Coffee talk: Ikigai Coffee

During our WAKEcUPCALL campaign, we met quite a few passionate, idealistic coffee makers – we called them the leaders. In this interview series we share their story. Today: founder Jeroen Brugman tells us all about Ikigai Coffee.

Jerone Brugman (36) is comfortable in many settings. He’s not misplaced on the Zuidas or in a hip coffee bar. Brugman’s enthusiasm is contagious and can carry you back to his days of being a skillful cocktail maker. A few years ago he started his own speciatly coffee label: Ikigai Coffee. This is not just another coffee label; Ikigai Coffee is Jeroen’s contribution to a better world.

Jeroen built his Ikigai Coffee from the wish to make a positive impact on the lives of coffee farmers. He does this by trading directly with them and paying better prices – ‘we pay our farmers 40%-100% more than the current market value’, you can read on their website. Or: ‘We pay 5-6 times the Fairtrade premium’. “At the moment we are also working on calculating the true costs at the farm gate, so what it actually costs to produce coffee. No matter how crazy it sounds, very little is known about the real cost of coffee production for the washing stations.”

Hand picking coffee berries: everyday a heavy workout similar to your daily gym session—full of deadlifts and squats.

Deadlifts and squats
Jeroen maintains personal contact with the farmers behind Ikigai Coffee. He regularly looks for them to actively involve themselves in the rest of the chain. “The pride and mentality with which the coffee farmers work are in stark contrast to how we can complain about unimportant things here everyday. The knowledge that bags are being filled at the other end of the supply chain at the expense of these farmers causes much misunderstanding and anger. More than that, I feel an enormous drive to contribute to positive change.”

“Because of the visits to the coffee plantations, I especially started to feel more for the coffee farmers—I actually felt the pain of manually picking coffee berries: everyday a heavy workout comparable to a good daily gym session “full of deadlifts and squats, and in a tropical climate. There must be an appropriate reward for that alone.”

Ask as many questions as possible. Ask if it’s okay, ask for transparency.

1,80 per kilo
Another reason for personal visits is sharing knowledge. Ikigai Coffee also works closely in the quality field with the farmers who grow their coffee: “The average coffee farmer has no reason to concern himself with quality; they are only motivated to produce more quantity. If that is the case, the next step will require more money, but the coffee farmer will not see any benefit from this.”

On the other side of the chain, the consumer side, Jeroen is actively working on creating awareness. By telling the story of the coffee farmer, he hopes to encourage coffee drinkers to make conscious choices. He discusses the problems in the coffee world in fluent vlogs. “If the consumer doesn’t know what is going on in the coffee world, there is also no demand for honest coffee. I want people to ask questions—consumers to the coffee brands, the coffee brands to their importers, et cetera. My motto: ask as many questions as possible. Ask if it is okay, ask for transparency.”

Without new means of communication, farmers remain dependent on the information that is provided to them from above.

New means of communication
Jeroen makes grateful use of new media for his story. “Social media is a super strong tool to connect. Just a moment and the voice of Ikigai is as loud as that of Douwe Egberts or Shell. Go on: do you get news reports from the big multinationals in your newsfeed? If you already do, it almost leads to indignation. We’re also getting more and more easily through the advertising campaigns.”

On the other hand: “You also see that the coffee farmers are slowly gaining access to and using technology. What we already see is that they exchange knowledge via their mobile phones and the internet. It’s precisely with technology that they have a tool to get through the noise—without new means of communication they remain dependent on the information provided to them from above. Thanks to the internet, smartphones and other new technology the farmers can now find their way to get in contact with new partners and the other way around.

The big dream? “Wouldn’t it be nice if the world of coffee resembled something like the wine market? The coffee farmer as a craftsman, coffee with good and bad years, appreciating coffee from different regions… I’ll take a coffee menu next to my wine menu next time I’m going out for dinner.”

It seems you also care about the people behind our food.

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