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Hero Supplier - IncaFé

We would love you to Introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?  

Hi, my name is Carmen. My husband Joop and I are the founders and owners of Incafé Organic Coffee, based in New Plymouth. 

IncaFé is a coffee supplier who is passionate about ethical buying and selling, in a few sentences can you tell us what sets you apart from other coffee brands? 

Well, we set up our business in November 2006, and since day one we have only purchased and roasted organic coffee. Within months we got our BioGro organic certification and our Fairtrade certification. Within the year we were the first roastery in NZ to be Carbonzero certified, meaning we reduce and offset all our remaining emissions, which occur mostly from the roasting process (gas) and the import of the green beans and export of roasted beans (freight). 

Why are organics important to you? 

We believe consuming organic products is better for our bodies, and for the health of the soil. Most organic farming sequesters significant carbon and moisture in the soil and if done correctly can be very resilient to changes in climate and at the same time improve biodiversity. For coffee it is particularly powerful as for organic growing you need larger companion trees to provide shade and nutrients. The trees then stop erosion in often mountainous areas with high rainfall and further promote biodiversity. The bonus is that the coffee plant loves these conditions and you get better tasting coffee as well.  The amount of carbon sequestered on organic plantations is a lot more than that emitted in the supply chain to you making a cuppa.  


What does speciality coffee mean? 

Specialty coffee typically is Grade 1 coffee, meaning coffee that has been farmed and processed at a very high-quality standard, and scoring above 80 points in the Specialty Coffee Association. When cupping, these coffees should have very good attributes in taste, acidity, body and/or aroma, and should be free of faults. It also relates to the traceability and uniqueness like it being organic or FT certified as both provide a high measure of traceability to a farm level.   

We understand the majority of  the coffee is supplied from Peru. Tell us about Peru, your love for the land?  What colours, smells, sounds? What are the people like?  

Peru is a very rich country in terms of the soil, so it has a huge variety of fruit and vegetables but also minerals. This is due to the geography and its many microclimates. Despite it being a third world country, there is plenty of food. I love going to the market or even the supermarket when I visit. The people are happy and friendly, and family is very important. I love going there and spending time with friends and family. 

What are the other countries you source from and what is your connection to them?  

We also buy coffee directly from cooperatives in Indonesia and more recently India, we also buy through Trade Aid coffee from Ethiopia. Coffee is similar to grapes: there are many varieties and different ways of processing so from within a large country like Peru with its diversity we can find lots of different flavours.  We like to keep the consistency of our blends, and for that we keep working with the same coops over the years. It’s a relationship that has grown with time. 

We hear that your business partner and husband is from the Neverlands, how has his culture influenced how you operate?  

 Yes, Joop is from the Netherlands. He is an engineer, so he is very systematic; he likes to have procedures in place and work smart and efficiently. A funny fact is that he has been drinking coffee since he was 3 years old, sipping from his Mum’s cup whenever she wasn’t looking 😊 He has developed a good palate and cups the coffee at the plantation before ordering. 

How do co-operatives work in the coffee industry and why are they important?  

Many coffee farmers in Peru, Colombia, central America and some other countries like Ethiopia usually grow coffee in their little plot of land as a family business., Just a big enough operation to grow their own food and produce coffee as cash crop. This coffee is harvested by family and neighbours and then collected by the Coop. So as coffee is harvested once a year, we forecast how much coffee we will roast the upcoming season, and we sign contracts with them. Then the Coop makes sure that they will have enough coffee to supply us with. Being part of a Coop that is certified Fairtrade means that they will sell their coffee at a fair price with less of the margin going to middlemen. By us buying directly from Coops and importing directly into New Plymouth we also cut costs and can offer decent prices whilst staying competitive with non- certified roasters.  

What is a common misconception around organic coffee (or coffee in general) that people tend to have? 

That it’s expensive and that it doesn’t taste good. Both are not true. And if you try our decaf you realise that decaf can also taste very nice!

In the industry that is coffee  or even in your personal life, have you come across any unique traditions or rituals surrounding coffee?

In Peru, they have a tradition that is thousands of years old, which is to give offerings to the Pachamama or Mother Earth at the time of sowing and harvesting, not just for coffee though. The Pachamama is a deity from pre-Incan times who is believed to look after the soil and life on Earth. 

What is the most challenging and most rewarding part of championing Incafe?  

The most challenging thing for us is probably being in New Plymouth as most of our coffee comes from overseas and then is exported or sent to the larger Auckland region. It would make sense to be close to an international port, but many years ago we chose New Plymouth to be our home and to raise our children in this beautiful part of New Zealand. The most rewarding thing is having those loyal customers who have been with us for many years and still love our coffee and what we stand for, and to know that we have helped many communities in impoverished countries by paying above Fairtrade prices. We have been able to produce the best quality organic coffee at very affordable prices. 

On that note, what is the thing that gives you the most hope for the future of organic and ethical coffee farming and trading.  

We believe there is more awareness of the impact of the decisions we make in the environment, whether it is what we eat, the clothes we buy, our shopping habits, our recycling habits, etc. We say don’t buy more but buy better. 

When are you next going to Peru? Can we come?  

We are hoping to go early next year, so we can catch the coffee season as well as the last bit of the summer…. Yes, please come! You will just need to bring stretchy waist pants, because you will eat so much yummy food 😊