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Chicago’s Cafes Raising the Bar

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We’ve got a couple of new favorite hang-outs in Chi-town. Ipsento Coffee House and Overflow Coffee Bar. They’re brewing beans straight from the heart. Overflow is one of the first for-profit/non-profit food businesses in Illinois. We’re keeping an eye on them as they blaze the trail as an L3C business entity, a new legal structure for businesses that prioritizes social enterprise. They’re an inspiration for us as we grow and consider how to setup our company structure, publicly declaring that our profits aren’t directed at our own wallets, but at programs and products that align with our values.

The growing concern for how our tastes are affecting communities across the oceans is starting to inspire some passionate activists to serve up a better deal – to farmer and consumer. Ipsento roasts beans that are purchased “direct trade”. Their coffee is fantastic and their signature beverages are unusual. My personal favorite is the cardamom and rose latte, but the “Ipsento” with coconut and chili powder was a close second.

More cafes are brewing beans that hit the next level of impact for agricultural justice. It’s known that fair trade is a great place to start. It sets the minimum negotiated price, ensuring that they can pay fair wages and often offer school and medical care to the workers. The thing is, certification is costly. The extra 5 to 10 cents per pound offered to the farmers is equally paid to the certifying agencies. The cost of the beans on the retail shelf is definitely going to reflect this and most of the profits from the espresso in your cup is not going to make it to the developing world. Although it bumps the quality of life up to a better standard, there are still better solutions to global poverty.

Ipsento offers beans roasted in-house by Coffee Ambassadors, a company that has relationships with the farmers and buys the beans at 25% higher than fair trade prices. We’re so excited to see fellow Chicago businesses elevating the standard while keeping the creativity and caffeine flowing.


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