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2020: Can You Hear Me Now?


2020 began innocently enough. Like any other new year before, hopes were high and sights were set on goals that would give purpose, joy, and energy to our days. Here at Peace Coffee, the beginning of 2020 is almost unrecognizable. We had just taken delivery of a new roasting machine, completed an expansion of our roastery, and had big plans to grow our coffee shop, coffee truck, and wholesale operations. But as they say in the business, this year had other plans.

We’ll save you the full recap, but fast forward to the end of the year and we’re grateful our building is still standing, that our first coffee shop space has been repurposed to house Wildflyer Coffee–a specialty coffee non-profit that employs youth experiencing homelessness, and that we were able to meet customers’ changing coffee needs as many of us work from home with kitchen tables as desks and Zoom as the company conference room. To be completely honest, while we reflect and mourn on the indelible moments of 2020 that brought pain, division, and struggle to so many, we also celebrate because our resiliency kept coffee carafes full across the country. Our commitment to be ‘in it for good’ means we’re even more focused on our local and global community as a responsible business that values people and planet over profit.

Virtual High Fives!

2020 will go down as the year we all learned how to connect and spread love virtually. As class and conference rooms alike turned to distance learning and productivity hangouts, we’re hoping for a lot less ‘you’re muted’, ‘these unprecedented times’, or ‘here’s the Zoom link’, and a whole lot more ‘see you there’, ‘dinner at our place?’, and ‘let’s meet in the conference room’.


From The Beginning

As a coffee roasting company that has been committed to 100% organic and fair trade coffee for 25 years, we place tremendous value on staying connected to our coffee farmer-partners through trips, emails, and regional gatherings. Without the ability to travel, the effects of the pandemic, hurricanes in Nicaragua and Honduras, unrest in Ethiopia, and many other local struggles have made it difficult to keep up. 

In March, we began dedicating our Climate, Carbon, and Coffee funds (3¢/lb.) to Covid-19 relief and over $35,000 went straight back to these communities to help with resources to fight the pandemic. Add to that the nearly $600,000 in fair trade and organic premiums we pay as part of our commitment to pay farmers more, and we see resilient, sustainable communities that benefit from long-term trading relationships. We’re proud to say again this year that 98% of the 15 coffee cooperatives that we purchased from have been part of our coffee offerings for 5 years or more.


To The End

Closer to home, our community has, of course, been impacted by the pandemic, but also by an even greater threat. In late May, George Floyd was brutally murdered by a Minneapolis police officer a few blocks from our roastery. Our neighborhood was shocked and appalled by the incident that gained the attention of the world. The weeks after were a tense, but necessary way of grieving what is an all too common occurrence in communities across the US. The stark images from the center of our caffeinated universe will not soon be forgotten, and rightfully so. While our space went dark in the midst of the unrest, we were so uplifted by the words of concern and support from customers across the country. As we look back, we see our neighborhood rising up out of the ashes and our community taking steps to reconcile the ways it’s been wronged for so long. There is much work to be done, and our role is still coming into focus as we are committed to anchoring ourselves and fighting for good for another 25 years and beyond.

Change Is Gonna Come

In March, like most of the rest of the world, we were bewildered by the feat of figuring out how to navigate the unknown. Would we be out of the woods in weeks? Months? Would we be able to maintain our business at a level that could still support coffee farmers and our team in Minneapolis? Ultimately, we made the difficult decision to permanently close our coffee shops and part ways with some of the most influential, vibrant team members. But just like our community is coming back to life, our original coffee shop on Minnehaha Ave became a temporary food bank to serve our neighbors and is now the home of Wildflyer Coffee, a specialty coffee nonprofit that works with youth experiencing homelessness. We were privileged to help with the transition of this space and see a bright future for the shop we called home for 10 years!

Spreading Stories Of Hope

As the weeks of the pandemic turned to months, we launched our Coffee Creates Community initiative: an ever-changing umbrella of care and support for our local community. It began with stories of local artists and entrepreneurs led by Lee and local MN storyteller, Kevin Kling, and will continue to be a place for us to highlight amazing humans and organizations fighting the good fight.


25 Years To Go

2021 is our 25th anniversary and since 1996 we’ve been committed to uplifting coffee farmers, coffee drinkers, and everyone in between. 2020 will be a permanent marker as a season of heartbreak, growth, struggle, and humility. Despite the immense challenge of the past year, we’re fortunate as a business to remain committed to the highest standards that have shaped the past 25 years. In a year of cancellations and parties that had to take their conviviality online, we were still able to support some of our most beloved local partners like Open Arms of Minnesota, Every Meal, Minnesota Central Kitchen, Loaves & Fishes, LifeWorks, and many more. We contributed nearly 150,000 cups of coffee and over $7000 to these groups that have been working tirelessly to hold up our communities through a very tough year.

As we look ahead at 2021, we can’t help but be reminded of the words of our Queen Bean, Lee Wallace. From a holiday party speech in 2017, the week that Donald Trump took office, Lee saw hope in times of uncertainty for our country and even closer to home. We hope that we continue to pursue these three things and that the next 25 years of Peace Coffee will be marked by the following three characteristics:

  • We are going to continue to treat each other well. We are going to listen to each other and be kind, caring, and empathetic.
  • We will continue to tell a story about the world and our community that is rich and vibrant, open and accepting. That the world we see is not based on fear but instead on possibility.
  • We will work to advance our narrative that business should be a force for good, working to address the needs of all stakeholders and prioritizing everyone’s well-being alongside the bottom line.

If we can hold fast to these values, we know that Peace Coffee will continue to thrive by being a light to our neighbors, our customers, and the coffee farmer-partners that are the real reason we do what we do. Oh, and the coffee is pretty great too!

Cheers To 25 Years!!

The coffee industry is a vast, incredible network that’s complex and interdependent. When we started in 1996, our vision was to give small-scale farmers a voice and a sustainable trading partnership by roasting and pedaling organic, fair trade coffee in the Twin Cities. In our wildest dreams, we couldn’t have imagined how far we would come. The miles, faces, mugs, and bags of coffee that make it to store shelves each day are all because of you, so we raise our mugs in cheers to the next 25 years!

Avatar image: owl illustration

Published by Peace Coffee on January 16, 2021.

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