Having originally emigrated to New Zealand, two decades ago on an engineering contract, this innovative couple has successfully developed a Toitū carbonzero, BioGro Organic, and Fairtrade certified business.
As I take a seat to chat with Carmen, I’m struck by her comfort and ease as she starts chatting about IncaFé, and the philosophies she and Joop have integrated into the supply chain. I very quickly realise that the philosophies are in fact personal principles the couple share and they have been embedded into every aspect of their coffee business.
IncaFé source their green coffee beans from organic growers in Peru, Sumatra, and Ethiopia. The beans are grown under natural forest canopies, with companion plants, and abundant wildlife. The growers own and operate their own farms and pay special attention to the soil to ensure the beans embody all the goodness of their growing conditions. Carmen and Joop visit their growers every year, they invest their time, and effort, and pay above market rates to ensure sustainability for the farmers and consistent supply for their roasting operations in New Zealand.
Joop pops out of his office to join the conversation. As we chat further about organic farming and the practicalities of managing business relationships from halfway around the world, Joop’s passion for the environment becomes palpable. Having been born and brought up in the Netherlands, he reflects on his earliest memories of how modern farming practises often damage ecosystems. A career of contracting across the globe, seeing environmental degradation for pure economic advantage, further supported Joop’s passion to develop a business that was based on the best possible sustainable and environmental practises, whilst treating suppliers ethically.
Carmen and Joop met in her native Peru in the 1990s, and she laughs as she talks of her love of the Netherlands and Joop’s devotion to Peru. She simply raises her eyebrows and sighs as Joop talks of his dream to have a retreat deep in one of the organic coffee plantations.
It is obvious that this couple shares the same life philosophies as we continue to chat about their Toitū carbonzero certification since 2008. In short, it means that the carbon emissions of the entire production from the international port of loading the green beans to the roasted product being received by the client are measured. The current KPI is 0.89 kg CO2 per kg of coffee sold, although Joop aims to reduce this further still. Other business innovations for the betterment of the environment have included the introduction of biodegradable cups in 2008, the co-development of the 4evercup – a double-walled stainless-steel cup for clients to reuse, and the recent introduction of home compostable packaging.
From L to R: IncaFé’s new home compostable packaging, amongst the wide range of products they cater for decaf drinkers too, bagged green coffee beans.
Apart from their work in Peru with their growers on getting, for example, Birdfriendly certification, other sustainable development initiatives in progress include a ground-breaking project with some support of Massey University to deliver high yielding disease-resistant species of coffee plants. Whilst the Solomon Islands fledgeling coffee sector has also seen support from Carmen and Joop, although challenges with mainly climate, to meet export quality production, have slowed progress. Additionally, the couple continues to sponsor a school in Villa Rica, Peru, supporting community connectedness of their growers, and education of the next generation in organic farming. A potential “greenfield” development project in Flores, one of the Lesser Sunda Islands – a group of islands in the eastern half of Indonesia, is also on the horizon for this busy couple.
International relationships are key to business success and quite possible, according to Joop, “One simply must have a relationship based on integrity and trust.” Carmen and Joop have established a joint venture with their main growers in Peru, IncaFé Peru. The new joint venture sees IncaFé Peru co-owning the oldest coffee processing plant dating back to the 1870s, which now allows for the commercialisation of speciality organic coffees.
I ask Carmen and Joop what they would put on a billboard if they could say anything them wanted, Joop is quick to respond that every producer in New Zealand should go organic. “New Zealand as a country should be all natural as the side effects for everyone would be phenomenal, from tourism through to the quality of life.” He adds, “One should not only consume less but consume better.”
This is clearly not a business that has donned a label to leverage current issues or marketing, it is a personal mission by a couple to do right by the planet, the grower and the consumer.
In addition to roasted coffee, IncaFé also supply green coffee beans, brew gear, Ascaso espresso machines and grinders, 4evercups, as well as drinking chocolate made from the finest organic Peruvian cocoa beans.
To me, it is comforting to know that roasted, organic, Fairtrade coffee, in home compostable packaging is readily available in store or online at affordable prices; however, I am prouder to say that New Zealand is home to yet another ethical business.