Working its coffee charm in Vanuatu

Mojo Coffee is using the last beans from pre-cyclone Vanuatu to help rebuild the country’s devastated coffee industry.

When Steve Gianoutsos, founder of coffee roaster and café chain Mojo Coffee, bought a container of Vanuatu coffee earlier this year, it was just another pile of beans destined for grinding and supplying to one of the company’s 25 cafes and myriad external customers.

Then, in March, Cyclone Pam hit the islands, effectively destroying the local coffee industry, as well as much of the country’s infrastructure.

Gianoutsos realised Mojo had bought some of the last Vanuatu coffee that was going to be produced for some time.

So instead of just putting the coffee into the general mix, he decided to use those last Vanuatu beans as a way to help the coffee farmers replant and rebuild.

“After the cyclone hit, I realised Mojo was in a position to directly help and make a difference in people’s lives,” Gianoutsos says.

“We had a supply of Vanuatu coffee and it only made sense to use the coffee to help raise funds for the coffee farmers of Tanna Island.”

Mojo has teamed up with not-for-profit World Vision to produce a single-origin coffee blend made from beans grown on Vanuatu’s Tanna Island. $8 from every 250g bag of Vanuatu blend coffee will go to help the island’s smallholder farmers and coffee industry.

A 250g bag can be bought from Mojo Coffee’s online store for $12.50, or from any of Mojo Coffee’s cafés; a 1kg bag costs $45.
World Vision’s Melanie Cooper, says the initiative is important, as coffee is Vanuatu’s largest agricultural export.

“The profit from the Mojo coffee sales will be used to get Tanna Island’s coffee farmers back on their feet and, in the longer term, to position them to grow their business.”

Mojo was founded in 2003 as a boutique roastery café in Wellington. The business has expanded since then and there are now 25 cafés spread across Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington and Japan, with plans to expand to China over the next few months.

The company also supplies other Kiwi coffee shops with its Mojo coffee blends, as well as providing barista training.