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6 Questions for the Company Providing the Ingredient That Makes Working From Home Possible

Food & Beverage

RAW Coffee Company's coffee sourced from Burundi

May 18, 2020, 7:00 am

The Sustainabilist spoke to RAW Coffee Company Co-Owner and Managing Director, Kim Thompson, about the disruption caused by COVID-19 on RAW’s business model and how they have adapted to the new circumstances.

As avid coffee drinkers ourselves, we are passionate about sustainable and ethically sourced coffee whose quality never fails to impress our tastebuds. RAW Coffee Company is here to provide us with the equipment and beans to fulfill our coffee cravings and make working from home (almost) bearable!


1. What is the Raw Coffee Company and what gave you the idea to embark on this venture?

RAW Coffee Company is the first Specialty coffee roastery in the Middle East, founded in 2007. We source, import and roast specialty grade coffee. The definition of specialty is scoring higher than 80 points out of 100, and evaluated by considering the balance of aroma, flavor, body, sweetness, acidity, clean cup, uniformity and finish of the coffee.

We noticed a gap in the market for freshly roasted, really good quality coffee and this is what gave us the idea to start the company. We had been trading specialty coffee for 10 years before the wave of excitement around this and the specialty cafes started in the Middle East.

2. How do you embed sustainable practices along the supply chain?

We travel to our farming and co-op partners to source our coffee directly. This is absolutely the best part of our industry. Over the years we have developed wonderful relationships with our farmers and processers, and we find year on year, our coffee quality has improved and the premiums we pay directly benefit the entire farming communities. As with many different fruits and foods there are various grades, and specialty coffee has its own pricing and trading system with the quality of what we purchase, not being connected to commodity coffee trading.


“We strive to positively impact our community by taking care of our producers, product and the entire process from start to finish.”


Premium coffee beans are produced in developing nations, such as South and Central America, Africa and South East Asia; where the climate, soil, sun, and rain are perfect for the rich flavors to flourish. Around 80% of coffee producers are smallholder farmers, where the physical burden of coffee farming and harvesting falls on the women, while the men deal with the sale, marketing, and transportation of the beans.

Studies have shown, when the women have access to their finances the families are better provided for. By building better foundations and promoting gender equity, a significant amount of change and growth will help the women in this sector, as well as build the community and a more sustainable industry.

RAW is a founding member of the Partnership of Gender Equity. We strive to positively impact our community by taking care of our producers, product and the entire process from start to finish. As a member of this industry and community, it is our responsibility to help, by spreading awareness and driving the conversation about gender equity, so that we can continue this journey towards sustainability.

Kim Thompson in Burundi

3. What is the correlation between ethically sourced coffee beans and quality coffee?

You can purchase specialty or premium coffee beans through brokers and traders, but we have found that ethically and directly sourcing our coffee has definitely had a huge impact on the year on year quality of our beans, and we know that the prices the farmers receive from us has been 2.66 times the price they could previously get at market over the last 3 years (Colombia 2020).

4. How has the pandemic affected RAW?

We very much had our foot on the accelerator this year with expansion plans, so the pandemic and the forced closure has had a huge impact on us. We had employed key senior staff and purchased additional stock of green beans to scale our business, so like many SME’s we have had to make some serious changes to our operational model. We have moved from a primarily Business to Business supplier of wholesale bags of coffee, to a Business to Customer centric business, delivering smaller bags of coffee to our end consumers homes. Our delivery volumes have increased considerably with all the accompanying logistical challenges while our volume has decreased by close to 95%. We have had to be very dynamic and make changes quickly, focus on our communications both commercially and internally, and we can proudly say that we have not had to make any redundancies as we have moved people into new roles, in new departments, finding hidden talent from within our team.


5. Once things will return to normal, what will RAW offer its business customers?

One positive aspect from our senior and admin team working from home is that we have had the time to focus on projects that we had not had the time to get to, as we haven’t had customers distracting us. We have made improvements to our website, ordering platforms for both home and commercial customers, implemented a new inventory management system, we have focused on our marketing and the messaging we want our customers to understand about who we are and what we do, we have conducted surveys and captured clear analytics to understand what our customer’s expectations are, and we have made some important business decisions about supporting and partnering with other local owner operated businesses. We are holding a lot of beautiful new season crop that we had already purchased so we are planning to use this to trade out of our current low situation.

The enforced last 2 months of working on, not in our business, mean that we have had time to strengthen our processes so that when we re-open we are going to be stronger and more efficient. Sadly, we believe the F & B landscape that we will see when we do come out at the end of this will look very different to the one we lived in prior to the Pandemic.

6. What tips do you have for the self-proclaimed baristas preparing coffee at home?

Like with any passionate foodie there is always something new to learn, new flavors and new toys to play with. Baristas can now hon their skills at home with exceptional domestic espresso machines and home grinders. It is entirely conceivable that the home connoisseur can prepare a far superior coffee than the majority of coffee businesses, and the journey into barista skills is an ongoing one, perfecting the art and striving for the “god shot”. Our tips would be to concentrate on the quality of your ingredients, your coffee beans and the filtered water with the right chemistry. Then have fun playing with your preferred recipes concentrating on the three “T”s – time, temperature and technique.

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