In recent years, there has been an explosion of coffee shops all over Ireland, not to mention cupboards full of equipment to make sure that your home brew is as good as it could possibly be.
Each day we drink 2 billion cups of coffee worldwide, and the global coffee industry is worth almost €100 billion a year. We’re putting more thought into what goes into making the cup of coffee, and increasingly becoming more aware of where it comes from.
“A gift of a Home Brewing Workshop in 3FE several years ago was a big turning point
for me,” Shane Reilly of Moyee explains, as he describes what got him interested in the industry.
“Travelling in South America that also highlighted the inequality of the coffee industry. I was hiking through coffee-growing regions where local people were reliant on eco-tourism, but at the same time, it was a struggle to find a cup of coffee that wasn’t Nescafe instant. The best beans – and all of the value – was being exported to Europe and the US.
“Across the developing world, about 100 million people rely on coffee for their livelihood, but 90% of coffee farmers earn less than €2 a day.”
The imbalance is plain to see, which is why Shane and his business partner Killian Stokes have decided to do something about it.
Moyee started out in Ehtiopia, the largest producer of coffee in Africa and one of the biggest exporters of the world’s favourite drink.
Ethiopia should earn enough through coffee to power its economy, Shane explains, but 99.9% of all coffee we drink is roasted in Europe or America.
“Even if coffee farmers earn slightly more with fair trade premiums, most of the jobs, income and profits from coffee are exported out of the coffee belt.”
FairChain, which Moyee hopes will become “Fair Trade 2.0”, is aimed at keeping as much of the valuable work of the global coffee industry as possible in the places that it is grown.
“People are very aware of the fair trade logo, but when you drill down into what that actually means, there is somewhat of a lack of real awareness. It has been fantastic in terms of raising awareness of an unfair and unjust deal over the last 20-25 years, but we believe it’s time to move towards a shared model, a 50/50 partnership.
“FairChain is about supporting an entire coffee industry in countries like Ethiopia, rather than a only a premium payment to a farmer.
“We carry out more of the value-added activities – like roasting, packaging and quality control – all along the coffee belt. We can keep more jobs and skills in Ethiopia and
put more incomes and profits in the hands of those who contribute most towards the
The effects of their project can already be seen, despite the fact that it started as recently as 2015.
“We have created 44 jobs in our roasting facility in Addis Ababa, jobs that are usually exported away to the West,” Shane highlights.
The Irish pair behind Moyee will be at the Responsible Innovation Summit in Dublin later this month, and coffee isn’t the only industry that they hope to disrupt either, as they look to reproduce their model in other sectors.
“Our Dutch partners have already set up a FairChain foundation, and it is a philosophy that can work in other industries that are profoundly unequal. The chocolate industry is the main one that comes to mind.”
Indeed, recent steps in that market have made for worrying reading. Mondelez, the chocolate company that owns some of the world’s biggest brands, announced that they would be ditching Fair Trade certification and doing their own scheme called ‘Cocoa Life’.
“I’d be cautious to welcome any new schemes by such companies if they are not moving towards adding more value in developing countries,” Shane muses. “We’d love to see these large multinational food and drink companies being converted to FairChain and the idea of Shared Value. I’m not convinced their new schemes will be doing that, however.”
Ireland has proved to be a fertile ground for the Moyee project too, as Shane notes.
“Irish people have definitely become more discerning when it comes to choosing which coffee shop to visit or which bag of coffee to grab for their weekend home brew.
The success that Moyee has had is not just down to millennials either, as Shane explains.
“We assumed when we started out last year that our main customer base would be
younger coffee fans, but we’ve been quite surprised with the demographic mix who have been converted.”
“One of our typical customers now is an older guy in his 50s or 60s who has gotten into coffee as a hobby. They’ve really gotten in to grinding their beans fresh at home and love the fact that each cup of coffee can make a difference.”
The burgeoning coffee scene has also seen Ireland become home to local micro-roasters around the country, which has had a number of important effects.
“For one thing, it means being able to find a good cup of coffee in places you couldn’t find one before,” Shane explains. “But a lot of these micro-roasters are using direct trade, which goes beyond the impact of fair trade. We’d love to see Irish coffee shops and micro-roasters team up with roasters all along the coffee belt, and extend that impact further while still delivering an amazing cup of coffee.”
When it comes to the coffee itself, Moyee made a decision at the start to use a bean that not many here at home would be familiar with; the Limu bean.
“We think it’s a completely undervalued bean!” says Shane, with an infectious enthusiasm. “To get all geeky about it, we wash and slow roast the beans for 13 minutes at 197 degrees, bringing out delicate jasmine, fruit and hints of citrus in every cup.
“Our 100% Limu makes a delicious filter brew in the likes of Chemex, V60
or Clever Dripper. We’ve combined it with an unwashed Jimma bean for our medium roast Two to Tango blend, which is a real crowd pleaser, and one of our most popular blends.”
Moyee is available in 20 retailers around Dublin at the moment, including Lotts & Co, Liston’s, The Hopsack and the Dublin Food Co-Op. You can also order subscriptions online at moyeecoffee.ie.