Oso Negro Fine Coffee
Oso Negro Fine Coffee is a Nelson institution and our close relationship with this roastery goes back decades. In 1995, The Kootenay Co-op became the first grocery retailer to sell Oso Negro Coffee. Since that time Co-op shoppers have purchased in the neighborhood of 84,000 pounds of beans which translates into 5 million cups of coffee. Wow! They even roast our own blend, Co-op Joe, available only at the Co-op! We are very proud to work with this company that is dedicated to providing the highest quality of life possible for everyone in their supply chain. Their direct trade relationship with Mayan cooperatives in Gautemala is especially fascinating.
Where are you located?
Beautiful Nelson BC.
What do you make?
Locally roasting fine fresh coffee
Who are the makers at Oso Negro?
Co-founders John Meyer and Jim May, Manager Anne Wishlow, roaster Ned Woods, an incredible team of co-workers here in Nelson, and coffee growing partners around the globe.
How would you describe your company?
It is our goal as a company to provide the highest quality of life possible for our producers, our customers, and ourselves. That’s why we choose to buy organically grown and ethically traded coffee whenever possible, give back to our community and offer sustainable jobs to our co-workers. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do make customer service and accountability paramount.
How long have you been roasting coffee?
25 years! We were established in 1993.
What motivated you to start?
Sharing the love of premium quality, freshly roasted coffee with our community.
What are some of your greatest challenges?
Climate change and natural disasters which greatly affect our farmers
What are some of your greatest joys?
Listening to coffee lovers share their experience and appreciation with us, and our relationships with our coffee growers.
How do you source your coffee beans?
We source most of our green beans through a twenty-five year relationship with a very special broker at Royal Coffee in Oakland, California, who we trust to source fairly traded and organic beans whenever possible. Fair Trade and organic beans make up approximately 97% of our inventory. We also source from several Canadian sources, and chiefly amongst those is a direct relationship with an amazing cooperative in Guatemala who produces Café Justicia.
Your relationship with Café Jusitica is fascinating! Could you tell us more about this organization?
Café Justicia is organic coffee grown by cooperatives of Mayan communities in Guatemala. The Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA) organizes the Café Justica cooperatives. The CCDA was founded in 1982 and works to defend the rights of workers on large coffee, sugar and cotton plantations, to recover lands taken from the Mayan communities over the past centuries, and to promote and recover Mayan culture and spirituality. Sales of the coffee not only support the families of cooperative members but also fund social development projects in surrounding communities and the CCDA’s broader struggle for social justice in Guatemala.
Café Justicia is imported into Canada by BC CASA, a BC-based solidarity organization. All profits from sales in Canada are returned to the CCDA and other social justice organizations in Guatemala.
Oso Negro is very proud to be the largest purchaser of Café Justica green beans in Canada; this year we purchased approximately 21 tonnes. We roast the beans and sell them in our ‘Justicia’ blend. One quarter of the beans in the Co-op Joe blend are also from Cafe Justicia.
Ned, our roaster, visited the CCDA in Guatemala several years ago and was moved by the work that they do there. Ned says: “We believe that it is a great honour to work with CCDA directly through BC CASA. Both organizations are remarkable in their dedication to improve the quality of life of indigenous Guatemalans who have been the object of persecution and even genocide at the hands of their own government for several decades. Enabled by the transparency of BC CASA we engage in the most fair and direct form of trade that we can, offering the CCDA a price for their coffee that is much higher than even the certified and market driven value that ‘fair trade’ ensures. This is especially pertinent right now with the international commodity price of coffee at an all-time low, driving millions of coffee farmers and workers towards deep poverty and despair. We hope to maintain our relationship with these two groups for many years to come.”
The CCDA is a just company working for the farmers and their community in a dangerous part of the world, experiencing natural disasters, and much more… we are left with gratitude and appreciation.
What is your vision for Oso Negro?
We will continue to source the finest, ethically traded and organically grown coffee whenever possible. Will strive to create sustainable lifestyles from the farmer to our co-workers.
Why is local food and/or local purchasing important to you?
Local purchasing maintains economic health within our community.
If you could deliver a message directly to Co-op members/customers, what would it be?
Choose wisely and choose fresh. Thank you for your years of business!