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The Green Beanery
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Green Beanery website
I recently visited Canada’s largest store for coffee equipment and green unroasted coffee beans. Located in downtown Toronto on the corner of Bloor and Bathurst, the Green Beanery is all of a cafe where you can buy a cup of coffee roasted, ground, and brewed on site; a retail store featuring the country’s largest supply of coffee making equipment including home roasters, grinders, and brewers; and featuring the country’s largest selection of green unroasted beans.
For home roasters
Toronto is one of the world’s most multicultural cities and people of many different ethnicities are used to roasting their own coffee. For them and for the hobbyist home coffee roaster, the Green Beanery offers…
…just a few different varieties of green unroasted coffee. In fact, what you see here is probably half of the total amount they offer. There wasn’t a coffee growing region in the world that I didn’t find represented in the Green Beanery’s offering. They’ve even assembled some great “mixed packs”, such as one from Latin America, one suited for espressos, etc.
I tinker with home roasting myself, and picked up a pound of unroasted Nicaragua Maragogype, on the recommendation of head roaster Jason. Green coffee keeps for about two years and only starts to expire when roasted so although I’m currently working through a coffee overstock at home, these beans will keep until I’m ready to roast them.
Non-Profit – Specialty Coffee
I met with owner and founder Larry Soloman. I had two main questions: how does a retail shop like the Green Beanery act as a non-profit, and how does it compete on the retail front when it’s a stone’s throw away from a Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, Second Cup, and at least two independent cafes?
To answer the first question, Larry gave me an interesting recent-history lesson to help me understand the coffee crisis in the world today. Only so many decades back, the few big retail companies that mass-market coffee mainly through the grocery channel demanded a specific profile of bean. Something that could be mass-harvested and mass-sold.
This commoditized the coffee bean, and when something is commoditized, sales go to the people that produce it the cheapest. Those people set the commodity’s price and if you can’t produce it that cheaply AND feed your family, your family doesn’t get fed. If that wasn’t bad enough for today’s coffee farmer, Vietnam has emerged as a brand new coffee producing giant, enough that it surpassed Columbia in 2009 to become the world’s second largest producer of coffee. Without demand for coffee changing, supply skyrocketed with the addition of Vietnamese coffee, making the commodity price of coffee drop further. The winners: us, the consumers. The losers: the coffee farmers that are supplying us with coffee.
The Green Beanery does its part to aid in the coffee crisis by dealing in “specialty coffees”, something other than the grocery store or fast-food offering. If you want a Guatemalan Antigua coffee, you won’t find it at Dunkin Donuts, you’ll find it at the Green Beanery. By promoting and mainly selling specialty coffees, they sell something for which a premium is charged over the commodity price. This lets coffee farmers return to the specialty and uniqueness of their region’s coffee and not just compete in a can’t-win global commodity market.
Specialty Coffee On-Site
The Green Beanery differs from its “competitors” on the same block by roasting specialty coffees from around the world on-site. Since coffee doesn’t start losing its freshness until it’s roasted, you get nothing but fresh coffee which you can enjoy in their open cafe area. Everything served brewed at the Green Beanery was roasted and ground on-site. They keep inventory at a head office and warehouse located just a few blocks away from the retail shop.
The Coffee Crisis
Ever since meeting David Cook at the Fire Roasted Coffee Company, today’s coffee crisis is becoming clearer to me. I empathize with today’s coffee farmer more than ever because I’ve spent years perfecting my coffee making at home, but never once gave a thought to the farmer that lives in poverty and has nothing else to offer the world except coffee that I love and take for granted. The Green Beanery raises awareness of this situation, and helped open my eyes to the problem a little more. I appeal to you to spend a couple dollars more for a pound of coffee and buy it Fair Trade. I realize now that it’s the least that I can do.