bridge the gap between our two co-operatives and I think that’s really fabulous.

As I think about the West piece of it, there are so many great opportunities. Not just on the sales side, but on the community outreach side and on the production side of things. That it really makes for an exciting place. You and everybody else in the Portland team haven taken the thing way further than I’d taken it. The warehouse has been great in moving it forward and I hope that all of us, me included, get to have those chances to keep acting like an owner as things grow and new opportunities develop. We can build an authentic co-operative supply chain that puts people before profits.

Is there anything else you’d like to add to this conversation about Portland?

Yes, I think the other really neat thing about Equal Exchange West that not many of the other divisions of Equal Exchange has, but not many other companies do, is that we have drivers. We’re a team that gets out to the stores every week.  We’ve always dedicated a bunch of time for that.   At first we were kind of forced to by our good friends, but we tried it and it has worked. We have people that are in the stores all the time with our Equal Exchange hats on. That changes the dynamic, it changes the conversation, and I think that’s been one of the things that provides some opportunity going forward. If you’re there, you’re local and if you’re local, people appreciate that.

Fun questions, Jen!

Good! Thank you so much, Tom!

High Quality Tea, from Leaf to Cup

Tea provides a taste of place – the growing region’s soil and elevation, its rainfall, the season. Cultivating it requires hard work and skill. And it’s a crop which can be vulnerable to climatic variation and environmental pollutants. That’s why we source 100% organic tea from small scale farmer co-ops. Processing and packaging steps maintain its high quality. And we want to help you learn to store and brew your tea in a way that brings out its best characteristics.

Shop Fair Trade and Organic Tea >>

Step 1: Growing and Harvesting

Both green tea and black tea comes from the same plant. Native to Asia, Camellia sinensis thrives in tropical and subtropical climates. Our small-scale farmer partners in India and Sri Lanka know what they’re doing. Their communities have grown this crop for generations. Our partners — TPI in India and BioFoods in Sri Lanka — provide farmers with agricultural support.

When tea is produced conventionally, chemical residue can end up in the cup. Nobody wants to drink that! All Equal Exchange teas are certified organic. Instead of spraying chemical pesticides and fertilizers, our partners use natural pest deterrents, companion planting, and composting to make sure their tea plants remain healthy. These practices are better for worker safety and for the surrounding natural environment and eco-system. And we believe they lead to a high quality cup of tea.

In some parts of the world, the tea harvest is mechanized. But our partners, often located in the most remote places, continue to pluck tea by hand – selecting only two leaves and the fresh bud to ensure the finest quality. That means a human being with knowledge and experience selects each leaf that gets plucked. In our supply chain, women typically do this work.

A group of women harvest fair trade tea on a green hillside in India
Tea pluckers in India harvest their crop.

Step 2: Processing, Shipment and Quality Control

Tea must be processed within hours of plucking to maintain its high quality. Equal Exchange tea is prepared using the orthodox method. This involves a series of precise and traditional steps focused on preserving the characteristics of the tea leaf. It’s slower than the more mechanized CTC (cut, tear curl) method, but the quality is far better. Workers wither the leaves, steam or roll them, and control the level of oxidation to determine if the finished product will be black tea or green tea. Then, they fire the leaves to halt oxidation.

View the Infographic to learn more about the steps!

When processing is complete, workers sort the tea leaves by size and grade and seal the loose leaves into large tea sacks for storage or shipment. Equal Exchange employees “cup” the tea (a process of tasting tea)  and select every lot that we purchase.

Equal Exchange tea utilizes a dual-chamber tea bag for a better steep. The bag is a special blend of abaca (a relative of the banana tree family). It’s free of potential adulterants like plastic and chlorine bleach. We’ve chosen an organic cotton string that’s attached to the bag without the need for glue or a metal staple. We don’t want anything to flavor your brew but tea!

Rows of white china cups hold different grades of organic tea
Tea is cupped in Sri Lanka

Step 3: Your turn!

After you buy tea, proper storage and brewing techniques will help you get the best taste. Store your tea away from heat, light and moisture. When you’re ready to brew a cup, make sure to use the right temperature water for the variety of tea you’ve selected! Learn more! In this video, Equal Exchange Food Safety Coordinator D Walls demonstrates their tips for brewing green tea, black tea and herbal tea correctly:

Now that you know how our farmer partners produce and harvest this organic tea, how we prepare it for sale and how best to brew it, only one step remains. Enjoy!

 

 

Pop-Up Fair Trade Stores on Campus

Campuses are full of change-makers and activists like you, making them the perfect locations for hosting successful Fair Trade sales. Setting up a pop-up store on your campus can be a fundraising opportunity for departments and clubs, or just a great way to raise awareness about socially responsible consumerism.

Get inspired to host your own sale by two schools that recently hosted campus sales, Manhattan College and Bryant University.

Equal Exchange Coffee = Fair Trade Fuel!

At Manhattan College in New York, the School of Business teamed up with Campus Ministry and Social Action for a Fair Trade pop-up store on campus during Christmastime. Manhattan College was the first Fair Trade Certified College in New York City, which means they must carry a certain number of items in their cafeterias and in their bookstore that were produced by farmers and artisans who receive fair wages and can perform their duties in a safe working environment. Aileen Farrelly, assistant professor and assistant dean in the School of Business, said, “Fair Trade embodies our Lasallian values, is critical to the College’s mission, and using fair trade products to launch this project helped our students learn about all aspects of running a business.” The pop-up store was called Fair Trade Fuel and students were responsible for accounting and financing, marketing and publicity.  They sold chocolate, crafts, and clothing to their campus community over the course of three days. It was so successful that they held another sale around Valentine’s Day, selling Fair Trade chocolate and flowers. 

Social Change Marketplace. Photo courtesy of Bryant University.

Bryant University in Rhode Island set up a Social Change Marketplace, the first student-run program of its kind in the country. Local social enterprises are invited to participate as vendors selling their products on campus for a day in December. The pop-up holiday marketplace encourages conscious consumerism during the gift-giving season, and all products featured have a positive social impact. Companies each have their own table set up and talk with students about what makes their products special.  The popularity of the Marketplace on campus inspired a corporate event at Fidelity Investments and the student organizers shared their successes at the Campus Compact National Conference where colleges and universities gather to build democracy through community development. 

Equal Exchange is an ideal partner for groups who are interested in hosting similar pop-up sales. We offer  wholesale pricing to organizations that want to sell organic coffee (in packages or freshly brewed at a coffee kiosk), tea, chocolate bars, olive oil and cocoa. You choose cases of products you want to sell, then mark up the products to prices that help you reach your fundraising goals or just covers your costs and promotes Fair Trade.  We can offer best selling product suggestions, pricing recommendations, and promotional materials to help make your sale a success. Our customer service team is available M-F 9-5 Eastern at 774-776-7366 to help.

Here are our top tips for planning a pop-up sale on campus:

1- Plan early: For a November or December sale, start planning in October so you can reserve a location with lots of foot traffic and coordinate with vendors or wholesalers. Choose a date or a series of dates when people are most likely to shop.  If planning a sale seems intimidating, start small by reserving a table at an existing gift fair. You’ll benefit from the excitement that’s already there.

Photo courtesy of Bryant University.

2- Recruit a strong team: Find volunteers who are interested in social justice but also look for helpers who are studying finances, accounting, sales and marketing. Put a call out for help on Facebook and at the school’s Volunteer or Ministries fair.  Professors are also great mentors to help guide you.

3-Add in multiple vendors and brands: Many other Fair Trade brands offer similar wholesale arrangements for event sales so you can have a variety of products for shoppers to choose from – find them here.

4- Invite the community: Opening up the sale to the public, if you’re able to, is a good way to increase foot traffic. Promote the sale on campus radio, social media, the school newspaper, and get it in the local media too. Doing interviews and explaining why this sale is special will draw shoppers who are looking for unique gifts that are also doing good in the world.

5-Align your sale with activism-focused events: Some of the best and most effective Fair Trade sales happen during Fair Trade Month in October, World Fair Trade Day in May, and Earth Day in April because they capitalize on existing publicity around social, economic and environmental justice.


We’ve got more ideas for Fair Trade events and fundraisers that work great for campus groups!

Ready to get started? Sign your organization up  and order products by the “case” unit of measure for wholesale prices.

Why Switch to Fair Trade, Organic Coffee?

When it comes to drinking ethically-sourced coffee, you have a choice if you’re at home, but how can you get your church to start serving Equal Exchange’s organic, fairly traded coffee?

Based on the questions that come up most often, here are talking points to help energize them to take action.

“Why should we switch our coffee?”

Equal Exchange coffee is better for farmers, better for the environment and better for ourselves. A small change, like a commitment to using fairly traded, organic coffee has a real and meaningful impact in all three areas. If your members want to promote social justice, environmental sustainability and fair trading relationships, Equal Exchange offers an affordable way to connect your values with your actions without sacrificing taste and quality. Share this colorful display sign with your group.

“Why Equal Exchange instead of a different brand?”

Equal Exchange is a worker-owned cooperative started in 1986 with a mission to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate the contribution of worker cooperatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world. Is your current coffee company 100% dedicated to doing the same?

Equal Exchange offers organic, ethically sourced products that you can find in natural grocery stores and cafes, but we offer discounted wholesale pricing to faith-based groups, non-profits, offices and schools so you can access affordable, high-quality and fairly traded products for serving and fundraising. Buying from Equal Exchange, who trades directly with small-scale farmer cooperatives, ensures that more of the money you spend on coffee and other products reaches the hardworking farmers who actually grow them.  Introduce Equal Exchange’s mission with this 2 minute video

“Is Fair Trade coffee really that different from non-Fair Trade coffee?”

Fair Trade is a way of doing business that aims to keep small farmers an active part of the world marketplace. It’s not charity – it’s a sustainable and alternative trading model that helps producers make a viable living and stay on their own land while advancing many economic, social and environmental goals. Long-term trading relationships mean income that farmers can count on, year after year. When you buy a fairly traded product it means that a stable price was paid to farmers, significantly higher than the fluctuating market price. By choosing Fair Trade coffee, you’re supporting a different kind of business model, one without forced child labor and one that is based on dignity and transparency. Fair Trade premiums allow farming communities to collectively decide which development projects they want to use the money on, like improving access to clean water and education.  Small changes we can make surrounding what we choose to consume make a real impact on the quality of the lives of the producers and their families. Read a more in-depth explanation of Fair Trade principles here.

“Does it matter if coffee is organic?”

Conventional agricultural products are steeped in synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Not only does the environment suffer from this overload, but so do the people who live and work nearby. Equal Exchange products are certified organic and produced without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides. Many people don’t want to put foods grown with pesticides into their bodies and have concerns for the safety of the farmers and for the future of our planet.   For more information, read our blog posts on conventional vs organic coffee.

“I see other Fair Trade coffees at stores. How is buying from Equal Exchange different?”

There’s a big difference! Equal Exchange has been fighting for market access for small-scale farmers from the moment we were founded. We’re a worker-owned cooperative whose mission is tied to building a just food system where consumers have choices and feel connected to the people in the supply chains. And Equal Exchange works only with other democratically-organized farmer cooperatives. Buying coffee from one of the big guys means supporting a corporation that may have a few Fair Trade products but isn’t 100% dedicated to Fair Trade like Equal Exchange is.  

Another difference is quality and freshness! Did you know Equal Exchange expertly roasts our own organic coffee in Massachusetts daily with a team of quality control professionals? Each batch of coffee is “cupped” to make sure it meets the consistent and high quality standards we set for our coffees. We seal in the freshness on each package so it arrives directly from us to your door super fresh and delicious! Take a peek inside our roastery in this video.

And Equal Exchange partners with many faith-based relief, development and social justice organizations. Learn more about these special partnerships here.

“Can we afford Equal Exchange coffee?”

Have our wholesale price list on hand to answer this question directly. Do folks know what they pay per cup of coffee from your current coffee provider?  Many of Equal Exchange’s coffee options work out be $0.10 per brewed cup. You won’t find specialty grade, organic, fairly traded coffee for less. Some groups afford it by collecting spare change near the coffee pot or by doing a sale of EE products like chocolate and snacks, marking up the costs slightly, and using the profits to cover the cost of their coffee.

“How does it taste?”

We recommend sharing samples to let the coffee do the talking for you!  We’ve heard that this is one of the most effective way to get the whole group on board. By trying samples, folks can experience firsthand the incredible quality and delicious taste of our products. Let the decision-makers taste our coffee for themselves. Hold a taste-test event with darker and lighter roasts to see what people like best before you buy a full case.  We think our products are all mouth-watering, but read reviews from our customers to see which coffees are most popular.

“Does Fair Trade coffee cost more?”

In most cases Fair Trade products are priced closely to similar high-quality products. At local farmers markets in the US, many people are willing to pay prices that reflect the hard work of small-scale farmers because they know the care that their community members put into the organic cultivation of food on their farms.  It makes sense to people that local farmers should make more than what it costs them to grow a product, so, the same concept should apply to products that aren’t grown locally, right? If you’re paying really cheap price for coffee or any other labor-intensive product, there’s a good chance that someone in the supply chain is being exploited. 

We believe a shift in perception of value needs to take place in the marketplace. Equal Exchange has been dedicated to creating an alternative trading model since 1986 and we are committed to continuing to build this movement.

“Where does the money we pay go?” 

In traditional supply chains, middle men take the lion’s share of the profits.  In Equal Exchange’s case, we ensure that more of the money you pay goes to the farmers because we trade directly with the farmer cooperatives. They are the ones doing the hardest work and taking most of the risk, after all! Actually, by the time you purchase from Equal Exchange, the farmers have already been paid and given pre-harvest financing so they can pay expenses well before products reach the US.A fairly traded product means that the producer has received a guaranteed minimum price for their coffee, regardless of the highs and lows of the commodities market. When the market prices are low, the price a farmer gets for their coffee harvest often doesn’t even cover the cost of production. When the market price is high, Fair Trade premiums paid to farmers increase even higher. Farmers in the Fair Trade system even get additional premiums paid to their cooperatives because they sell organic products. These premiums go towards projects that the farming communities choose to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions. Access to clean water, education, and healthcare are basic human rights everyone deserves. 

“Where does Equal Exchange’s coffee come from and who grows it?”

At the heart of Equal Exchange’s story is our relationship with small farmers. We work directly with over 40 small farmer co-operatives in Latin America, Africa, and Asia to bring you high quality, organic coffee.  We have a variety of videos to share as well as different educational resources like farmer stories on our website.

Freekeh Soup

Bowl of Freekeh Soup with Chicken
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Freekeh Soup

Course Soup
Keyword Palestinian Products

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts cut into cubes, optional
  • 1 cup Equal Exchange Freekeh
  • 4 cups chicken stock vegetable stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a pot add the olive oil and onions
  2. Saute the onions over medium low heat until they are transluscent
  3. Add the chicken breast cubes (if using) and cook until slightly golden brown and cooked through (5- 7 minutes)
  4. Add the Freekeh and stir for 5 minutes to toast the freekeh slightly
  5. Add the all spice, cardamom and salt
  6. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes
  7. Taste and adjust the salt if needed.

Recipe Notes

Recipe courtesy of PARC

Four Ways to Get Out the Word

Whether you’re a longtime Equal Exchange partner or you’re brand-new around here, we’re grateful for the hard work you put into serving or selling fairly traded products from small-scale farmers. But you can’t do it alone. You need allies! You need supporters! You need other people to care as much as you do!

This blog post collects resources that will help you spread the good news to others. It’s time to celebrate your past successes and let members of your community know why purchasing ethically sourced coffee and other products is worth doing!

 

Try some of the following:

1. A bulletin insert with pictures

Does your congregation publish a weekly or monthly bulletin? This can be a great venue for reminding folks about the fairly traded products you sell or serve at worship or meetings. We’ve made it super-easy with a template you can customize. Download the Full-Color e-Bulletin digital template or the Printable Bulletin Template for photocopying.

Want to create your own from scratch? Read this inspiring example of a personalized message and adapt it for your next bulletin or email.

 

2. Talking Points

Even though you’re committed to supporting fair trade and organic foods, it can be hard to articulate its importance! If you need to provide a quick introduction to someone who’s new to the concept, consider referring to our handy talking points documents. When folks purchase Equal Exchange products, they make a choice that’s better for small-scale farmers, for the environment, and for their own health. Now you can quickly communicate how and why.

This short version (in full color) of our Talking Points can be displayed as a sign.

The longer version (black and white) is double-sided and includes more detail.

 

3. Infographics

How do you explain a complicated food system? Keep these infographics on hand! They provide a simple, visual way to present facts and show the true impact of ethical trade. Now you can go deeper into the specific issues that interest you and your community the most.

  • Compare our best-selling Organic Breakfast Blend to other coffees on the market here.
  • Find out about human rights violations in the conventional chocolate industry and how small-farmer chocolate makes a difference here.
  • Explore how coffee grown in biosphere buffer zones protects ecosystems here.
  • Demonstrate how every part of our Single Serve cups can be recycled or composted here.

 

4. Videos

See where our coffee and chocolate comes from and hear the voices of the farmers and quality professionals who make it possible. These videos will take you around the world and behind the scenes at our roasting facility — and will even teach you to brew better coffee at home! We find that they work great for presentations or as social media shares.

Watch our most popular videos here.

Or take a deep dive into every video we’ve shared (on YouTube) here.

 

A little girl holds a bag of Equal Exchange fair trade coffee.

 

Your work matters to everyone in our supply chains. Thanks for your support, and for getting the word out!

 

What have you done to tell people about why you use fair trade? What resources do you wish we offered? Let us know in the comments!

Care Package DIY Ideas

Everyone Loves Getting Mail: Why Not Send Some?

Say hello to a far-away friend, wish a sick loved one a quick recovery, or help your favorite college student settle in — with a fair trade care package! These gift boxes are easy to put together and eminently customizeable.  It’s fun to pick out small treats that you know the recipient will enjoy. If you’re feeling crafty, decorate the box and include personal photos! If you’re a baker, homemade cookies or other snacks make great additions. We love coming up with themed care packages, like the ones in this video:

 

 

You Chose It Yourself!

A care package is a special gift you chose yourself! When you pack it with fairly traded and organic contents, you’re showing love for the recipient — and for small-scale farmers and the environment, too! We’ve built a few collections on our webstore to make sending a care package even simpler. Just click on the items you want, and they’ll be added to your cart.

The “We Miss You” Care Package

  • Organic Ginger Tea
  • Organic Breakfast Blend Single Serve
  • Organic Dark Hot Cocoa
  • Organic Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Shop We Miss You >>

 

The “Hang In There!” Care Package

Shop Hang In There >>

 

A video of items being added to a care package