Meet Menaka.

Meet Menaka, a seasonal worker for Ethical Inspirations, our spice partner in Sri Lanka. 

 

Menaka is responsible for leading the others in cleaning, shrink sleeving, labelling and packaging the spice bottles.

She is a woman who was marginalized in the local community. She was born with multiple disabilities. Her mother sent her to school, but as she grew, she struggled to find employment. Her physical limitations restricted her from finding livelihood employment. 

Menaka was born with only seven fingers on both her hands; and only one foot. She has to depend on an artificial foot to move. Her limitations have made her determined to stand up in life as an independent woman. 

Menaka is married to Weerasinghe, a young man plagued by polio. Weerasinghe drives a trishaw that provides an income for the family. Weerasinghe ensures that his wife gets to work on time and picks her up after work. Menaka has the opportunity for dignified work and to make an income for her family.

Menaka and her husband, Weerasinghe.

Menaka and her husband, Weerasinghe.

Menaka poses with freshly labelled spices. 

Menaka poses with freshly labelled spices. 

New Job Posting: Sales Admin

Position: Sales Administration and Special Projects

Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30am - 4:30pm (37.5 hours per week) 

Position Type: Full-time, 14+ month internship contract

Effective: Starting March 12th, 2018

Compensation: Salary based on experience and qualifications

Paid Time Off: 13 days + 1 day/year longevity (pro-rated)

Submit resume to hr@levelground.com by February 15th, 2018

Together, we’re building a food system focused on sustainability and well-being. Want to join?

 

SALES TEAM OVERVIEW

Level Ground Trading’s Sales Team is a co-operative, communicative, forward-thinking positive environment where hard work and innovation are valued. Our Sales Team culture, with a foundation based on trust, provides a safe work environment that is non-blaming and non-judging. Supporting one another through each challenge and success is a necessity to succeeding in this role. The goal of the sales team is for each one of us to be using our talents to the best of our ability to experience personal, team, and organizational success.

 

JOB DESCRIPTION

This position will join our team working towards market expansion in combination with special projects to support the sales team and Level Ground’s green initiatives.

This position will include:

  • Collaborating with the Sales Manager to set clear objectives
  • Promoting environmental responsibility through Level Ground’s business model
  • Working with sales team through account maintenance, support, and growth
  • Learning and being proficient with several systems (OMS, EDI, and online account portals)
  • Processing orders with a high level of attention to detail  
  • Providing input and participating in bi-weekly sales team meetings

 

QUALIFICATIONS

Education/Experience

  • Business-related post-secondary education with a focus in sales/marketing/sustainability
  • Related work experience in a sales and administrative role preferred

General Skills/Abilities

This position combines sales and customer service skills with administration. Competence in this position will require a passion for social and environmental sustainability, along with an ease in customer service, and administration.

  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Capacity to adapt quickly to a fast-paced, dynamic work environment
  • A high degree of accuracy and attention to detail
  • Excellent multi-tasking skills with the ability to set priorities and meet deadlines
  • Proven participatory work style; ability to work independently and with a team
  • Strong computer skills including Word, Excel, and Web-based applications
  • Minimum 50 wpm typing speed. (We operate in a Mac-based environment)

Specific Required Skills/Efforts

  • Success in this position will depend on your ability to understand others, predict their needs and offer solutions in a friendly manner. Professional appearance and dialogue as well as the ability to create friendly relationships will be important.

Communication

  • Strong interpersonal skills required to gauge the needs of customers, and to communicate actions needed to both the customers and other departments throughout Level Ground.
  • Confidence to ask timely questions, offer information and initiate methods for increasing exposure of the products.
  • Flexibility and wisdom to put the time in where it makes the biggest impact.
  • Sensitivity to the needs/opinions of co-workers, ability to put yourself in their shoes to figure out a solution that works for everyone.

Time Management

  • Ability to determine priorities and put the most amount of time into efforts that provide the biggest impact long-term.

 

Desired Assets

  • Awareness and passion for social and environmental sustainability
  • Familiarity with Fair Trade principles
  • Flexibility and willingness to learn new skills
  • Experience with online sales platforms

 

This position may be supported by a government hiring program. As such, we encourage candidates who meet the following requirements to apply:

  • Canadian post-secondary graduate
  • 30 years of age or younger upon start date
  • Not currently employed full-time
  • Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person granted refugee status
  • Legally entitled to work in Canada
  • Not have participated in any other Youth Employment Strategy programs (ie. Career Focus)

 

Applicants are requested to submit a cover letter and resume to hr@levelground.com.

Applications close February 15th.

 

Pineapple - Regrowing Peace through Pineapples

In the Cauca region of Colombia, the Balanta family has worked for years advocating simultaneously for peace and for pineapples. 

It's a region that was known for conflict; it's main crop, coca leaves. Because of the coca production, guerrillas occupied the area, soon followed by the military. This combination led to heavy violence in the area.

Cesar (Nilsen Lucumi), Susanna, and Gustavo (Amaifi Bonilla) Balanta grow pineapple from their farm in Cauca. Even though they have formal education, and hold other jobs in Law and Human Resources, they never left Agriculture. This family has deliberately chosen to stay in Cauca, through conflict and war. They advocate for pineapple production, a welcomed alternative to coca, and are passionate members of the pineapple farmers' association - Asoagronorca (Agriculture Association of Northern Cauca). 

Now, this region cultivates peace. What was previously an area known for drug production and violence is now a community who comes together to produce pineapple and work together. 

Cesar Balanta in one of the Pineapple farms in Cauca.

Cesar Balanta in one of the Pineapple farms in Cauca.

The finished product. Our pineapple package features the face of Susanna Balanta. 

The finished product. Our pineapple package features the face of Susanna Balanta. 

We Moved!

It's official, we're in our new home. After 20 years of Fair Trade on Keating X Road (in various locations), we are excited to be in a brand new facility. 

Our roots lay deep on the Saanich Peninsula. We have moved 800 metres up the road to Sean Heights! 

So why the big move? 

  • We're growing! To accommodate our staff and the 45 containers of Fair Trade products we bring in every year
  • Hospitality! We love to host tours. This facility was designed to show you behind the scenes of our operations
 

Our new address is:

1757 Sean Heights

Victoria, BC

V8M 0B3

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Our front door! Ready to welcome you in Monday - Friday, 9-4. 

Our front door! Ready to welcome you in Monday - Friday, 9-4. 

A view down our warehouse. The green mural wall is one of our favourite parts of the building!

A view down our warehouse. The green mural wall is one of our favourite parts of the building!

Home sweet home. Our views of Brentwood Bay. 

Home sweet home. Our views of Brentwood Bay. 

A welcomed sign in our roasting room: caffeine! 

A welcomed sign in our roasting room: caffeine! 

Meet Maria.

Meet Maria Chari. The face of Peru Coffee.

Maria is a coffee farmer and Matriarch of the Machiguenga First Nation in Pangoa, Peru. 

Like many of the co-op members, Maria produces coffee as a cash crop. She employs biodiversity in her crops to cultivate healthy food.

Maria, her family, and other members of the First Nations group grow organic coffee and cacao. They are members of a long-established co-op with 680 members. The co-op is called 'Co-operativa Agraria Cafetalera Pangoa' (now, that's a mouthful!), or 'CAC Pangoa’ for short.  

The organic coffee we purchase is grown exclusively by the Machiguenga First Nation. 

Maria seeing her face on a package of Peru coffee for the first time!

Maria seeing her face on a package of Peru coffee for the first time!

When we visit, members of the Machiguenga First Nation throw a celebration and wear their traditional (and colourful) robes. 

When we visit, members of the Machiguenga First Nation throw a celebration and wear their traditional (and colourful) robes. 

Peru Coffee

 

 

Fair Trade Verification vs. Certification.

This post was written by the Fair Trade Federation. The original post can be found on their website here.

Level Ground is proud to be a verified member of the Fair Trade Federation community, committed to 360° fair trade. fairtradefederation.org


Fair trade verification and certification are often mistakenly used interchangeably in North America. Although they both use the words “fair trade,” these approaches differ. We hope this information is helpful in understanding the diverse practices in the fair trade movement.

 

Verification

Fair trade verification is an evaluation of a wholesale or retail organization. To become verified and a member of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF), the organization must make a full commitment to our nine fair trade principles for all products and practices. They must uphold what we call 360° fair trade, making sure the well-being of the artisans and farmers is at the heart of every business decision. An important part of this commitment is paying at or above a living wage: a reliable wage to the artisans and farmers which can cover all of their needs, including food, shelter, education, and health care for their families. FTF businesses work with farmer and artisan partners that are typically ignored by conventional corporations and struggle to compete in the global market. The Fair Trade Federation is a proud member of the World Fair Trade Organization, an allied membership organization that works to promote holistic fair trade organizations globally.

Though the approaches differ, verification and certification are not mutually exclusive. A number of U.S. and Canadian businesses are both verified by the Fair Trade Federation and have certified products.

To see a list and/or search for verified fair trade companies, visit the FTF search engine.  To learn more about the verification process, see our post on how FTF verifies its member businesses.

Certification

Fair trade certification is offered by organizations such as Fair for Life, Fairtrade International, and Fair Trade USA. Certifiers perform in-person audits of a producer organization or site of an ingredient, product, or product line according to the fair trade standards set by each organization (see their websites above for further information regarding their standards). Important requirements of certification include paying at or above the designated minimum fair trade price, which acts as a safety net when market prices fall, as well as paying an additional fair trade premium. This premium goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use, as they see fit, to improve their social, economic, and environmental conditions.

Fair Trade Verification and Certification

Fruandes Organic Farmers Meeting

Fruandes, our dried fruit and cane sugar partner in Colombia, shared the following with us.


This summer, Fruandes held the sixth organic farmers meeting in Ipiales, Nariño (Colombia). The On this occasion, Fruandes visited and shared some time with each of the members of the Biofruit Napoli association, a group of organic golden berries producers led by Albeiro Chamorro.

The focus of the meeting was 'The Farm as a Set of Good Practices'. Participants exchanged farming practices, in order to co-create and improve processes. 

The agenda had four stages:

1. Good Practices 

The 2-day meeting began with the participation of all association members. Each member shared their best practices and strategies in terms of quality and sourcing.

Together they identified the following good practices:

  1. Loyalty and organizational commitment
  2. Persistence and good project management
  3. Good organizational management
  4. Strategic leadership
  5. Inclusive governance
  6. Good logistics and traceability through effective communications

 

2. The Chagra Route

A Chagra is an Indigenous farming system. It's not only a collective activity wherein farmers and indigenous people produce their own food, but also a learning place where traditional beliefs are connected with organic production and divinity.

We visited the Chagra in the afternoon. The aim of this activity was to observe, and analyze how we can replicate these kinds of farms. Fruandes encourages farmers to grow healthy, nourishing foods for their own households. 

 

3. Visit to the organic golden berry farms

The Fruandes community visited the farms of several Biofruit association members to know more about growing organic golden berries. First, we visited Hernando Chamorro’s farm, where we had a tour of his fields and learned about his composting practices. Next, we went to visit Albeiro Chamorro’s farm, and toured around the farm as he explained the golden berry picking process. Later, we visited Gildardo Rosero´s farm. He is in charge of raising the seedlings of the golden berries for all farmers belonging to the association. Lastly, we visited the farms of Jaime, Enrique and Leonardo López in the José María Hernández village, located in Pupiales. There we learned about other products made from golden berries.

 

4. Gathering and cultural exchanges 

At the community center in the village of José María Hernández, we participated in the last activity of the meeting, much anticipated by participants. We described the organizational structure of Fruandes with two main objectives: 1) To know the roles of each on the Fruandes team; and 2) To replicate this model within each association to improve their organizational structure.

To be faithful and loyal are the keys of success.
— Albeiro Chamorro, Biofruit Napoli Association
Fruandes is a knowledge center!
— Orlando Rodriguez, Banana Farmer
Germán Betancourt, Organic Development Leader (far left) with organic pineapple farmers from the Cauca region.

Germán Betancourt, Organic Development Leader (far left) with organic pineapple farmers from the Cauca region.

Fabio Baron, Fruandes Logistics and Service Leader (left), on the farm of Hernan Chamorro, the pioneer of the organic golden berry production in Nariño. 

Fabio Baron, Fruandes Logistics and Service Leader (left), on the farm of Hernan Chamorro, the pioneer of the organic golden berry production in Nariño. 

A traditional dance from Nariño on the last day of the meeting.

A traditional dance from Nariño on the last day of the meeting.

Hugo in Tanzania: An Update from Tracey Ciro

A farmer update by Tracey Ciro (Co-founder).


Good morning, Level Ground!

Hugo left Victoria on Tuesday.  At some point early Sunday morning, while we were all still sleeping, he finally made it to the coffee growing region of Tanzania.  Long trip!  

I believe, this photo was taken at the Mlolow Coffee Processing Plant in Mbeya, Tanzania.  These are the women who sort our Tanzanian coffee bean by bean by hand.  (Please know, when I visited this plant, I asked about the women working on the floor.  I was shown sorting tables and comfortable-looking (to my eyes) chairs.  All unused.  The women, it was explained to me, prefer to work on the floor! )

There must be some story to the shirt Hugo is wearing.  I do not recognize it.

Hugo is off to visit farmers in Ileje today.  It will be a bumpy 4-wheel drive that is hours long… (and way longer than the driver tells you it will be!).  The road is red clay, if it has been dry, red mud if it has been raining.  There is lush green vegetation on either side of the road, and steep cliffs on, at least, one side of the road.  It is the kind of road you tell your mother about once you are safely back in Canada! ;)

Wishing you all a great day!

Tracey

Hugo in Tanzania

Four Easy Fair Trade Gift Ideas

By purchasing Fair Trade gifts for your family, friends (or even yourself!) this Christmas season, you allow farmers in developing countries to receive fair wages for their work. And you get amazing gifts. Talk about win-win!

To make it easy, we made three gift bundles (and a gift card!), ready to be added to your cart and gifted. (Sorry American friends, our retail website is for Canadian shipping only!).

1. Coffee gift bundle

Perfect for the coffee lover or student in your life. Four of our favourite 1lb coffees grouped together for a delicious caffeine journey! 

Colombia Dark - Our best seller and very first coffee. 

Winter Blend - Medium-dark roast seasonal coffee. A craft blend of our organic African coffees. 

Bolivia Medium - Our most chocolate-like coffee. Smooth, rich, and creamy.

French Very Dark - For the bold, these are our famous Colombia beans, roasted as dark as we dare go. 

 

2. Baking gift bundle

Looking for a hostess gift? Or a last minute gift for a work Christmas exchange? Don't worry, we've got your back.

Vanilla Beans - 5 grade "A" vanilla beans from Uganda. Wildly delicious and fragrant.

Ceylon Cinnamon - The true cinnamon. The flavour is like nothing you've ever tasted before.

Cacao Nibs - Roasted, organic cacao nibs. Perfect for baking in place of chocolate chips. 

Cane Sugar - Organic, unrefined sugar from Colombia. 

 

3. Foodie gift bundle

For the food lover in your circle. A curated selection of our products designed to enhance your kitchen offerings.

Winter Blend - Medium-dark roast seasonal coffee. A craft blend of our organic African coffees.  

Violet Rice - Heirloom rice from the Philippines. Grown on a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Amazing for sticky rice dishes.

Earl Grey Tea - Organically grown tea from Assam, India. 20 tea pyramids. 

Mango - Organic dried mango. No added sugar or preservatives. 5 whole mangoes in every package!

Vanilla Beans - 5 grade "A" vanilla beans from Uganda. Wildly delicious and fragrant.

Cacao Nibs - Roasted, organic cacao nibs. Perfect for baking in place of chocolate chips. 

Turmeric - Fresh spice from Sri Lanka. Amazing for cooking and adding bright colours to your dish. 

 
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4. Digital gift card

Overwhelmed by choice? Send the gift of flexibility! We offer gift cards for our online store. Your family and friends can choose their favourite Fair Trade products and have them shipped directly to their door step. Easy! 

When you buy Fair Trade ...

You support real people in communities worldwide! In Colombia, you fund education for families in coffee farming communities through a program called Famicafé. Read more about Famicafé here.  

Speaking Coffee: Beginner Tips from Robyn

An editorial piece by Robyn Barchen (Marketing).


Picture this:

You're at a fancy brunch with friends: gluten-free mini waffles, locally foraged berries, homemade jams. The whole spread looks like it belongs on Pinterest. And then suddenly, the familiar aroma fills the air: coffee. A taste of home in a cup. 

But this moment quickly turns sour ... there's no cream or sugar in sight! You realize: these are coffee snobs. Words like "natural" or "full-bodied" are being thrown around like food at a middle-school cafeteria. But what do they even mean?

Fear not. I want to equip you. Just like you've learned to use the words "terroir" or "fruit-forward" around wine, this can be your go-to lexicon for coffee.

 
I'm only smiling because I know I have a few coffee words in my back pocket. Ready to be whipped out at a moment's notice.

I'm only smiling because I know I have a few coffee words in my back pocket. Ready to be whipped out at a moment's notice.

 

The Go-To's:

  • Bold: This is the #1 word to throw around for coffee. Like the taste? Say bold. Not your style? Say bold.
  • Full-Bodied: While referring to a coffee that is well rounded, this word can become quite versatile if you say it with confidence. (Only for coffee, of course. I would not suggest calling the host "full-bodied"). 
  • Balanced: As long as it tastes like coffee to you, this is a solid word to throw into the mix.

If it tastes ___, say ____:

  • Burnt, say dark roast.
  • Sour, say citrus.
  • Dirt, say earthy.

For the Brave:

  • Plush: Meaning the body of the coffee, the weight of it on your tongue feels good. You're not likely to get questioned on it, but you might get some strange looks. Stay strong, you've got this. 
  • Spicy: Referring to the taste of spices, not a hot taste. Be careful, you might get asked what spice you're tasting. (When in doubt, go with cloves). 
 
Alternative to fancy coffee words? Find the nearest cat and occupy yourself. Works 60% of the time (signficantly less if there is no cat, or if you have allergies).

Alternative to fancy coffee words? Find the nearest cat and occupy yourself. Works 60% of the time (signficantly less if there is no cat, or if you have allergies).

 

And of course, if you're the one hosting the brunch, pick up a package of our coffee. We put the flavour notes right on the front. Think of it as your cheat sheet for talking coffee! 

 

Ethiopia Medium Coffee
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We are moving!

November 30th Update: We have found a date! We are planning to move on Friday, December 15th and over that weekend. Hopefully by Monday, December 18th we will be up and running in the new facility. Things might be bumpy around that time, so we ask for a little grace and a lot of patience. We're so excited to show you our new home!


After 20 years of Fair Trade on Keating X Road (in various locations), we are excited to announce we are moving to a brand new facility!

Our roots lay deep on the Saanich Peninsula. We are moving 800 metres up the road to Sean Heights! 

So why the big move? 

  • We're growing! To accommodate our staff and the 45 containers of Fair Trade products we bring in every year
  • Hospitality! We love to host tours. This facility was designed to show you behind the scenes of our operations

Our new address will be:

1757 Sean Heights

Victoria, BC

V8M 0B3

 

You will find us in our new home in December! 

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Our phone number and emails will remain the same. If you want to double check where we're operating, just give us a call! 

STAFF SATURDAY: Meet Jenna

Jenna is a force to be reckoned with. She’s got an unsinkable drive and determination that lies beneath a finger snap and a moonwalk. That might not make much sense, but when you’ve spent time around Jenna - an impromptu dance party isn’t far behind.  She manages our food service and cafe sales. Her ability to connect with people is nothing short of inspiring and her infectious laugh can crack the iciest of moods.  

 

She’s been with Level Ground since 2010 and has held onto our sales team with pitbull intensity. You’ve got to have a resilient spirit and enjoy the chase if you’re in sales and Jenna’s managed to take a wily category and give it kind attention. She’s a great listener, hilarious story teller, and a steadfast champion of the farmers we work with. In 2015 she went to Colombia to visit coffee and fruit farmers and her passion for advocating for Fair Trade has been ignited ever since.

 

She embodies the West Coast daily: recently graduating from Yoga Teacher Training, adventuring in her Westfalia, surfing on weekends, all while raising two fierce boys. Very few people know how to bliss like Jenna. We’re so fortunate to have her unique spark and enduring loyalty.

Meet Someswar.

Assam, India is an area famous for its malty rich black tea. When we first met tea growers in Assam, we were surprised to hear they were producing green teas ... huh? The pioneers of organic tea quickly saw the need to differentiate their tea from others. It made sense to put together the idea of healthful green tea with organic tea cultivation. Selling green tea within Assam was much easier than competing with long-established black tea brands. 


Meet Someswar. Green tea grower, and organic champion.

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Someswar grows and processes tea for Level Ground's Green Tea.

Remarkably, Someswar has been a Small Tea Grower since 1976. In fact, he was the first small tea grower registered in Assam! A small tea grower is someone who owns and operates a tea garden (like a sole proprietor) - often their garden is in their backyard or close by to their home.  Officially Small Tea Growers may have a garden up to 10 hectares.  The growers of Level Ground’s tea have gardens between 1-10 acres.


Someswar not only has pioneered the idea of  small tea growing in Assam, but he is a champion of organic. He is an officially recognized trainer in organic tea growing and processing and uses his time to share the knowledge he's gained.   Thanks to efforts like Someswar's, there will be more organic tea growers in Assam!

 

Laurie, Level Ground co-owner, and Someswar visit in his Assam tea garden.

Laurie, Level Ground co-owner, and Someswar visit in his Assam tea garden.

Two leaves and a bud are plucked from Someswar's garden. This provides a good mix between quality (the bud) and quantity (the leaves) for tea. 

Two leaves and a bud are plucked from Someswar's garden. This provides a good mix between quality (the bud) and quantity (the leaves) for tea. 

Someswar shows us the list of students who have attended his training seminars over the past year.

Someswar shows us the list of students who have attended his training seminars over the past year.

about 100 students attend Someswar's Training Centre each year.

about 100 students attend Someswar's Training Centre each year.

 

8 Ways to Make Better Coffee Right Now

1. Clean your equipment

Don’t be afraid to really pull apart your machine and give it a deep clean. Whether it is a coffee pot, French press, or any other method, soap and water will do the trick. We recommend cleaning it frequently, as coffee oils can build up on your equipment and will impart unwanted flavours on your cup.

 

2. Buy good beans

You’re going to get out of your cup of coffee what you put into it. Here’s what to look for when buying coffee beans:

  • Arabica beans (watch out for Robusta, those beans are used as a cheap filler).
  • Small-batch roasted – this allows for greater control and roasting perfection.
  • Transparency on origin – you want to know where your favourite beans are coming from. Roasters that identify the origin are not likely to be hiding lower quality beans.

(Buy our great coffee beans here!)

 

3. Make sure it’s fresh

Coffee peaks about 7 – 21 days after roasting. While that isn’t realistic to always find (unless you live beside a roaster), we recommend you look for coffee that was roasted between one and three months ago.

Some methods are more forgiving than others. Espresso requires fresh beans and careful attention, where more forgiving methods, like French Press and drip brewer, can produce a decent cup with more variance in beans.

 

4. Brew it right

Although we all think we’re experts at “eyeballing” it when it comes to scooping coffee, there is nothing like following the golden ratio (1 part coffee to 17.42 parts water). But all you need to remember is the recipe for each type of coffee:

If you like to use a traditional drip brewer, try out this method, which uses 60g of coffee for a 12-cup pot.

French press lovers, we recommend 55g of coffee for a 1L press, but you can see a full recipe here

 

5. Try a new method, like Chemex or Aeropress.

Coffee is all about getting a flavour you like. If the way you’re preparing coffee isn’t doing it for you (or you just want to branch out), why not try some of these methods:

Chemex – This attractive method produces an incredibly clean cup of coffee. It can be a little difficult to master, but with a scale and a bit of practice you’ll be golden. See our full step-by-step method here.

Aeropress – Although it may appear daunting thanks to its modular appearance, the Aeropress is surprisingly easy to use. Plus, it’s super handy to pack for travelling. See our full step-by-step method here. 

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6. Store it in a cool, dark place

Coffee is happiest when it is hidden from light and air. If you don’t like to keep your coffee in the packaging you bought it in, make sure you transfer it to an airtight container that won’t let light in. A tin-tie, zipper, or seal will help keep the air out, and lock the freshness in.

 

7. No, not your freezer

Somehow a rumour got started that the freezer is a good place for your coffee, but don’t fall for it! When beans are taken in and out of a freezer, condensation happens. Moisture and coffee are not friends! Any benefit you might have gained from freezing the beans is quickly nullified.

 

8. Don’t be afraid to drink your coffee the way you like it

The best cup of coffee is the cup that you prefer. While so-called “coffee connoisseurs” will try to convince you it’s a sin to put sugar in your cup, we firmly believe that you should do what you like! If you like a splash of cream, go for it! If you prefer it black, enjoy that. And if you like 2 tablespoons of sugar, we’re certainly not going to fault you for it.

Buy it now

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Meet Bibiana.

When we set up our first trade relationship in 1997, small-scale coffee farmers in Colombia told us that the education of their children was a top priority. In response, Famicafé was founded to fund education for small-scale farmers’ children.

So how does it work? Level Ground Trading pays a Community Premium to Famicafé each time we purchase coffee from Colombia, which funds student scholarships and classroom resources.

 

Meet Bibiana.

We met Bibiana as one of the first group of students Level Ground sponsored in Colombia. Her life was difficult. In 2001, armed men forced Bibiana’s family out of their small home on the tiny sliver of land they owned. With only a few possessions, they took refuge at the Famicafé boarding house until Bibiana’s father was able to find a place for them to settle.

Graduating high school in 2002, Bibiana went on to nursing school after she was unable to get into medical school. She completed nursing school four years later, but her dream to become a medical doctor remained. She continued school in Armenia, Colombia, studying diligently and living with her Famicafé schoolmates.

Bibiana graduated from medical school in 2015. She moved to the big city, Medellin, to work at a walk-in clinic. The 12-hour shifts were draining, and the pay was menial. She was burning out quickly because she didn’t have enough time to care for each patient that waited to see her.

Earlier this year, she managed to find work at a clinic that specializes in hemophilia. She now focuses on diagnosis, treatment and follow-up with hemophiliac patients. She lives in the big city of Medellin, but continues to travel back to San Bartolo to visit her parents. She is able to send money home to help her parents who are day labourers in coffee farms near their small house in the mountains.

Bibiana is a great example of the benefits of investing coffee premiums into the lives and education of young people. Women like Bibiana bring joy to our hearts because in her we see hope for a better rural Colombia.

Bibiana poses with Level Ground staff and Julian, the director of Famicafé.

Bibiana poses with Level Ground staff and Julian, the director of Famicafé.

Famicafé students Sandra and Bibiana in the mountains of Colombia. 

Famicafé students Sandra and Bibiana in the mountains of Colombia. 

Hugo, Level Ground Co-founder, and Bibiana visiting this week!

Hugo, Level Ground Co-founder, and Bibiana visiting this week!

STAFF SATURDAY: Meet Robyn

She’s our marketing go-to and resident cat herder. Her job is to corral the wily ideas in our creative department and turn them into successful (and beautiful!) customer motivators. There are a LOT of great ideas floating around this company (and strong opinions attached to each). She handles every hare-brained idea with ease and grace. She’s even editing her own Staff Saturday write-up (hopefully she leaves in the good parts - don't worry , I did!). She’s a crazy crossfitter and maintains caring relationships with friends and family. She probably wears a little too much plaid and might find Chantelle a little funnier than the rest of us.

 

Robyn has been at Level Ground before - in Accounting to be exact! From combing over label details to planning and coordinating marketing events, her attention to detail and mind for business are very welcome skills in the land of unicorns and sunshiny dreams. It’s a rare gift to find someone who speaks “ooh pretty!” and “ooh pricey!” at the same time.  

 

She’s able to listen to the strangest statement and extract gold. She has a quirky sense of humour, a kind heart, and a quick mind. She’s genuine in her praise and gentle with her feedback. We’re blessed to have her watchful eye carefully curating the stories that we tell and the pictures we share.  

Clifford, the big red truck.

D.R. Congo Farmer Visit

Here's what's happening right now (June 2017): Hugo is in Africa visiting farmers. His latest stop, D.R. Congo with coffee friend Jono from Bean There Coffee.  

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The Mutendero washing station in Vissale (near Butembo), D.R. Congo. 

The Mutendero washing station in Vissale (near Butembo), D.R. Congo. 

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Hugo and the "Mamas" - women who sort the green coffee beans. 

Hugo and the "Mamas" - women who sort the green coffee beans. 

Selfie at the coffee milling plant with the Mamas. 

Selfie at the coffee milling plant with the Mamas. 

10 Benefits of Loving Mother Nature

This post comes to us courtesy of the Compost Council of Canada. We're fortunate to partner with them as we navigate our way with a Compostable Coffee Package! To read more about the Composting Council of Canada, check out their website here

 
 

Recycling your organics is really like batting a home run for Mother Nature. There are so many benefits that can be realized with this simple, thoughtful action including:

Sending less to landfill. Organics represent over one-third of the materials being sent to landfills. Whether through backyard or large-scale composting or anaerobic digestion, those banana peels, apple cores and other organic materials can be recycled.

Reducing greenhouse gases. According to Environment Canada, landfill sites account for about 20 per cent of Canada's total methane emissions, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential. It's the organics that are buried in the landfill that are a key contributor to this production of greenhouse gases.

Recovering valuable materials. Composting produces compost, the single most important ingredient for healthy and productive soil.

Decreasing soil erosion. Soil erosion can remove nutrients from the soil, reducing its productivity, as well as reducing runoff that can carry sediment, nutrients and chemicals into waterways thereby creating new sources of pollution. Compost helps enhance soil structure and binds soil particles together.

Revitalizing soil. Compost helps provide sustenance for the very necessary biological diversity in the soil. Plants depend on this to convert materials into plant available nutrients and to keep the soil well-aerated.

Reducing the need to water. By improving the soil structure through the addition of compost, water is retained and available for plants.

Reducing the need for pesticides. Compost can help suppress plant diseases.

Saving money. Through backyard composting, you can turn your leftover organics into a valuable soil amendment without spending a dime.

Making your garden grow. Compost provides essential organic matter for the soil, which is of fundamental importance to its' health, vitality and fertility.

Making a positive environmental difference. With compost, you can take resources otherwise regarded as waste - organic residuals - and turn them into something of value while at the same time realizing landfill and greenhouse gas reductions, improved soil productivity and water quality.

Lemongrass Harvest is Underway

It's harvest time in Sri Lanka! RJ is a small-scale spice grower in Sri Lanka. His lemongrass is carefully harvested, and then blended with spices to become our Lemongrass Tea. 

Usually there is a lemongrass harvest in January. Due to poor irrigation and a drought in Sri Lanka, there was no lemongrass to be harvested. Finally, by the end of February the rains started again! After eight weeks of growing, it is finally harvest time. 

We are excited to receive the lemongrass, and other teas, midway through this summer. Supporting small-scale often means patience as we wait for rain, harvest, and product to arrive. Patience allows for fair payment to small-scale farmers. Thank you! 

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STAFF SATURDAY: Meet Chris

Chris works on our Operations team as the Lead for Warehouse and Shipping. He’s been with LGT for a long time - 14 years to be exact.  In that time he has done literally just about every job… and in the early days, several of them at the same time. It takes a special type of person to work through all of the changes in a small company over so many years. Where does this resolve come from? Chris fishes. Chris loves to fish. Chris dreams of fishing. If Chris could fish for a living, he would. He plays late night hockey, he’s got an entrepreneurial streak, and he loves fishing.  

 

Leveraging his fisherman’s tenacity and straight talk, he’s our resident spatial-organizer, keep-it-stocked, and get-it-there guy. He balances the demands of our internal needs with our customers' timelines. If you want something sent across country in a hurry, he’s the one you talk to. He also has the illustrious distinction of being our forklift instructor - which says a great deal about his patience.  He’s thorough in his work, enjoys getting it right the first time,  is detail-oriented and still quick with a joke. We’re lucky to have Chris on our team.

Chris visiting Jaime, the face of our Colombia coffee package.

Chris visiting Jaime, the face of our Colombia coffee package.