When you buy coffee from Mighty Valley, you can be sure that we have done our research from sourcing to roasting to packaging. We are on a continual journey to thoughtfully source and roast coffee that we ourselves want to drink and feel good about every single day.
We critically engage with the coffee bean’s journey from seed to cup with a lens of social and environmental justice to ensure the highest standards of traceability and accountability in the production of our coffees. We also love to experiment and play with each new bean we bring in to find the ideal roast profile that brings out the natural flavours, subtle qualities, and natural sweetness of the beans.
Everything we do in our businesses abides by our shared life principles and goals as feminist, anti-racist, environmentally-minded human beings and community members.
This is who we are and what our business is about!
Coffee is political. At Mighty Valley, we understand each cup of coffee to represent various intersecting historical, political, social, cultural, ecological, and economic dimensions as coffee (a crop grown by farmers in the Global South) makes its way into the mugs and everyday routines of consumers in the Global North. However, the pathways that coffee beans take from seed to cup can be extremely varied.
The Coffee Commodity
As a major global commodity traded in capitalist economies based in colonial approaches to labour and environmental resources, coffee producers can often experience exploitation, inequities, and the degradation of lands and livelihoods associated with the production and sale of this commodity. In other words, conventional commodity chains prioritizing corporate profits and based in colonial practices of conquest and destruction have caused a lot of harm to coffee farmers and have degraded environments in the Global South. These impacts are also not evenly distributed between producers at the local scale either.
Recent exposures of unethical practices relating to labour and environmental sustainability by popular coffee-serving corporations (like this) have started to prompt consumers to think more critically about where their coffee is coming from and how it is produced in these global coffee commodity networks.
Since the early-2000s, the specialty coffee industry and consumers have relied on third-party voluntary certification and labeling bodies like Fair Trade to promote something called ‘ethical consumption’. While these third-party certification systems have led to some important benefits and changes in the industry, many researchers and experts argue that these systems have stagnated and critique certifiers like Fair Trade in particular, noting the many significant gaps between the concept of trading fairly and Fair Trade’s practices as a thirty-party certifying body. Check out our blog for details and resources on the benefits and drawbacks of third-party certifications and mainstream ‘ethical’ coffee.
All this is to say that we, as coffee roasters situated in Canada, are pushing forward, seeking alternatives to the ‘ethical’ norm, and going beyond the buzz.
Beyond the Buzzwords
At Mighty Valley, we are part of a growing community of coffee roasters and importers committed to going beyond buzzwords (i.e., ethical, sustainable, green) that have been co-opted and folded into mainstream commodity coffee supply chains through greenwashing campaigns.
We work with small-scale Canadian importers who share our philosophical commitments and priorities, like our friends at Semilla Coffee (Montreal-based importers and justice advocates), who collaborate and engage directly with a small number of coffee farmers in Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, and Rwanda. Semilla’s work with coffee producers prioritizes trust, accountability, transparency, and risk-sharing with the shared goal of improving coffee harvests and farmers’ access to the specialty market. We also work with Ottawa-based small-scale direct trade importers Francis (of Cloudforest Coffee) and Deborah (of Izere Coffee) who work with community cooperatives in particular regions of Ecuador and Burundi, respectively).
Our partnerships with these small direct-trade importers enable us to work within only 1-2 degrees of separation between ourselves and the people who grow the coffee we roast. You can listen and learn a lot more about direct trade coffee, (more-than capitalist) community economies, and the coffee industry more broadly on our blog via an interview with Brendan Adams, founder of Semilla coffee.
Our approach to sourcing green coffee beans unfolds in practice as a conscious resistance to the ongoing impacts of colonial and capitalist exploitation of people and environments. This approach is particularly important in the context of the ongoing threats and challenges that coffee producing regions and farmers are facing due to global climate change like leaf rust, harvest losses, and income precarity. And again, these impacts and access to resources to combat them are not evenly distributed between farmers at the local scale - we are working and investing in the long-term with folks like Semilla to consciously buy coffee from producers who have less to work with and tend to be marginalized or lack access to the higher prices of the specialty coffee market.
Our everyday decision-making, sourcing partnerships, and commitments to community therefore aim to disrupt exploitative systems (of people/labour, environments, etc.) and to support equitable livelihoods by prioritizing VALUES of care, dignity and justice in our everyday decision-making.
This business is thus not a separate economic entity from the rest of our lives, but is integral to our subjective experiences, values, and lives as human beings in the world. It's all one!
When you buy coffee from Mighty Valley, you can be sure that we have done our research from sourcing to roasting to packaging. We also encourage you to do your own research and to ask questions—you can check out our blog and resources page and the articles referenced in this overview of our approach as a starting point!
At Mighty Valley, we roast our coffee beans using an artisanal approach that combines art, science, and practice with small batches of high quality and thoughtfully sourced beans. We are coffee lovers who aim to make the best coffee possible. We are constantly honing our craft through research, experimentation, and staying up to date on emerging ideas in the roasting world.
We use a classic 5 kg gas powered Toper drum roaster to roast our beans. The drum roaster creates a clean environment for heat transfer and gives the roaster the ability to control aspects of the roast profile and even modulate the flavours of the coffee. The use of gas enables us to make quick adjustments to the roast depending on the different external environmental conditions (e.g., ambient temperature and humidity) and internal environmental conditions (e.g., heat saturation of the roaster and bean temperature).
Our roaster is small but mighty—the small batch size (making around 8-10 bags of coffee per roast) enables us to really tune into each roast and ensure optimal quality.
We use both technical tools and our own senses to monitor each roast. This process both mitigates the possibility of roast defects and enhances the flavour profiles of each bean. Our roaster has two temperature probes which monitor the bean temperature and internal environment of the roaster. This information is then fed into an open-sourced profiling software (Artisan) on our laptop which helps us to interpret the environmental conditions of the roast in real-time. While this data is coming in, we also use our senses to watch the beans change colour through a small window in the roaster, listen to the sounds of the roasting beans, and smell the aroma of the beans by pulling small samples out of the roaster using a trier.
At Mighty Valley, we roast towards the lighter end of the spectrum. We buy high quality specialty beans from independent farmers and cooperatives, so there’s nothing to hide with a dark oily roast. These farmers take care in growing their coffee and we want that care reflected in our roasts—this is also why we focus our product line on single origin and single producer coffees rather than blends of beans from different regions/ places or with different quality coffees.
From a roasting perspective, our commitment to roasting single origin and single producer coffees enables us to highlight the flavour profiles of a specific bean from a particular producer or place. For example, our Honduras bean (from Semilla Coffee) is a single-producer bean from the farm of Israel Ramirez - we are getting new stickers for this year's harvest because despite being the same varietal and farm, the subtle taste of the bean has shifted with this year's harvest and we want the coffee roast to work with and reflect this change!
With that said, our intention is to highlight regional varietals and flavours while acknowledging and working to disrupt local disparities between different people who grow coffee.
We are therefore careful and cognizant about inequalities and disparities not only between producers and consumers, but also between different producers with different access to resources and opportunities in particular places as we source and represent our coffees.
At Mighty Valley Coffee, we are minimizing our impact on the environment by using sustainable packaging options. We are one of the only coffee roasters in the Ottawa area that uses fully biodegradable packaging – it is expensive, but even as a small start-up business, it is a cost we prioritize and absorb in alignment with our ethical and environmental commitments.
We understand waste as a structural issue and believe that companies need to provide better options for their customers and the planet.
Our current packaging is made from omnidegradable Biotrē™ material, containing 60% (by weight) renewable plant-based resources with the remaining 40% breaking down into healthy compost using OECD processes and conditions from ASTM standards.
What does this mean?
The OUTER layer (60%) of our bags consist of Kraft paper and cellulose from wood pulp and have been shown to break down into healthy compost in 12 weeks. The INNER lining layer (including the degassing valve) consists of 100% plant-based renewable resources (e.g. cane sugar) and will fully decompose in your home/municipal compost system or landfill in 5 years (vs. the estimated 1000+ years for conventional plastic linings).
While this isn’t a perfect solution, it is the best (currently available) option for balancing our adherence to food packaging standards,
ensuring freshness, and minimizing our waste and environmental impact in the places where our coffee is sold and consumed. With that said, we are continuing to stay up on the advances in sustainable and zero-waste packaging as we go and are committed to always be evolving and improving!