HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD :: WITH COFFEE COLLECTIVE

photos by Jack Fussell

photos by Jack Fussell

What if someone were to tell you that you could change the world?  Would you want to do it?  Klaus Thomsen is a man who visited coffee farms after winning a barista championship and saw the destitute situation in which the farmers were living.  Compelled by their need, he decided to try to change the world of coffee beans. 

The Coffee Collective is one of Copenhagen's top cafes, but it isn't just famous to Denmark.  World renowned among coffee lovers, The Coffee Collective, is beloved because of it's initiative to change the lives of coffee farmers and the relationship between roasting and the consumer.  We recently sat down with Klaus Thomsen, one of the owners of Coffee Collective and shared a cup of coffee (of course) and heard more about this amazing company.

It’s difficult to talk about the Coffee Collective without talking about our focus on the farmers.
— Klaus Thomsen

What inspired you to start The Coffee Collective? "In 2006, I won the Barista world championship.  As a result of this I was able to travel to origin farms and was deeply moved by the lives and struggles that these farmers live with. I was able to leverage this influence to begin giving talks on the coffee industry, particularly how it relates to the life of the coffee farmers."

How did you to start The Coffee Collective? "During this time, three of my good friends and I were all working for the same coffee company.  We were all deeply involved in coffee with various levels of experience.  I was giving talks as a coffee expert but I was no longer growing as a barista and coffee lover. Soon after, the four of us began to talk and dream up a new company.  In 2007, we started the Coffee Collective roastery in a little shed near the airport. Then in early 2008, we opened our first Coffee Collective Cafe in Nørrebro." 

We also saw that something was fundamentally broken with the sourcing of coffee. The system is not beneficial to most farmers and we wanted to change this process with our company.

Klaus, what is the Coffee Collective? "We are a roastery, have three coffee shop locations, a wholesale business and also offer coffee education. Our purpose is to share our coffee experience with others in a way that increases income for our farmers." 

Our passion for the farmer is at the center of everything we do.

What is the strongest distinctive of The Coffee Collective? "Our goal is to move beyond fair-trade, cut out the middle man, and establish direct trade with the farmers we work with. We do pay a substantially higher price for the beans that we purchase but we’re also able to ensure that the quality is higher and that the money is going directly to the farmers. A vital part of this process is to establish a relationship with the farmers, so once a year we visit the farms and spend time with the farmers. We also post our purchase price on the consumer bags so that there’s accountability in our pricing. Our hope is that we can not only offer great coffee but also change the world. The majority of the coffee farms lie within the world’s poorest nations."

By utilizing direct trade we can directly influence some of the poorest economies globally. This is why we all look forward to work each day.

How has your story prepared you for this? "I grew up in the countryside on a family farm and have always appreciated the agricultural side of things.  I love seeing the connection between soil and table and how the two are truly interconnected.  When we came together to form the Coffee Collective it was vital that we shared these values and they are at the core of our business.  I have visited over 40 coffee farms since we started and each visit reaffirms that the soil side of coffee is just as important as the table or cafe side."

So, the real question that some of you may be asking now is, "Has he done it?  Has Klaus changed the world?"  The answer is yes.  By joining with three friends who shared his passion, Klaus has begun a revolution within the coffee world.  Not only have his farmers' lives been transformed by the increase in wages and education, but Klaus' passion is so great that is has spread among the coffee industry globally.  

We are absolutely encouraged by Klaus' initiative and passion.  Klaus came from a family of farmers and he has used his knowledge to make the world a better place.  That is pretty awesome. 

follow Coffee Collective here...