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Indigenous-Owned Coffee Company in Canada Will Buy Beans from Indigenous Farmers in Peru

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A new Inuit-run coffee company is going to bring new meaning to the idea of farm-to-table.

The Kitikmeot Heritage Society, a nonprofit organization that works towards preserving and promoting the history, culture, and language of Inuinnait people, will open a new coffee company that sources its bean directly from indigenous people half a world away, in Peru. 

The two indigenous communities will work together to support the preservation of indigenous customs and communities in two very different parts of the world. 

The coffe company, which will be called Kaapittiaq, which means “good coffee” in Inuinnaqtun, will be located in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, according to to Pamela Gross, the executive director of the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, which has been around for 21 years,

“We needed extra revenue for our organization to fully function and run the program effectively,” Gross told Global Citizen, “Everyone drinks coffee and it’s one of those revenues that’s not being done up here.”

And so, she’s set to work on opening Kaapittiaq.

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Gross said that everything fell into place naturally. Through acquaintances here and there, she ended up getting in touch with Cafe Vasquez, in Barrie, Ontario.

Cafe Vasquez is owned by Erci Vasquez, who is a native Peruvian, and her husband Stuart. They buy coffee from indigenous farmers in the north of Peru and transport it to larger hubs to sell it to distributors.

The couple will help direct the coffee trade between the farmers and Kaapittiaq in Nunavut. This is their first partnership outside of Peru.

The cafe works with farmers that come from five villages in the Colasay district of northwestern Peru. The area is very remote — farmers gather the beans from the mountains with the help of donkeys.

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Because they are in such a remote region, the farmers must often sell their beans for cheaper rates, as they cannot reach larger cities, Erci Vasquez told CBC.

But Cafe Vasquez is working to change that as they pay the farmers a fair price for their coffee beans.

"The farmers will get more money for the coffee so it will be good for all the families," Vasquez said.

Vasquez said that people in this region of Peru are worried about losing their culture. The funds from the beans will help pay for a new cultural centre in Peru.

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There is similar concern for Inuit communities in Nunavut.

Gross believes the coffee company will instill a sense of pride in her community. She is hoping to have large distributions across the North, and secure opportunities with Canadian Arctic Co-operatives Limited.

“Hopefully they'll be able to sell and distribute the coffee at their stores across the North and that will bring pride to people — knowing that they can buy a product that is tied to our people,” she told Global Citizen.

It’s a great story of collaboration. Gross is hoping to open the roastery in early 2018.

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“We can’t get or grow coffee here, but we can help Indigenous people down there and they’re helping us as well.”

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