Discover how this coffee lovers group in Japan is making a difference in Malawi by doing what they enjoy – drinking coffee
5 August 2018| Last updated on 5 August 2018
As someone who was born and raised in the United States, deciding to move to Japan for two months was one of the biggest decisions I have ever made. Although my time here hasn't always been easy, coming to Japan is a decision I would not hesitate to make again. One of the most impactful parts of my time here has been the opportunity to work with a local non-profit organization called Seibo Japan. Their mission is to provide school lunches to children in Malawi, Africa in order to create opportunity for the country's overwhelming youth population.
A couple of months prior to my arrival, Seibo launched a coffee company called the Warm Hearts Coffee Club. Warm Hearts is a community of coffee lovers based in Japan, who enjoy freshly roasted coffee from the comfort of their home or workplace, while also supporting smallholder coffee growers.
The name "Warm Hearts" is a reference to the nickname of the country from which we source our coffee: Malawi, Africa- which is also known as "The Warm Heart of Africa." Thanks to corporate sponsorship, Warm Hearts is able to donate 100% of all proceeds to charity. As I have learned, this unique model of doing charity by doing business is necessary to generate support in Japan. Our coffee club challenges people in the decisions they make every day by offering them a choice- the choice to drink "good" coffee. While we know that running a social enterprise does not guarantee success, it makes our work a lot more enjoyable.
As a new arrival in Japan I must admit to being surprised at how much coffee culture has permeated every neighbourhood I’ve been to. Perhaps I should not have been- after all the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee got his inspiration from Tokyo’s coffee shops. In traditional Tokyo coffee houses, or “siphon bars,” dedicated baristas make each cup by hand and use hand-carved bamboo paddles that fit their palms to stir the cup. The word that comes to mind?
Today in Japan, coffee is big business. Japan imports over 700 million bags of green beans annually, making Japan one of world’s largest consumers of coffee. It’s also a market that is riding the “third wave of coffee” with a focus on the origin and peculiarities of flavour of the bean. That’s where the Warm Hearts Coffee Club joins the story. Sourcing our coffee from Misuku in northern Malawi, we use organically-grown, fairly traded coffee beans shade grown under the leaves of banana trees. Our 100% Arabica coffee is then freshly roasted in a 100-year old roasting house in downtown Tokyo, and delivered to the homes of our Japanese supporters.
The fact that 100% of proceeds are then sent back to Malawi to feed children who may never otherwise have gone to school almost seems secondary, but if ever there was a “good” cup of coffee then this is it.
Japan is a must visit on your list, and Japanese coffee culture is unmissable. For me, being part of an organization that is able to do business while also making an impact has been an experience that I will always hold with me, no matter where I am in the world. I’ll drink a coffee to that!