We source our coffee beans from the local coffee farmers of the Bolaven Plateau at 25% above the Fair Trade price. These beans are then roasted and brewed at Jhai Coffee House and served in our lovely cafe to both the local community as well as the hundreds of tourists that come to this region each month to experience the beauty of the Plateau coffee farms. All of our net profits are then re-invested straight back into the community that farmed the coffee beans in the form of clean water and hygiene education projects.
Coffee is the lifeblood of the Boliven Plateau. This region of Laos is home to 125,000 people, many of them coffee farmers. Almost all of the coffee grown in Laos comes exclusively from this area.
It is a strange and unfortunate fact that most coffee farmers have never tried their own product and, as every coffee master knows, you can’t improve your coffee if you have no idea what it tastes like. We are lucky enough to have teamed up with artisan roaster Paul Katzeff and, under his direction, we are bringing the coffee roasting craft to the Bolaven Plateau. The value of coffee is created by flavor. We will train coffee farmers to assess the quality of their coffee through taste, and teach them the most up-to-date growing practices to increase the quality. By doing this, the value of the coffee will be increased.
We have teamed up with the Jhai Coffee Farmers Co-operative (JCFC) to offer a full-scale tour of our coffee-making process from bean to cup to the hundreds of tourists that come through this area everyday in search of experiencing Lao coffee culture.
Our guests will pick coffee cherries and process their harvest in a nearby village. They will be talked through the process of roasting and take part in their very own cupping. They will be able to experience first hand how their tour dollars are investing in the health of Lao children.
Changing your concept of charity
Although traditional charities do fantastic work, we believe the time has come to evolve the way we give. We want to empower the communities we work with to lift themselves out of poverty, breaking the dependency on handouts. We have relationships with local contractors to build clean water pumps and we teach the village the importance of sanitation in driving down disease. However, we believe that with giving come great responsibility – for this reason, we require each village we help to co-invest at least 15% of the costs in the clean water and hygiene projects in their village. This creates a sense of empowerment and of ownership over their journey to overcoming their problems.
We aim to ensure that everything we do is sustainable, so we set up four-way contracts between us, the education office, the water contractor and the village chief that protects the pump from falling into disrepair even after we’ve gone. If the pump breaks in the first year, the water contractor is required to fix it free of charge. This model provides one year for villages to collectively save money and establish their water board so that future repairs have the necessary funds to be repaired. We help each village in this process.
We believe that if a non-profit doesn’t provide social impact metrics, they shouldn’t be funded. Our donors, investors, partners and the community at large deserve the right to know how our projects are making a measurable impact in the community. To provide this transparency, we are working with Steve Schwartz at Upaya Social Ventures – a social metric consulting NGO. By working with the Steve, we have developed a strategy for gathering data using a simple community survey.
Having face to face meetings with village chiefs, teachers and parents, we will be able to ask the community questions about base line health, yearly earnings and the water, hygiene and sanitation situation for these families. We will then return to the community every six months, to survey them again. All survey results will be published on our website so that the Jhai community can see how our social impact metrics are benefitting the local Lao community.
We recognize that other coffee farms, cafes and businesses are philanthropic. However, these businesses are not full scale roasters & cafes located at the source of where the coffee is being grown. So when we say that Jhai Coffee House is the world’s first coffee roaster & cafe, we mean that we are the first one to be located at the source and that ALL business profits are invested into children’s sanitation and clean water projects.
Jhai Coffee House is a non-dividend, non-loss social company, who judges itself each year not by the amount of revenue generated but by the amount of people who receive clean water and improved hygiene.
Additionally, our financial model follows the guidelines and restrictions of Muhammad Yunus in his book, “Building Social Business.” This means that owners and stakeholders will never receive excess profits beyond a living wage in Laos to manage operations. All business profits are invested into the social cause.