At Peace Coffee we’re starry-eyed dreamers who believe in bicycle-power, being nice, and bringing neighbors, farmers, and the community together. We believe that collaboration works wonders, and that passion and honesty, and a really great cup of coffee can make the world a better place. And when that coffee is sustainably grown and freshly roasted to bring out the best in every bean, well, that’s when the real magic happens.
Oddly enough, the Peace Coffee story doesn’t quite begin with coffee. It begins with farmers. The founding nonprofit, the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, began with a mission to help American farmers during the family farm crisis of the mid-1980s. That mission grew to include a vision for expansion to other countries with rich farming roots to see how they could best partner and advocate for long-term systemic change and, ultimately, commodity-farmer profitability.
Post NAFTA Realities
The most obvious place to begin IATP’s quest for impactful growth was in Mexico, specifically the Chiapas region. A cohort of staff from IATP took an initial trip in 1995 to listen to farmers of all sorts and survey the situation to try and see where they may best fit in. Of the numerous farmers they met with, the most vocal and educated about their current situation were the local coffee farmers.
However, their initial conversations about local trade policy and state-level advocacy were not what the farmers wanted to discuss. They were more interested in talking about their struggles to make ends meet based on market price instability and the lack of coffee importers that were interested in paying fair wages.
Needless to say, the folks from IATP were intrigued by the challenges the farmers faced, and after deeper conversations, the group agreed to partner together to bring coffee to Minneapolis and forge a new fair trade model unseen in the US at this time. Wholly owned by IATP as a for-profit entity that would fund their expanding efforts, the first shipment of coffee from Chiapas, Mexico, was in 1996.
Since then we have been committed to 100% fair trade certified, organic coffee grown by small-scale farmers. These small-scale farmers are members of local cooperatives, which help them to organize, advocate for their rights, and share in profits as a collective group.
How We Got Our Name
The farmers and their coffee came first, and our name came later. We began purchasing coffee from Guatemala in 1997 after a partnership was formed with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchu. Inspired by the Guatemalan Peace Accords signed in 1996, we originally sold this offering as Guatemalan Peace Coffee. The Peace Coffee name stuck as we continued to seek partnerships with farmers and coffee-growing cooperatives in other countries.
In 1999, we began looking for ways to have the coffee importing process mirror how coffee growing cooperatives were exporting it. In other words, we wondered if we could create a cooperative-based model that would pair like-minded coffee roasters that shared similar values into a buying cooperative. As it turns out, other folks in the industry had similar hopes and we were approached with an opportunity to co-found Cooperative Coffees.
Through Cooperative Coffees, we import directly from our farmer-partners, and we do business in a way that creates a fairer, more transparent and sustainable system of coffee trade that directly benefits farmers, their families, and communities.
Cooperative Coffees exists today as an industry anomaly, a cooperative importer with 20+ members in the US and Canada. As a founding member, we have pushed for higher premiums, better farmer wages, and supported long-term relationships that don’t just sustain communities, but help them thrive!
More About Coop Coffees
As soon as we had the right pieces in place to support cooperative farmers in coffee growing lands, we began an intentional expansion to sell organic, fair trade coffee in local food cooperatives and natural food stores in the Twin Cities.
The expansion of our mission brought new challenges including figuring out a cost-effective and earth-friendly way to deliver coffee to customers. Having seen the ingenuity of coffee farmers at origin, we took a cue from their transit tricks and adopted a bike delivery program, which still delivers over 50% of our Twin Cities coffee orders all year long!
Where We Call Home
In 2002, we left our basement offices at IATP and happily settled into our current home in south Minneapolis. The Greenway Building is nestled along Highway 55 just north of Lake Street, one of Minneapolis’ most colorful stretches of road. Our roots here have grown deep as our space sits directly on the Greenway Bike Trail with easy access to the city in all directions.
The building also has a wide array of environmental features including geothermal heat and our warehouse is covered with solar panels. We’ve expanded over the years inside this building to accommodate the growing demand for our fresh roasted coffee.
At the close of our 20th year, we began searching for ways to further solidify our mission to creating good by supporting small-scale farmer cooperatives with industry-leading prices and committing to earth-friendly practices along the way. We were then introduced to the B Corporation movement, which is a global initiative of businesses in every industry that see profit as secondary to the importance of people and planet. And after a rigorous auditing process, we received B Corporation certification in 2017 as the first coffee company in our home state to do so. We have also been awarded the honor of Best For The World in the Community category in 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022.