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The surprising role of coffee in business

Many of the most powerful business ideas have been hatched over a cup of coffee. Multi-million dollar lines of code, grand mergers, groundbreaking innovations and classic works of art have brewed with a cup of coffee close by. The dark, rich drink has become so embedded in professional, creative and social culture that many claim they cannot sit down to work without one.

“Coffee culture has fully penetrated the business world, for the better. It’s a common denominator, underlying much of our professional bonding, productivity and inventiveness,” says Jonathan Robinson, founder of Bean There Coffee Company, South Africa’s first supplier and roaster of certified direct fair trade coffee.

Back in the 17th Century, many adults woke up to a mug of beer with their breakfast. That is until coffee drinking, which originated in Africa and the Middle East, took off across Europe and into the rest of the world. As boozy brunches and lunches were replaced with dark brews and potent espressos, business as we now know it started booming; “Coffee has had a sobering effect on society at large, and that’s been great for innovation and productivity,” says Robinson.

In the workplace, coffee functions as a stimulant and social lubricant, with the side benefit of encouraging collaboration. Office workers gather and bond over their coffees, clients meet up for cappuccinos, and colleagues are more likely to rate each other’s contributions to a meeting positively after consuming some coffee. “Encouraging employees to arrange just two coffee meetings a week will expose them to more than 100 potential business connections a year,” says Robinson.

For Bean There, the benefits of coffee culture should not come at the expense of the farmer. A commodity that rose to popularity during the era of European colonialism and African slavery, coffee has a legacy of human exploitation and the mis-appropriation of profit. In many parts of the world, labour practices continue to exploit the people who grow and harvest coffee beans.

Robinson founded Bean There in part to put a stop to this, “We practice fair trade, building sustainable relationships with our small-scale producers, who gather together in local co-operatives to sell their beans. We are able to offer the farmers a higher price than other companies, regardless of negative market fluctuations,” says Robinson.

Whether in an office or a corner café, the next big business ideas may be swilling around alongside the aroma of coffee. It’s Jonathan Robinson’s hope that those beans were sourced fairly, roasted well and brewed to perfection. Bean There has roasteries and cafes in three locations; two in Joburg and one in Cape Town and supplies over 100 000 cups of coffee to corporate South Africa every month.


Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications
Sarah Waterfield
021 442 1082 / 060 677 6235

On behalf of:
Jonathan Robinson – co-founder, Bean There Coffee Company

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