Do you know if your morning flat white is made from ethically sourced coffee beans? It’s a simple question that Mohamed Mumin, founder of Melbourne-based boutique coffee roaster Astur Coffee, wanted all his customers to sip-easy-on.
SBC Media sat down with coffee roaster and coffee cart owner, Mumin, to discover how growing up in the Horn of Africa, the birthplace of coffee, influenced building his business. He felt strongly early on about creating a coffee brand that respected farmers in developing countries while delivering high-quality coffee to his Aussie customers.
Mumin told SBC Media how he’s found sourcing ethically grown and traded products even easier and more fulfilling than he ever hoped. He’s now encouraging more small businesses, and customers, to be informed about Fair Trade products and says the additional costs of importing and selling are minimal when considering the difference it makes.
How did growing up in Somalia motivate you to partner with ethically sourced coffee producers?
I moved to Australia when in 2000 with my family, but growing up in Somalia, I know first-hand the issues and challenges people go through in Africa.
In particular, farmers, who spend approximately three to five years growing and harvesting the coffee we drink every day are often underpaid by importers who take advantage of their vulnerability and desperation.
In most cases, what’s paid by importers is no way near enough to live on nor is it a fair reflection of the effort and hard work they put into producing the coffee you and I drink every day.
Early on in my coffee journey, I knew that this was not right and that I would not support or buy coffee from companies that exploit vulnerable farmers.
Why is it important for Aussie small businesses to support overseas small farmers or producers?
In the past, very few people questioned where their coffee came from. But these days, as a global community, we are much more aware of how our actions affect other people, including businesses overseas and the people who operate those businesses.
You can see this trend as many coffee beans are now certified ‘Fair Trade’ or ‘Rainforest Alliance’ so drinkers can ensure that farmers, wildlife, and the environment are looked after.
This trend is positive as it means small businesses, say like my own in Australia, can support small coffee farmers in Kenya or Guatemala. This system benefits us both as businesses and satisfies customers who also want to partake in international trade that benefits the global community.
What would you say to SMBs that are unsure about switching to Fair Trade products?
The challenge for any business looking to sell ethically sourced coffee or any other product is to understand how to best deliver or communicate with your customers. Because if you can manage to do this effectively, majority of customers will be in favour. And as a result, your business will have more of a meaning than just to make a profit.
Why do you think the benefits outweigh the costs when it comes to your business using Fair Trade products?
It’s true, ethically sourced coffee is generally more expensive to import and sell. However, the benefits from both a business perspective and a customer’s point of view should definitely out ways any additional cost.
Buying Fair Trade coffee doesn’t only mean coffee is purchased from farmers at fair prices, but Fair Trade organisations engage with initiatives that improve the quality of life of coffee farmers and their communities, such as building water wells, funding schools and teaching environmental farming practices. Paying a little more for that as a business owner just makes sense.
What’s the first step businesses should take when sourcing ethically?
We simply start by having an honest and open conversation with all the suppliers we engage with on how and where their coffee is sourced. Generally, suppliers are happy to share this information and provide proof of any relevant certifications.