Peace over Petrol: Celebrating Pride with Peace Coffee x Steeped

You've heard of 'taste the rainbow,' but have you ever had the chance to 'sip the rainbow'? This Pride Month, we are thrilled to spill the beans on our exclusive interview with the fabulous folks over at Peace Coffee.

With a strong shot of sustainability, a splash of social impact, and a whole latte love for inclusivity, Peace Coffee isn't just your average cup o’ joe! We're about to spill all the tea on their queer-owned business journey, their two-wheeled adventures through their "Pedaling Peace" initiative, and how they're brewing up a storm to promote LGBTQ+ rights and equality. So grab your favorite (ethically sourced) roast, take a sip, and join us for a conversation that blends the flavors of Pride, sustainable practices, and heaps of community support.

Peace Coffee's 'Pedaling Peace Initiative'

Can you tell us about Peace Coffee's journey and how it became involved in promoting sustainable and fair trade coffee? Our founding nonprofit, the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP), began to help American farmers during the 1980s farm crisis, and grew to partner and advocate for long-term systemic change and farmer profitability worldwide. IATP was a visionary partner for CEO and current-owner, Lee Wallace, and incubated Peace until it could stand on its own.

Peace Coffee, as we know it today, began in 1996. Fulfilling Peace Coffee’s mission isn’t just about purchasing certified fair trade coffee, but building direct and long-term relationships with small farmer cooperatives, and paying prices responsive to their needs. Strong, transparent, and long-term relationships are at the center of sustainable and meaningful impact. In 2022, we received a B Corp score of 118.7 – our highest ever and nearly double the average! Our score of 47.3 in the Community category accounts for the long-term, strong relationships we’ve built with our farmer partners.

In what ways does Peace Coffee support and empower coffee farmers and their communities? Peace Coffee believes wholeheartedly in the importance of being fair trade. We build long-lasting relationships and pay prices that are a direct response to the needs of the coffee farming communities. This means farmers and roasters can avoid international market prices that don’t reflect the true cost of labor and production.

We’re proud that 95% of our coffee comes from farmer partners we’ve worked with for 5 years or longer! And three of our partners have been with us for over 10, 15, and 20 years.

Could you share some of the initiatives and partnerships that Peace Coffee has undertaken to promote environmental sustainability? In 2017 we formed the Climate, Carbon, and Coffee Initiative with other like-minded coffee roasters. We invest 3¢ from each pound of coffee purchased to local initiatives to help farmers adapt to climate change.  Some of C3’s projects include replanting abandoned plots to create test farms and conferences for farmers to exchange new tools and techniques.

This year, during the month of April (Earth Month), we partnered with Grow Ahead, an organization that works to combat climate change and support communities through reforestation projects run by small-scale farmer organizations. For every order placed during the month of April, we planted one tree. Our efforts resulted in 4,124 coffee trees that helped support 200 farmers and 2,500 community members from the Association for Agricultural, Education, and Environment Coop in Brazil!

Looking ahead, what are Peace Coffee's future plans and goals in terms of sustainability, social impact, and supporting coffee farming communities? We seek to continue to pay our farmer partners a fair price for their coffee, and be in dialogue with them about what are the issues impact them the most and what can we do to help, and how we can best be a resource.

Can you discuss any challenges or triumphs that Peace Coffee has faced as a queer-owned business within the coffee industry? We’re more proud than ever to be queer-owned and woman-owned. We take pride in our rich and diverse queer community of staff and allies who help cultivate a more friendly, thoughtful, open-minded, and approachable world.

One of Peace Coffee’s core values is individuality, and we define that as, “We believe that organizations function best when they reflect more than one person or identity — much like coffee tastes best when it contains a complex array of flavors. We encourage all our employees to contribute their unique voices and styles to our operation, and we foster a workplace that is diverse, positive, respectful, and participatory.”

To do that, we must create a culture that welcomes diversity through inclusion and advocates for justice and equity in transparent ways that support our communities. We recognize that it takes ongoing work to achieve this and we want to continue this work intentionally and mindfully. To do this, in 2020 we formally launched a justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (J.E.D.I) initiative at Peace Coffee, which includes an employee J.E.D.I committee that will guide us in this effort.

In the words of our CEO, Lee Wallace, “In my 15+ years leading Peace Coffee, I have been privileged to be part of a community of passionate people that inspire me every day. One of the first things that stood out to me when I began my time at Peace was how my team of magical coffee colleagues appreciated having a space to feel safe and express their authentic selves – something that is powerful to experience.”

We are boldly who we say we are and have always been true to our origins. We celebrate each other and you, our customers, no matter which walks of life you wander from, and we hope you are able to find a similar type of welcoming community where you are. It is more important than ever.

In what ways does Peace Coffee use its platform to raise awareness about LGBTQIA rights and equality throughout the year, beyond Pride Month? We're committed to supporting LGBTQIA organizations that provide safe spaces for people of all ages, genders, and races, working tirelessly to spread kindness and create safe spaces in the face of hate and ignorance. We support these organizations, especially ones in our local community, like Reclaim and Quatrefoil Library, year-round.

Peace Coffee has a strong connection to bikes through its "Pedaling Peace" initiative. Can you tell us more about how this connection came about and its significance to the company? Bikes have been a part of our business since day one. Originally, we started bike delivering in the days before we could afford our delivery van and the practice stuck around.  We have two full- and one part-time bike delivery rider each hauling an average of 1800-2500+ pounds and clock around 70 miles per week. Our bike deliverers have made it through anything the Minnesota climate throws at them, rain, shine, or snow! It’s one of the most sought-after jobs in the company.

Also in much the same way that the work farmers put into growing coffee organically requires hand labor and serving as stewards of their land; biking is one way that we too can be stewards of our community, by cutting down on driving, using practical small scale tools like our bikes, to get the job done… and it's way more fun too!

In addition to biking being an integral part of our distribution system, we also give love to bikes by sponsoring a bike racing team. Currently numbering just over 50 people, we’ve been supporting (and caffeinating!) the team since 2006. Members of all ages, genders and abilities compete in a range of events, from Mountain biking, Cyclocross, Gravel, Road, Tri, Running, and even Cross Country skiing.

How can individuals or organizations get involved or support Peace Coffee's Pedaling Peace initiative and contribute to the promotion of biking and sustainability? We’re proud to see the number of companies (coffee, bread, honey & others) that are delivering by bike these days—it’s long been one of our goals to demonstrate that it’s a truly sustainable delivery system, for the planet and for the business. Of course we also support more people biking and advocating for better bike infrastructure on a local and national level. The League of American Cyclists is a great resource and advocacy group for more ways to get involved improving cycling for all.