• Ethiopia,  London,  The Bean,  The Bike,  United Kingdom

    Ubuntu: The spirit of coffee

    Of all the insights that I have gained into coffee culture on the trail to Ethiopia before returning back to the whirlpool of London life, there is one softly spoken truth that endures. It is a universal truth that runs through the coffee trade and culture like a golden thread, connecting every stage of its complex supply chain from field to cup. It is a philosophy that cannot be fully expressed in books, research papers or from the good intentions of policy-makers. Its application cannot be taught out of a school textbook. Neither can it be bottled, packaged or commoditised in the interest of profit. It transcends all these things;…

  • Ethiopia,  The Bean,  United Kingdom

    Trading seeds of change

    Born in the Oromia town of Warra Jarso, 175kms north of the capital Addis Ababa, Abiyot Shiferaw was brought up with his two sisters and four brothers in a happy family environment. Like all Ethiopians, they celebrated special occasions by holding a traditional coffee ceremony. From an early age, Abiyot had a strong sense of fairness but saw injustice all around him. He saw how his fellow countrymen and women did not have access to clean water or could not pay for basic medical treatment. He observed how children were denied an education because their parents couldn’t afford to send them to school. He witnessed state-sponsored corruption at the hands…

  • The Bean,  United Kingdom

    Starbucks gets a roasting

    It was a watershed moment in the rise of corporate coffee in the UK when Starbucks’ global Chief Financial Officer, Troy Alstead, got a roasting at the hands of the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament last week. The scale of the coffee giant’s fleet-footed accounting arrangements that were laid bare during the hearing is staggering. Starbucks has made a profit of ¬£3bn in the UK since it opened its first outlet in 1998. Since 2009, it has paid no corporation tax on its revenue generated in the UK at all. Not a single bean. Despite benefiting from a labour market where the minimum hourly wage will barely cover the cost…