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Our Story

Oddly enough, our story doesn’t quite begin with coffee. It begins with farmers. Our 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 fell on deaf ears. The farmers 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.

IATP's Work

Let's Take Action

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.


Stronger Together

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

Pedal Power

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!

All Things Bike

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. And coming in 2020, our space will include major upgrades to our roasting and packaging process that will allow us to operate more efficiently and keep our staff safe while on the job.


 

All Are Welcome

As our coffee packages showed up on store shelves, our roots grew in the Twin Cities and our passion for purchasing fair trade, organic coffee from small-scale farmers spread to our consumers, we saw an opportunity to take our fresh roasted coffee out of the bag and into a coffee shop environment where guests could get what we think of as the full Peace Coffee experience.

Thus, our first retail coffee shop opened its doors in the Longfellow neighborhood of south Minneapolis in 2010. We hired and trained a fantastic group of baristas to begin making delicious mugs of brewed Peace Coffee and lattes with our house espresso blend, Wonderland Park Espresso. Our retail coffee shops are a direct extension of our story and do their best to serve the community by providing a welcoming space with delightful drinks and treats that are made with care and joy!

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Reasons to Celebrate

We celebrated 20 years in 2016 with a year full of fun events and even an ugly sweater party at our roastery in December hosted by local radio DJs from 89.3 The Current. Another milestone from our 20th year was our first direct full-container purchase of coffee since that fateful batch came from Chiapas at our story’s genesis. A container from the Apecaform Cooperative in San Marcos, Guatemala, arrived at our back door to much excitement!

As we grow, we continue to explore opportunities to purchase coffee in full containers directly from cooperatives as it is a more environmentally-friendly way for transit as well the fact that it allows us to pay even higher prices to the cooperative based on the volume of coffee.

Our Farmer Partners

B Corp or Bust

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.


 

In Good Hands

After conversations with our nonprofit ownership at IATP, it became apparent that we had outgrown IATP’s ability to fully support our mission to grow by continuing to purchase more fair trade, organic coffee. IATP approached our CEO/Queen Bean, Lee Wallace, with the news that they would begin looking for someone to purchase Peace Coffee so that it could continue to grow without inhibitions. Upon hearing that, Lee’s first thought was to find a way to purchase Peace Coffee herself since she had been at the helm for nearly a decade and wanted the mission of Peace Coffee to stay intact as the company changed hands.

So in 2018, Lee officially purchased Peace Coffee and we became an independently-owned company. This change brought freedom and flexibility for our leadership team to seek out new aspirations including bolstering our roasting facility and investing in a packaging redesign as our current rendition had aged in today’s fast-paced market.

More About Lee

In It For Good

As we look to 2020 and beyond, Peace Coffee remains committed to the simple fact that what we have been doing for over two decades works: 

  • Forming long term partnerships with farmer cooperatives and consistently purchasing their coffee at fair prices 
  • Investing in our own community by donating copious cups of coffee to fuel good work and fresh ideas
  • Creating a culture of openness and freedom of expression in the workplace to promote diverse ideas and innovative problem-solving 
  • Dedicating ourselves to the craft of artful coffee roasting and delivering fresh coffee by bicycle 

And we plan to keep honing every extension of our company to make sure that we are staying true to these roots, one mug at a time!

Into The Future

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