Fair Grinds Around the World

Mamacoffee ~ Prague

Fair Trade coffee in Prague.

IMG_5110IMG_5111Coffeehouse on 17th in Calgary

Coffeehouse on 17th in Calgary, specializing in direct trade single source from el salvador & costa rica. the roaster is in calgary.

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Sant Eustachio il Caffe ~ Rome

Asking around and checking on the Internet, it became quickly clear that the Fair Grinds of Rome, and perhaps the best coffeehouse in Rome and absolutely the best espresso I have had could be found at Sant Eustachio il Caffe.

Some of the coffee is fair trade, but not all.  They do import directly from partner cooperatives in both Brazil and Guatemala along the lines of Fair Grinds emerging partnership with COMUCAP.  Yes, they display pictures of former US-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger enjoying an espresso and 10-year old reviews from the New York Times, but more importantly they have pictures, displays, and pamphlets out about their commitment to coffee from their partners.

The crowds pour in and out for espresso.  I was there in the aftermath of snow in Rome for the first time in 27 years and only the 2nd time in over 50 years, but normally the tables are filled outside while others stand at the bar.  They do a healthy business in coffee for sale along with items trumpeting Sant Eustachio il Caffe, but this is about the coffee without a doubt.  We were allowed to look through the window in the back where there coffee was in bags and on display next to the roaster that they fired up a couple of times a week to keep their coffee fresh.

When in New Orleans, it’s Fair Grinds.  When in Rome, it’s Sant Eustachio il Caffe!

Sleepless Goat Cafe Workers’ Co-operative

In Kingston, Ontario the “Fair Grinds” is the Sleepless Goat Cafe Workers’ Co-operative which serves exclusively fair trade coffee in this pretty, small town that was the first capital of the Province of Canada in 1841 located where the St. Lawrence River flows out of Lake Ontario about midway between Toronto and Montreal.

I stopped there several times while at a meeting in town in November 2011 and was so impressed I bought a coffee mug to bring home!

Here’s a picture of some of the staff, which is to say, the membership of the co-operative.

Another thing, I enjoyed is reading the pricing for various levels of espresso shots!

Single Shot of Fair Trade, Organic Espresso - 1.57 -

Red Eye – (Single shot, topped up with coffee) – 2.37 -

Black Eye – (Double shot, topped up with coffee) – 3.07 -

Dead Eye – (You can probably figure this one out) – 3.77 –

If you are in Kingston, don’t miss the Sleepless Goat!


Juan’s Cafe  ~ San Miguel de Allende

Juan’s Cafe — great coffeehouse in San Miguel de Allende

Mexico City

Mexico City is one of the great cities of the world and one of the largest, and people are serious about their coffee, where they buy it, and in some cases the time they spend enjoying it.  Here is a random sampling that Dine’ Butler and I put together while in the city for meetings with ACORN International and our organizers in North and Latin America.

El Café Denmedio 

It was a smaller, hip lucky stumble onto place in Solidarity Square a couple of meters away from the Museo Mural Diego Rivera looking towards the great Alameda, one of the worlds outstanding city parks, now undergoing rehabilitation in 2012.  Good baristas and good coffee on a little espresso machine with a distinctive style that includes a coffee bar made from an old stereo system, a table that used to be an old television set, glass covered tables that enclose “napkin art” from customers, and you get the picture of a relaxing place where we enjoyed a two hour meeting with our Latin American organizers.

chess players of Solidarity Square

chess players of Solidarity Square

Front of Denmedio

Dilcia Zavala from ACORN Honduras in Tegucigalpa showcases the entry to Denmedio

small espresso machine

small food and pastry case

coffee bar made from an old stereo

table made from an old television set

great coffee table with napkin art and napkin poems on display

unique designs for banos door with keys

closeup of the keys

Café La Habana

Cafe’ La Habana is an old favorite of mine and many others in the central business district not too far from Alameda and on Avenida Morelas within sight of Paseo de la Reforma and the Torre del Cabillito on the corner of Morelas and Bucarelli.  Opened in 1952, Café La Habana is large enough to allow many to linger and some do for hours.   On one counter two large hand pump espresso machines stand side by side to maintain the demand for “espress.”  Behind the counter they sell coffee by the pound, but Café La Habana is a full service restaurant and bar in addition to being a coffeehouse, and opens early and stays there late.  Order a tequila as we did after 11 straight hours of organizing meetings and it comes in three shot glasses in a row with one of tequila, one of lime juice, and one of sangrita.  Café La Habana is also legendarily where a very young Fidel Castro and Che Guevara spent many hours over many such cups of coffee planning the Cuban Revolution.  Pictures adorn the walls that make you feel you are still lost in the 50’s today.

old pictures of Havana hang on the walls

old shot of the cafe

bags of coffee for purchase

Look at the huge double expresso machines and the classic Mexican pump lever espresso pulls!

not just coffee, here’s a traditional Mexican tequila presentation with a tequila shot, a lime shot, and sangrita

Café El Silo

Café’ El Silo was a treat we found walking down Avenida Coyoacan having just been at the Lazardo Cardenas marketplace in search of Passmar Café.  Nothing fancy here at the intersections of Avenida Colonia del Valle, Coyoacan, and Concepcion Beistegui, but a good clean cup at a great price for an espresso doble with a half-inch thick crema on top, which is the sign of an excellent barista, a good machine, and a great grind.  Similar to the café cooperativas we hope to develop, Silo was 100% coffee from Mexico, even though the bins were not (and should not) be good storage.  We enjoyed every minute and Dine’ walked away with a cappuccino with an inch high cap!  Say, hola para mi if you go by!

Café Jarocho 

Our main destination was the central plaza of Coyoacan where there are coffeehouses everywhere you look and excellent cups everywhere you turn.  Café Jarocho was worth our search.   Jarocho was a serious coffeehouse that does its own roasting and you can see the bags of Mexican altura stacked up and ready for work.  If you want to sit and sip, then it is the benches anchored to the sidewalk on both sides of the corner where hardly a space was vacant on a Sunday morning as families and aficionados were everywhere, even attracting musicians and other entertainment.  For us the action in the coffeehouse was more than enough for us to handle.  There were rows of machines and banks of refrigerators along with plenty of pictures of the founder, an angel on the roof, and a piggy bank tip jar that just makes you dig in your pockets for some pesos to say thanks for a good cup and a great experience.

Passmar Café 

The other place on our must list for coffeehouses in Mexico was Passmar Café which was located a long way from the plaza in the Lazaro Cardenas Mercado, but unfortunately doesn’t open on Sundays.  We hope to find it before we leave to judge for ourselves.  And, if you want a cup of coffee on Sunday before 8 AM in the morning and are staying in the great art deco neighborhood, Colonias Hipodrome Condesa, you may have to settle for the Krispy Kreme, which features a picture out front from its opening at Avenida Michoacan 113 in the 1950s, which says something about their commitment regardless of the fads of fashion for coffee.

At least when you Google coffeehouses in Mexico City instead of striking out as I did, you have a range of choices now, so enjoy, and let me know about other places and great experiences you have along the way.

If you want fairtrade and/or organic coffee in Mexico City the best place we have found was also in Condesa at Origenes, a combination store, restaurant and juice place.  A good selection of brands but of course at steep prices.


Indian Coffeehouse ~ Delhi, India

Famous coffeehouse in Delhi on Connaught Place where people gathered from all progressive parties to figure out what to do when Prime Minister Indira Ghandi declared martial law.  Open since 1957 originally by the India Coffee Board.  When threatened to close, the union reorganized as a workers’ cooperative and it has operated that way since.  Great space but kind of down on its luck on maintenance.   Old school charm.

Coffee Home ~ Delhi, India

Right off of Connaught Place and almost across the street from the India Coffee House, but instead of being on the 3rd floor, it is in a first floor building.  Opened by the India Tourism Bureau, more modern with a good, diverse crowd, and a great patio.  No espresso machine, but huge pot of filtered coffee and unfortunately a number of Nescafe machines.

These two places are not the young hipster Delhi Starbucks clones like Barista, Coffee Day, and Costa and are gathering points for various interests wanted good conversation and a cheap cup of coffee.

Indian Coffee House ~ Bengaluru (Bangalore)

The Indian Coffee House is the oldest of the cooperative houses in a new location.  5 years ago when I visited, it was across from where they built the new Metro station here.  They used to roast their own coffee, all of which comes from India and is grown in the higher ground not far away.  Bengaluru (Bangalore is 3200 feet above sea level) is on relatively higher ground.  Now they have to roast away from the shop.  Note the Ganesh head that is designed to spell out their name.  If this were a different place in a different world, that would be a great t-shirt.  They tout the fact here that their coffee is “pure” meaning that it is NOT cut with chicory.  It’s the best cup I’ve had in India, though I wish they had left the chicory in as they do not far away in Chennai.

note the map of where the coffee comes from in the middle

Can you see “Indian Coffee House” in this Ganesh head?

need an ad like this for Fair Grinds


Matteo’s ~ Bengaluru (Bangalore)

At the other end of the coffee house spectrum, also on Church Street in Bengaluru (Bangalore), is Matteo’s which was probably the busiest coffeehouse I have ever seen in my life bar none, including the giant 2 story Starbucks in Mexico City!  I was at table 42 and there were probably 75 tables between the patio, front room and 2nd room.  There were so many cold drinks on order at this young “hangout” location, as the Indians use it, that I had to beg for my double espresso despite the fact they had a top of the line, good crema, 4 bay, 8 shot machine!   Another plus was the pictures on the wall that underscored the whole process.  When one seemed to indicate robusta and arabica should be said in the same breath, but knew this was an experience rather than a recommendation.

Lordie were they doing business!




Mumbai, India

In Mumbai, the best coffee comes in the areas where South Indians have made their own from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Mysore Concerns ~ Mumbai, India

Mysore Concerns buys coffee beans grown in the hills around Bengaluru (Bangalore) on a weekly basis, moves them up to Mumbai, then roasts and sells daily on this corner what many in Mumbai swear is the best coffee in the city.

men with roaster and packing process

proud of their beans

very clear the way to use them is to use their fine grind coffee and a plunger (the usual name for what many in the US call a French press)

coffee grown in Karnataka, roasted and sold daily. two years is standard for green beans, but Mysore Concerns is moving them out quickly


more weighing

picture of the founder in 1937

instructions for brewing the perfect cup

And yes, I brought back various sized, unbreakable plungers and can hardly wait to try them at home and at Fair Grinds!

Quality Coffee & Tea ~ Mumbai, India

Well, if Mysore Concerns is the best pure coffee, then Quality may be the best fresh roasted coffee and chicory, and that sounds good to me!

The mixture they sell in French Roast is 60-40 (and, yes, the chicory is the 40%), so, yes, I brought some home with me!


Hotel Ram Ashray Coffeehouse ~ Mumbai, India

So, those are your best sources for fresh, roasted coffee from Indian beans and chicory in Mumbai, but it’s also interesting to see how they put it together in a very traditional way, which we found virtually next door to the Quality shop at the Hotel Ram Ashray Coffeehouse.

As you can see there is a crowd enjoying coffee and food, but maybe part of it is also the artistry involved in the coffee and their use of a small tin cup to serve and a slightly larger tin bowl to pour.

the crowd

enjoying the coffee

The trick is the way they pour bowl to cup three or four times before they pass the coffee over to you in order to let it cool.  High drama and as much skill as you would find from any barista pulling shots at a coffee bar in Italy.



Ella’s Uncle ~ Toronto, Canada

A nice little place in the 900 block of Dundas in the Toronto West End just below Little Italy has a great ambiance and a devoted fan club for this small but good place.  Ella’s Uncle was opening as Ella was born so the uncle named the place after her:  nice!  You’re getting the idea.

Besides great fairtrade coffee, Megan Bonnell, the barista working the Sunday afternoon shift, gave me some insight into another part of their popularity.  Every morning they bake their own choclate chip cookies and banana bread, so their fan club can smell that wafting into the street a little after 6 AM in the morning.  What a great idea, and easy to put together.  They make the dough on the weekend and the morning baristas just pull it out, pop it in the oven, display it in their window, and tell their regulars to STOP DROOLING on the plate glass window.

Fun place in the West End.  Tell them Wade sent you.  Oh, and Megan’s a traveler and musician and she and the boyfriend or her dad, will be coming to New Orleans and playing at Fair Grinds some day soon.


Muddy Waters Coffee House ~ San Francisco

This is a picture of Muddy Waters Coffee House on Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District near 17th.  Notice they have a logo with a lightning bolt like ours!

Elmwood Cafe ~ Berkeley, CA

Eureka!  I’ve almost found it.  A Fair Grinds Coffeehouse “clone” in Berkeley, California.  It’s a 100% fairtrade house that opened about 2 years ago where an old soda fountain used to be.

They don’t quite move all of their profits as we do, but they donate 50% of their profits to charities and have a voting system that allows their customers to participate and put a “ballot” into a box under the charity that they want to support for each month.  Fascinating.

This month the local library was competing against a youth program in another county and so forth.   The barista on the counter when I was there was from Baton Rouge, but didn’t like chicory so might be in the right town, but what a great place and a great concept.  They are donating $2000 per month which is less than we do, but still great.  Met the manager, who was delightful.  Just back from seeing her sister in North Carolina.

She said the big difference for them was getting a beer and wine license after their 1st year, which gave them the margins to allow them to make a difference.




Arizmendi Association ~ Oakland, CA

Ok, strictly speaking this is not a coffeehouse, so maybe it shouldn’t be here, but it’s interesting, so here you have it.  I bought a cup of coffee there, but it wasn’t that good.  This was a bakery with a selection of great nutritious selections along with artisan breads at good reasonable prices and community and worker friendly practices.

The counterman told me that there were 26 workers in this location, and reading below you can see that they have an association support a total of six worker owned and operated cooperatives in the Bay Area.

Fascinating and unique model!

About the Arizmendi Association

The Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives is itself a cooperative made up of seven member businesses: six cooperative bakeries and a development and support collective. Members share a common mission, share ongoing accounting, legal, educational and other support services, and support the development of new member cooperatives by the Association.

Our organizational mission is to:

  • Assure opportunities for workers’ control of their livelihood with fairness and equality for all
  • Develop as many dignified, decently paid (living “wage” or better) work opportunities as possible through the development of new cooperatives
  • Promote cooperative economic democracy as a sustainable and humane option for our society
  • Create work environments that foster profound personal as well as professional growth
  • Exhibit excellence in production and serving our local communities
  • Provide continuing technical, educational and organizational support and services to member cooperatives
  • Seek to link with other cooperatives for mutual support, and to
  • Provide information and education to the larger community about cooperatives


Break Cafe and Bakery ~ Missoula, Montana

On vacation and fishing on Rock Creek, we’re living off-the-grid and loving it, but every 48 hours or so, business calls and we drive 45 miles into Missoula, Montana for provisions, supplies, and internet access.  Our go-to place has become the Break Cafe and Bakery in downtown.  The coffee is cheap and hot, but that’s not the attraction here, it’s the baked goods which they do on the premises and have done so for the last 16 years.   Delicious!  This is western fare from giant bear claws to square muffins to snickerdoodles (yes, you read that right!) to a caramel oat bar thing that I love.   We keep saying we’re going to try some other place, but we always come back to the Break.  This year they were excited to be named the Best Coffeehouse in Missoula for 2012, so we feel a kindred spirit with Fair Grinds.  And, yes, I tried to lure the baker down to New Orleans for the winter, but….

Java Cabana ~ Memphis, Tennessee 

Visiting Memphis, like New Orleans, there is only one 100% fairtrade coffeehouse and you find this small, funky shop it in the Cooper-Young neighborhood where Java Cabana operates and serves its eclectic brew along with old clothes scattered for sale among vintage 1950’s furniture.

Socialist Pig Coffeehouse ~ Gananoque, Ontario

Shannon Treanor decided to give herself the title,  owner-operator, but like everything that only tells part of the story behind The Socialist Pig Coffeehouse, the fascinating name of  her small, but unique operation.  I asked her the back story about the name, and it was not a short story.  She and her brother and their respective partners had bought the old iron works building and since 2011 have been converting it to various retail spaces.  They also operate the Iron Pig, which was a fantastic barbeque place, and the Steel Style Garage, which is a clothing outlet.

Shannon told me they were sitting around and didn’t know what to call the coffeehouse, but someone made a joke about the old deindustralized space and the capitalist pigs, and the fact that they wanted this to be an place for “everyman,” and said let’s call it the “socialist pig,” and as in-jokes go, they were on their way.  The coffeehouse is not fairtrade, but sees itself as European, which means no drip coffee, only an espresso machine, and the ability to have a drink as well.  The coffee bar was an amazingly smart construction made of old hardback books with particle board on top and then a bar made of wood they recovered from the mill:  a effective and beautiful piece of work.

A small but fun place along the beautiful St. Lawrence River and the 1000 islands in Gananoque.  Wishing them best of luck!

That’s Shannon with the black bangs and later that’s Alex McDonnell, lead organizer for Ottawa ACORN who was meeting with me about solving the problems of the world!

coffee bar

Shannon Treanor

Alex McDonnell, lead organizer for Ottawa ACORN


Coffee is not big in Bolivia.  They don’t particularly grow it, and they don’t particularly drink it.  In La Paz we had one good cup from a Prado hotel espresso machine and the rest was sludge or a starbucks-wanna be at the Alexandra Cafe chain.

We were a little luckier in Cochabama which at a million people is sort of the second city to La Paz.  The Buenos Aires cafe down the Prado was OK.  We liked the Espresso Cafe though which seemed more Fair Grinds speed.

Behind the bar coffees from everywhere were for sale.

action behind the coffee bar

more of the action

Along the street near Reza and Espana we were almost run over by a great coffee cart. Hola Cafe!


Japan ~ Sendai

Evian is a special order coffeehouse…you order what country you want.

The coffee is made on a percolating Bunsen burner apparatus which they call “cold water” brewing, but that’s not really the process.  Some Japanese refer to Evian as the more “old school” coffeehouse where you can smoke, read a paper, and chat, as opposed to Starbucks and the wannabe’s like Tully’s.

This picture of Evian is from the Sendai Central Train Station’s basement.

Kanda Coffee ~ Tokyo, Japan

Kanda Coffee is a small place not 15 minutes walk away from the Imperial Palace, if you know where you are going.  On Nishi-Kanda in the Chiyoda-ku section of Tokyo.  Perhaps they can sit 10 people in this hole in the wall.

Yet they make a great cup and taught me a “lesson” since they also roasted their own coffee with a nice looking efficient machine as you can see.  The coffee beans were right in front of the coffee bar.  The large sack was from Indonesia.

Their system was a straightforward drip through a paper filter into the cup.  The cups were lined up and ready for the hot water to be added every time they got an order.  It wouldn’t work for Fair Grinds, but neither do we have the “coffee culture” where customers are paying 320 yen (about $4.50 USD) for an 8 ounce cup of coffee.

But, when in Japan!


Seoul, Korea

Seoul, Korea is about the coffee!  Every block in the downtown area seems to have a fancy coffeehouse of some kind or another, and they are HUGE with space that we can only imagine (dream about?) at Fair Grinds!  At $4 bucks a cup, they can afford the space perhaps?

One not far from where I stayed was called Twosome Coffee and Cafe.  Weirdly you could get iced mocha and iced green tea, but when I tried to order a regular cup of coffee, all they could say was that the “machine was broken.”   The espresso machine was huge.  the grinder was at the ready?  Not sure what machine might have been broken, but…this was not a coffeehouse obviously.

Across the street, at Lime’s, we were in something that felt more like a real coffeehouse, with homemade cookies and a straightforward americano.  We felt more at home there!

Walking back to the YMCA where I was staying this weekend, I couldn’t help but notice the laid back approach that Dunkin Donuts was bringing to what it had to offer.  Pushing the drug!


Seoul, Korea

These are all pictures of coffee shops some like Jakeun Namu (small tree) are run by cooperatives in Seoul, some connected to “community welfare centers” as social enterprises benefiting urban villages, disabled workers, or women.

These pictures are of the  “Light.”  The second pictures is of the founder, a feminist activist in the community who organized and managed this as a space for conversation and support

Secum Cafe’

Secum Cafe’ has a very interesting logo…a training program for the disabled which is also supported by their parents….nice space and rewarding to see integration into the community and the pride expressed at being a barista!

Lake Charles, Louisiana

Steller Beans

Steller Beans on Broad Street in downtown Lake Charles, Louisiana is a unique hippy spot in the midst of Cajun country.  They have a commitment to serving up fairtrade coffee when they can, want to port their coffee through New Orleans and have an abundance of local art on the walls.  They are not just about coffee ~ you can get your soup, salad and sandwich on for lunchtime.

Victoria, British Columbia 


Mirage is right off the harbor and during the summer season is undoubtedly packed with tourists walking into the small old town area.  The fancy polished espresso machine, which was the rage some years ago, appeals to that crowd, but Mirage actually roasts its own and does a good cup.

I asked what a Canadiano on the coffee menu might be, and the barrista answered that it was an Americano with maple syrup.   Like I said, this place is probably hopping with shoppers and tourists in the summer.


Solstice is a fairtrade coffeehouse that is a little more “Fair Grinds” if we were a straight hipster house.  Nice cup of Honduran dark roast.  Calm, no hassle atmosphere.  One table playing cards.  A young woman talking to loudly on her cell.  One guy studying without relief accompanied by a pot of tea.  Nice place to read.  Pretty sweet, satisfactory house.


Discovery was the best of the Victoria lot on my visit.  Located off the tourist trail and a good hike from the harbor, this was a Fair Grinds place with local folks, a line on Saturday mornings, and a combination of great coffee, first class baristas, great equipment, and funk.

The coffee service area was smallish with few tables and seats at the bar, so the funk came when you went outside in the rain to move over to the space next door, which was also Discovery with a rec room type ambiance, including couches, stuffed chairs, another unused coffee bar and another unused espresso machine.   This is probably where they do the “education” part of their mission as well.  An interesting space.

A surprising thing about these great Victoria coffeehouses was that as good as the coffee was, the food was sparse and not special in most of them, and Discovery was little different.   Between an oat bar kind of thing and a scone, I picked the one remaining scone, but there was nothing special to it.

The other headscratcher for me was the hours.  6pm in the evening most of these places were closed tight, and Discovery opened after 8 AM on the weekends.  This is a different world than ours.

Regardless, Discovery was worth the walk for a real coffeehouse in the real Victoria.


Fort Langley, British Columbia

Republica Roasters

Visiting with an ACORN Canada tenant leader nearby, we stumbled into Republica Roasters off the main street of quaint Fort Langley nearby.  Hiro Tsujimoto is the director and his fairtrade roasting operation was impressive!  He had a big, new 20# roaster cooking while we were there.  He learned the trade a dozen years ago in Mexico City where he had some relatives, and was hooked.  Lucky for folks in this area outside of Vancouver.

Boston, Massachusetts 

Thinking Cup

Thinking Cup on Tremont Street across from Boston Commons is a direct trade coffeehouse doing a land office business with a bakery and coffee provided by Stumptown, originally the Portland-based roaster that now has an outpost in New York City as well.  We were meeting a couple of blocks away at SEIU Local 615’s offices, but when I stumbled into Thinking Cup for the first time the line was too long for me to wait.  Second time a day later….same thing. What was going on there.  Finally, the third time was a charm.  It was quite an operation.  8 people working on a a Saturday mid-morning, including two on the espresso machine alone!  Baked goods were OK and a full line of sandwiches and breakfast items. Bulk coffee was about our price except it was our prices for only moving 12 ounces or 3/4 of a pound of coffee!  This was a production.  Quite impressive.  Almost all 2-top tables and folks were loving this place with lines out to the street and two sets of cash registers and baristas and another two busmen working the tables.  It might have been the whole package,  but it was definitely “location, location, location!”