Fair Trade

Heine Brothers’ to host Coop Coffee AGM in Louisville this week!

In Blog, Coffee 101, Community, Fair Trade, Louisville // on September 16th, 2014 // by // No comment


Heine Brothers’ is proud to host the Cooperative Coffees Annual General Meeting here in Louisville this week! We have 50 people coming in to Louisville from all over the US and Canada to attend this meeting. There is a lot to get done – coffee cuppings, reviewing financials and board elections, discussing trips to origin, decision-making and next steps – but we’re going to make sure that they have a great time while in Louisville as well. Local businesses & events on the agenda are some of the best Louisville has to offer, including Garage Bar, the Muhammad Ali Center, Against The Grain, the Galt House, WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesday, the Green Building, Patrick O’shea’s, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, ReSurfaced, and more.

In 1999, Heine Brothers’ Coffee became a founding member of Cooperative Coffees, Inc., a member-owned importer of fairly traded and organically grown green coffee, with six other micro-roasters in the United States and Canada. Today Cooperative Coffees, Inc. includes 24 specialty coffee roasters located across North America. Over the last decade, Co-op Coffees has imported millions of pounds of coffee – all directly from small scale farmer cooperatives.

Heine Brothers’ and Cooperative Coffees are committed to supporting and partnering with small-scale, Fair Trade coffee farmers and their exporting cooperatives. By importing directly from farmer partners, Cooperative Coffees seeks to foster a more equitable system of coffee trade that directly benefits these farmers, their families and their communities.

Besides roasters, we’re also happy to have two coffee producers in town for the meeting:

  • Antonio Ruiz of Maya Vinic in Chiapas, Mexico
  • Mario Lopez of Las Marias 93 in El Salvador

Check out some of the Coop Coffees roasters that we’ll have in town this week!

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HB Head Roaster heads to Peru

In Blog, Fair Trade, Travel // on August 20th, 2014 // by // No comment

Attention to detail would be an understatement. Our head roaster Alec cups and recups...and recups each batch of roasted coffee before sending them out to each of our locations.

Alec Risch, head roaster here at Heine Brothers’, is currently in Peru! He’ll be meeting with CENFROCAFE, where we get a majority of our Peruvian coffee. He is particularly excited to visit Coyona farmers and their processing facility in Piura.  They’ve been perfecting their natural processing for the past three years, and he’ll be there in time to see how they process, and cup coffees that we’ll be purchasing this fall.  We bought a few bags from them in 2013 to try it out, and liked it so much we’re buying several more bags this season! Keep up with his trip on the Heine Brothers’ Instagram account.

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Featured Coffee: Colombia Fondo Paez

In Blog, Fair Trade // on June 9th, 2014 // by // No comment

Colombia 2-09 142

Mike Mays, with members of Cooperative Coffees and Fondo Paez, in Colombia – 2009.

About the coffee:

  • Light Roast
  • Full Body
  • Well-balanced, velvety with hints of caramel, orange peel, and chocolate
  • Roasted on a Loring SmartRoast at the Heine Brothers’ roastery in the Clifton neighborhood of Louisville, KY.
  • Available for purchase in-store and online.

About the cooperative:

  • Members: 550 producers
  • Region: Cordilla Central, around the mountains for the Cauca departmento
  • Harvest Season: May to July
  • Growing Altitudes: 1300-1900 meters above sea level
  • General Assembly: March and October
  • Crop Diversification: Sisal, Beans, Tropical Fruits


From Cooperative Coffees:

The Paez (who also call themselves Nasa, or “the people”) is the largest indigenous group in Colombia. Their land is in the Cordillera Central – centered around the mountains of the Cauca departamento (state).  Fondo Paez was founded in 1992, with the primary goal of recuperating traditional agricultural knowledge and indigenous culture which had been buried by centuries of conflict and oppression.  Paez community leaders teamed up with Fundacion Colombia Nuestra, a Colombian-based non-profit, to start the “Recovering Agricultural Knowledge” program.  The main cash crop of this region is still coffee, and, to ensure a stable income for their members, Fondo Paez organized community based coffee cooperatives. They became more organized, and, by 2000, they were selling coffee through the Coffee Federation’s Specialty Coffee program. In 2003, they produced seven containers of coffee, both conventional and organic certified.

They currently process, market, and export their coffee through the Federation, but are completely independent in their internal decision-making process. They are governed democratically and are extraordinarily well organized. They have been recently incorporated as an association in Colombia with its own legal identity.

Surprisingly, Fair Trade is still not widespread in Colombia. And even though Fondo Paez had been operating with Fair Trade practices, they did not receive their official FLO certification until 2005. Cooperative Coffees was instrumental in demonstrating to FLO (Fair Trade certifier in Europe) that a Fair Trade market existed in the U.S. for Fondo Paez coffee.

The organization provides technical assistance for quality control and organic production to its cooperative members. Fondo Paez then works with these primary cooperatives to collect coffee and transport it to a nearby beneficio (coffee mill) to be processed. The cooperative retains ownership of the coffee until it reaches the port. The coffee farmers are equal owners in the organization and receive not only the social benefits provided by Fondo Paez, but also retain a much higher percentage of coffee profits.

Fondo Paez is completely committed to the self-sufficiency of their people and have a holistic approach to farming. This is most evident on their farms. Coffee is only one of many crops that are incorporated into a diverse agro-forestry system. Food crops for their own consumption, feed crops for the farm animals, and nitrogen fixing plants for the soil are given equal importance to their cash crops: coffee, sisal, beans, and different tropical fruits.

The members of Fondo Paez have created a sustainable vision for their indigenous communities. This vision is remarkable in and of itself, but the work and successes of this organization are truly extraordinary when viewed within the context of Colombian politics and globalization. From Spanish conquest centuries ago to the armed conflict raging in their territory for the past 40 years, the Paez people have struggled for their lives, their land, and their right to self-determination.




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Introducing the Fair Trade Mayan Mocha!

In Blog, Fair Trade // on May 10th, 2014 // by // No comment

Today is World Fair Trade Day! We’re celebrating by introducing our newest signature drink – the Fair Trade Mayan Mocha! Made with fair trade cocoa, sugar, cayenne, cinnamon, and espresso – now available at your neighborhood Heine Brothers’!
Presenting the Fair Trade Mayan Mocha, a latte made with fair trade and organic espresso, cayenne pepper, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and raw sugar. Now available at your local Heine Bros!


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Farmers in Northern Peru Get in on Crowd-funding

In Blog, Fair Trade // on May 5th, 2014 // by // No comment


If you’ve followed Heine Brothers’ Coffee for any length of time you know how highly we value the Fair Trade system that we use to purchase coffee.  Along with our friends and partners in Cooperative Coffees, we’re always looking for ways to strengthen the Fair Trade model, and make a real, positive impact on the lives of our producer partners.  A perennial concern of coffee farmers is their ability to secure financing to reinvest in their farms, and pay for the harvesting, processing, and shipping of their crop.

Anywhere in the world, banks are hard-pressed to lend to small business owners.  When those business owners are farmers living high in the mountains off a dirt road, with no electricity or running water, and their only collateral is 5 – 10 bags of unroasted coffee, purse-strings get pretty tight.

Enter NGOs and not-for-profit lenders like Grow Ahead.  Grow Ahead began in 2012 as a partnership between Heine Brothers’ importing partner Cooperative Coffees and Progreso, a lending agency who serves an “under banked” demographic of Hispanics in the US.  The Grow Ahead lending approach is unique in the way it connects farmers in developing countries with the end users of their crops.  Coffee drinkers become the lenders by contributing to Grow Ahead for a specific producer group during a specific harvest cycle.

Similar to any other crowd-funding campaign, there is a specified time period in which Grow Ahead collects funds for the producer group.  Funds are disbursed prior to the harvest season.  Coffee is picked, processed, purchased, and shipped according to the usual schedule.  When the coffee lands in the US warehouse the producer group repays the Grow Ahead loan.  The Grow Ahead lender (aka coffee drinker) is then given the choice to: leave their money in the Grow Ahead system to pre-finance the next container of coffee, donate the funds back to the farmers to be used for special projects, or get the money back.

We’re really excited about this partnership between Grow Ahead and CENFORCAFE, one of our producer partners in northern Peru, because it’s the first opportunity we’ve had to share this consumer-producer lending model with you.  We hope the first container of washed AA from CENFROCAFE that lands in September or October will be fully financed by coffee lovers who want a stronger connection to coffee farmers.  We’re looking forward to taking this step in progressive coffee trade with Grow Ahead, Coop Coffees, CENFROCAFE, and you.


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Producer Visit: Cooperative Coffees’ Roya Summit – Honduras 2014

In Fair Trade, Sustainability, Travel // on February 18th, 2014 // by // One comment

In January 2014, I traveled to Marcala, Honduras to attend a meeting hosted by Cooperative Coffees, our green coffee buying cooperative (Heine Brothers’ Coffee is a founding member of Cooperative Coffees).  We invited (and covered the expenses for) representatives from our coffee farmer partners from all over Central and South America to join us for several days of meetings focused on the problem of leaf rust, or Roya as it’s called in Spanish.  Roya is devastating coffee plants all over this part of the world. Roya is a naturally occurring fungus in coffee fields that found the perfect climatic conditions during the 2012-2013 growing season to reproduce in epidemic proportions.  Roya attacks the leaves of the coffee plant, it’s primary source of photosynthesis.  This not only affects the ripening of the current-season cherries, but can also cause the flowers of the following season to drop.  Depending on the intensity of the infestation, Roya can kill a branch or the entire tree.

Mike Mays, Heine Bros' Coffee, Louisville, KY; Joe Lazano, third Coast Coffee, Austin, TX; Bill Harris, Cafe Campesino, Americus, GA, and Nery Gonzales, Technico for COMSA Cooperative in the mountains above Marcala, Honduras.

Nery Gonzales, Technico for COMSA Cooperative; Bill Harris, Cafe Campesino, Americus, GA; Joe Lazano, Third Coast Coffee, Austin, TX; and Mike Mays, Heine Bros’ Coffee, Louisville, KY in the mountains above Marcala, Honduras.

As Cooperative Coffees, we deal directly with the coffee farmers from whom we buy.  We have been hearing for some time now that Roya was devastating coffee plants and causing a severe drop in the annual yield for many of these farmers.  We decided that one way Cooperative Coffees could help would be to convene a meeting where where we would invite farmers from many different regions to share their experiences and, hopefully, successes in dealing with Roya.

We held our “Roya Summit” meeting at the headquarters of Cafe Organico Marcala (COMSA), a small-scale, farmer-owned cooperative in Honduras, who is having great success combating Roya using organic farming practices.  COMSA is proving that, despite the claims of many coffee industry influencers, research institutes and government agencies who advocate aggressive use of chemical fertilizer solutions, organic farming practices can be used to combat Roya and produce bumper crops of prime quality organic coffee.

Children of Farmer Members of COMSA Cooperative lead a discussion on making a probiotic additive for their Community Biodyanamic farm's compost.

Children of Farmer Members of COMSA Cooperative lead a discussion on making a probiotic additive for their Community Biodyanamic farm’s compost.


While in Honduras, our group of 65 people – coffee-farmer representatives and coffee roasters from Cooperative Coffees – toured the coffee farms of several COMSA members, visited COMSA’s impressive biodynamic farm, toured COMSA’s coffee processing facility and shared many outstanding meals prepared by our friends at COMSA.

I was highly impressed by COMSA’s commitment to their organic practices.  COMSA’s organic promoter, Victor Contreras,  spoke to our group about how important they believe it is to “create a model of agriculture that is in harmony with the laws of nature to feed and nurture the life energy in the soil.”  And COMSA’s organic practices are proving highly successful in resisting and/or recovering from the current Roya crisis.  The coffee plants I saw at COMSA were as healthy as any I have seen anywhere in the world.  While there was some evidence of Roya, it was very minimal.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend 3 days in Honduras with such a committed group of coffee farmers and coffee roasters.  We were able to unite and share information around the Roya crisis and recovery while also sharing ideas on coffee production, coffee quality and coffee price.  The spirit of generosity and cooperation was strong.  While we did not solve the Roya problem for any of these farmers, I know that many left encouraged by what they had heard and learned.

I came home from Honduras with a deeper understanding of the impact Roya is having on many coffee farmers and was reminded how hard these farmers work to make a living.  And I came away with hope that the success the farmers at COMSA are having with their intense commitment to organics will have an impact on farmers in other parts of Central and South America.  I also came away as proud as ever that Heine Brothers’ Coffee is a member of Cooperative Coffees.  At the end of our meeting in Honduras, several farmers made a point of noting how unique it was that Cooperative Coffees had stepped up and done something to help them by hosting and financing this “Roya Summit” (when what they feel like they typically get is little or no help and/or empty promises).

Mike Mays of Heine Bros' Coffee and other Cooperative Coffees members with Farmer Representatives from Peru Coffee  Cooperatives at the Roya Summit.

Mike Mays of Heine Bros’ Coffee and other Cooperative Coffees members with Farmer Representatives from Peru Coffee Cooperatives at the Roya Summit.

This trip to Honduras also affirmed a few things that I have learned in 20 years in the coffee business.  The difficulties that coffee farmers face are significant.  Our commitment to buying their coffee directly from them at Fair Trade prices is not solving all of their problems or making all of their dreams come true.  However, I can say with confidence that the relationships we’ve formed with many of these coffee farmers (some of whom we’ve been buying from for 13+ years) and the fact that we continue to be there year after year to deal directly with them on a Fair Trade basis is having a meaningful impact on their lives.

Mike Mays
February 2014



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Grow Ahead – bringing micro-loans to the fair-trade coffee community!

In Blog, Fair Trade // on October 10th, 2013 // by // No comment

Heine Brothers’, along with several other roasters in Cooperative Coffees (our fair-trade green coffee buying cooperative), has joined Grow Ahead – a group bringing the micro-loan model to the fair-trade coffee community. One of the hidden obstacles for coffee farmers is pre-financing – getting the money you need throughout the growing period to support the farm, since most buyers only pay when they receive the crop. Cooperative Coffees has done a lot of pre-financing to help out the farmers, and Grow Ahead is a way for our customers (and employees too!) to contribute. The money given truly is a loan – you get it back when the coffee has been harvested (and you can either cash it out or invest in another group).

Grow Ahead is currently raising money to purchase a container of fair-trade & organic coffee from Apecaform in Guatemala.

Check out their website to get more info or to loan:  https://www.growahead.org/

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Off To Peru!

In Blog, Fair Trade, News // on August 9th, 2013 // by // No comment


Mike Mays (co-owner) and Andrea Trimmer (Director of Operations) are off to Peru! They are leaving today to visit coffee farmers in Pangoa, where a majority of our coffee from Peru comes from. Once arriving in Lima, Mike and Andrea have a 12 hour van ride over the mountains (altitude of 15,000 feet!) to reach their destination. As a 100% Fair Trade coffee roaster and member of Cooperative Coffees, we regularly visit farmers from different cooperatives to see the farms, share a meal, and get to know how life is for the farmers. The additional money that Pangoa receives from fair-trade coffee goes towards educational loans, healthcare, and more. Stay tuned for pictures and stories from origin!

Fast Facts on CAC Pangoa


  • Approx. 600 members
  • Based in San Martin de Pangoa (450 km east of Lima; in central Amazon)
  • Coffee grown between 1,100 and 2,000 meters
  • Economic diversification: cocoa, honey, roasted coffee (domestic market), ecotourism
  • FLO Certified since 2003
  • Organic certified since 2002

Read more about Pangoa here!

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Introducing Nicaragua La FEM!

In Fair Trade, News // on September 19th, 2012 // by // No comment

Introducing La FEM!

Heine Brothers’ Coffee is proud to release a very special coffee produced in the northern mountains of Nicaragua.  The coffee is, of course, delicious.  But, how it got here is what makes it unique.  Nicaragua La FEM is grown and processed exclusively by women in communities surrounding Esteli, Nicaragua.

La Fundación entre Mujeres is actually the umbrella organization supporting six small growing cooperatives scattered throughout the mountains.  In total, they organically farm about 300 acres of coffee, hibiscus rose, fruit trees, and vegetables.  La FEM provides agricultural education, access to credit, seed, infrastructure, and markets.

One of La FEM’s prime objectives is land ownership, helping to secure their members’ physical and economic independence.  They also run primary and secondary education, adult literacy programs, women’s health programs, and domestic violence outreach and support.

This is a big year for La FEM, as they continue to rebuild after massive landslides destroyed the homes of 42 member families in December, 2011.  Heine Brothers’ and our Cooperative Coffees partners are happy to help La FEM export one full container (250 bags) of green specialty coffee this year.  The full container threshold is a big one for coffee producers, and we hope, brings these women to a new level of stability.

April labor strikes in the Panama Canal Zone stranded this coffee for two months, but it’s finally here.  We hope you enjoy this medium-bodied coffee.  It has a nice earthy, chocolaty sweetness balanced by a clean, citric acidity.  Heine Brothers’ was only able to purchase six bags, so this is a very limited offering.  Enjoy!

Available in your neighborhood Heine Brothers’ Coffee or online!

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‘Tis the Season

In Fair Trade, Louisville, Opinion/Editorial // on December 19th, 2011 // by // No comment

by Lindsay Robinson, store manager at HBC-Eastern Pkwy

For me, it is important that a gift be thoughtful, affordable, and of quality. I get my ‘holly jollys’ by watching a loved ones face when they open the carefully wrapped package and discover that ”just what they wanted” gift. I get my ‘merrys’ from hearing later on how much they are enjoying their gift. Most of all, it ‘jingles my bells’ to know I not only made a difference in my family or friends day, but I am making an impact on the world.

Every year, I give Heine Brothers’ Coffee as a gift to multiple family members and friends. As soon as they eagerly tear open the sparkly wrapping paper, the aroma of rich coffee permeates the air, mixing with the festive scents of the holidays. Then come the excited squeal and talk of the much anticipated brew in the morning. Accompanying the gift of freshly roasted goodness is usually a handmade mug from a local artist or a rich chocolate bar from a local chocolatier, both of which were also purchased at Heine Brothers’ Coffee.

Heine Brothers’ Coffee provides Fair Trade and Organic coffee that is locally roasted daily. Why is that important? I’m glad you asked…

According to the Heine Brothers’ website: “In reference to coffee, Fair Trade means that a minimum price per pound is set to insure farmers a decent income from producing coffee. If the coffee market in New York goes below that price, the farmers who grow Fair Trade coffee will be paid the higher Fair Trade price. If the market price rises above the Fair Trade Price, the farmers will get the higher price plus an additional premium of  20-60 cents per pound. This system protects farmers from the unstable commodities market.”

So, what’s that mean? It means coffee farmers can put shoes on their children’s feet and send them to school. It means those families can have a little food on the table. It means they may actually survive in the impoverished third world country in which they live. When giving the gift of Fair Trade products you are making more than one person happy, you are giving the gift of life.

Organic coffee is grown without the use of chemicals or other unnatural solutions for pest control. The age old adage, “You are what you eat”, rings true. Why put harmful chemicals in your body if you don’t have to? Organic coffee is traditionally ‘Shade Grown’ as well and all of Heine Brothers’ coffees are Shade Grown, Organic, and Fair Trade.

‘Shade Grown’ means the coffee is grown high up on a mountainside in the shade of taller trees. The taller trees prevent erosion, provide homes for birds and wildlife, and protect the coffee trees from intense sun and high winds, producing a more quality bean. The farmers are able to use the crops from these other trees, such as coconuts and bananas, as a source of extra income as well as use the wood from the trees for fires.

Heine Brothers’ Coffee is locally owned and operated as well as locally roasted and delivered every day. You are contributing to local commerce and making a difference in Louisville when buying locally. In my opinion, this is the highest quality and freshest coffee one could get. I love the Holiday Blend that is only out for a limited time. It is rich and full bodied blend with hints of chocolate comprised of coffees from Africa, Central America, and Indonesia. It makes me want to curl up in a blanket next to a fire on a cold winter day and listen to old holidays tunes. If that doesn’t tantalize your taste buds, there are 7 other house blends and a multitude of single origin coffees to choose from. In addition to the ¾ pound bags, the single pot bags of coffee make a tasteful and aromatic stocking stuffer. Heine Brothers’ Coffee also sells press pots, grinders, storage canisters , Ekobrew cups for Keurig coffee makers, and a variety of other coffee supplies.

So, you see, you can give the gift of ‘Good Tidings and Joy’ and ‘Good Will Towards Man’ as well as receive it. Fair Trade and Organic coffee is the perfect, affordable gift that you can feel confident about.

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