Coffee, a beloved worldwide beverage, carries a bitter aftertaste of historical oppression and racial inequality. If you are a Coffeeshop owner who wishes to change this narrative using your store to celebrate Afro-descendant coffee cultivation traditions and promote fair trade, this is the blog post you were looking for. Here we will discuss how Web3 and the Metaverse technologies can advance your vision and address the challenges faced within the coffee industry.
We've all seen how that new neighborhood coffee shop, with all kinds of coffees from around the world, has become the trendy place for millennial hipsters to look and be seen. Those neat interiors with state-of-the-art materials -on which are hung those portraits of coffee producers and their exotic plantations- have created an illusory closeness between production and consumption... when nothing could be further from the truth.

The coffee supply chain is interwoven with racial disparities, from plantation to cup. Most coffee comes from plantations managed by Black individuals yet profit and control often lie in white-owned businesses that exclude Black culture. This systemic issue, rooted in centuries of oppression and exploitation, calls for a concerted effort towards change.

-       Ugly History of Oppression and Colonialism:

The coffee industry is a commodity that moves a market valued at 200 billion dollars, however only 7% of that amount stays within the producing countries. However, the coffee is Black! [in the full sense of the word]. Its birth and development were only possible thanks to Black civilizations: on the one hand, coffee originated in Ethiopia and Sudan, there is no debate about it. And on the other, colonialism and slavery played major roles in spreading it to the rest of the world, thus establishing and developing the coffee industry. To launch profitable estates, European companies imported slaves from the African continent to labor on plantations in the Caribbean, Asia, and the Americas in what is known as the Triangular Trade.

Saint Domingue, in French-occupied Haiti, was supplying half of the world’s coffee in 1788 (twelve years before its independence waged through the largest slave revolt ever recorded), as a direct result of slavery. Meanwhile, Portuguese-colonized Brazil quickly gained momentum as a leading coffee producer. By the 1830s (100 years after its first introduction to the country), coffee had become Brazil’s largest export and accounted for around 30% of world coffee production. But it was at great human cost. The average life expectancy of a coffee slave in Brazil was a mere seven years. It was more profitable for coffee growers to replace a worker who was exhausted to death than to care for and maintain them under normal circumstances for a longer period of time.

Today 64% of Americans drink coffee daily, tallying around 400 billion cups a year. But only few dare to bring coffee’s dark side to the table.

-       Unfairness in the Coffee Supply Chain:
 Although slave laborers are no longer used, the structures put in place have paved the way for today’s industry where the racial divide between farm owners and laborers still prevails. More than 600 years later, the system looks different on the surface, but shockingly little has changed. Globally, the industry is valued at more than $200 billion. However, less than 10% of that aggregate wealth stays in producing countries, and only 5 to 7% makes it to the farmers themselves.

Following in the legacy of colonialism, African descendants and indigenous people in the Americas continue to be the industry’s backbone, providing labor and wealth-generating coffee beans with little-to-no compensation. Today, wealthy North American and European companies profit off an exploited labor force. In 50 countries across Africa, South America and Asia, 125 million people depend on coffee for their livelihoods. Of that group, 63% live in poverty and 71% in extreme poverty… and you do not have to guess the color of the skin of those 71%. At the bottom of the coffee chain, slavery has simply not ceased to exist. Forced loans and forced labor to repay them is a daily occurrence, and "fair trade" certificates have done little to eliminate either child labor or modern-day slavery, with Brazil again assuming the role of worst offender.

But at the top of the chain the racial divide is also evident. Coffee farm owners tend to be of European descent, as well as coffee shops owners. Many coffee shops, sadly, have become the genesis for the gentrification in many Black neighborhoods. Like Whole Foods, if you see a new cool coffee shop in your area specifically established for attracting young white affluent customers, the countdown begins. As Londoners have identified and noted: first come the creatives and their coffee shops, then the young professionals, then the luxury high-rises and corporate chains that push out original residents.

-       Lack of Visualization of Black Coffee Farmers:
Beyond the financial disparity, there is a notable lack of representation in the coffee industry, with Black and Indigenous people seemingly regulated to production while those of European lineage fill the lucrative and prestigious roles. Recognizing the diversity and magnitude of farmers contributing to our coffee each day is the first step to responsibly sourcing coffee, specially for those of African descent in Ethiopia, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Brazil, and Colombia. Could they also go up in the ladder and increase their bargain power, or even become the owners of their own land?

Also on the coffee consumption side, with a billions-worth industry on the rise, what makes the most sense is for more Black entrepreneurs to embark on the adventure of reconquering a product that has belonged to us for millennia, and introduce our touch to steaming cups of culture, advocacy and social impact. But we are talking about an increasingly saturated market to enter. With chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s McCafé turning over tens of billions of pounds per year, it is normal for Black young entrepreneurs without capital and systemic barriers to face to think twice before entering this lucrative but competitive industry.

The new technologies can help us to reclaim the Black history of coffee and reimagine its Black future. Web3 and Metaverse could be the small window of opportunity many young entrepreneurs and struggling Black-owned coffee shops were looking for to level up their venture and stand out as pioneers within the industry advocating for a fairer and more sustainable coffee. Let us present five actionable ideas related to Tokenomics design, community establishment, and virtual immersive products that can benefit Black-owned coffeeshops.

  1. Tokenizing the Coffee Supply Chain: Develop a token-based system that enhances transparency, traceability, and fair compensation for coffee farmers, ensuring a more equitable distribution of profits. You can mint each unique coffee as an NFT, tracing its journey from bean to cup, promoting fair trade and visibility of the coffee cultivation and roasting tradition.
  2. Community-Focused Loyalty Program: Design a community-driven loyalty program that rewards customers for supporting Black-owned coffee plantations and coffee shops, and emphasizes the values of sustainability, diversity, and social impact. You can create a virtual community in the Metaverse where coffee lovers can share their experiences, discuss different coffee varieties, and learn about coffee culture.
  3. Virtual Coffee Tastings and Workshops: Create virtual immersive experiences that allow customers to participate in coffee tastings, learn about different brewing methods, and engage with Black coffee farmers through live-streamed workshops. Users could also "travel" to different locations worldwide, learning about different coffee-making processes and traditions.
  4. Collaborative Partnerships with Black Coffee Farmers: Foster partnerships with Black coffee farmers worldwide, showcasing their stories, promoting their products, and creating a direct and mutually beneficial relationship with the coffeeshops. You can offer immersive tours of your cafe in the Metaverse, showcasing different types of coffee originating from Afro-descendant managed plantations around the world.
  5. Metaverse Coffee Shop Experience: Build a virtual representation of the Black-owned coffeeshop in the Metaverse, offering customers the opportunity to explore, interact, and connect with the brand and its values in a unique and immersive way. Also, you can organize virtual concerts at your cafe in the Metaverse, combining the joy of music with the pleasure of coffee, creating a unique cultural experience.

Web3 technologies offer a path to fairer trade practices. Through decentralized platforms, coffee growers could engage directly with buyers, ensuring equitable distribution of profits. Also, tokenization of coffee assets can promote transparency and traceability, allowing consumers to support ethically sourced coffee. On the other hand, The Metaverse provides an opportunity to visualize and celebrate the rich culture of Afro-descendant coffee cultivation. Virtual tours of plantations, interactive coffee brewing workshops, and cultural events can educate patrons about the coffee's journey from farm to cup, creating a more inclusive coffee experience.

When establishing your coffeeshop, you must go beyond promoting hip hop culture and new trends. If you really want to stand out as someone who "walks the walk," take advantage of new technologies to reclaim all that coffee culture encompasses, activism for our history, a position of power and control over what we produce and sell, and a movement in search of real change. And for you consumer, support Black-owned coffee businesses and buy your beans from roasters that are transparent about how they’re compensating farmers and pay fair, livable prices to farmers… And remember, WE ALREADY KNOW WHAT GIVING UP FEELS LIKE. WE WANT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS IF WE DON’T.

JULY, 18 / 2023
Your coffeeshop is more than a business - it's a beacon of change in an industry in need of reform. By leveraging Web3 and the Metaverse, you can further amplify your mission to promote fair trade and celebrate the rich, often overlooked, Afro-descendant culture in coffee cultivation. Let's have a coffee to explore how we can help bring your vision to life.
Text author: Jimmy Jean
Photography: Midjourney AI ©JJBK studio 2023

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