Ethical review competition to benefit 1951 Coffee Co.

It’s competition time again on the Green Stars Project!

Your mission: Write a review of a business or product that includes a rating for social and environmental impact (on a scale of 1-5 Green Stars). For this round, I want to include a theme: Equality, whether racial, economic, gender or a mix of all three.

I’ll give you an example of a Green Stars review that I wrote about the 1951 Coffee Company, based in Berkeley, California, which hires and trains refugees. Also, since the 1951 Coffee Company has been struggling (like a lot of businesses) due to the Covid-19 lockdown, I think a fitting prize for this competition is a bag of coffee from them. Or, if you prefer, the prize can be a donation to 1951 Coffee or any other non-profit that deals with equality. Before I get to the Green Stars review, here’s a little bit more about 1951 Coffee.

1951 Coffee Company

1951 Coffee hosts a barista training program and three cafes run by refugees and asylum-seekers from a range of countries with serious humanitarian issues such as Eritrea, Afghanistan, and Syria.

Three 1951 Coffee Company employees hold up a certificate for the Berkel
1951 Coffee employees, Aman (Eritrea), Rose (Eritrea), and Kazem (Afghanistan), accepting their Berkeleyan Readers’ Choice award (photo by Hulda Nelson for UC Berkeley).

1951 Coffee Company, founded in 2015, is a non-profit specialty coffee organization that promotes the well-being of the refugee community in the United States by providing job training and employment to refugees, asylees, and special immigrant visa holders while educating the surrounding community about refugee life and issues.

Our name derives from the year in which the UNHCR, at the 1951 Refugee Convention, first defined and set forth guidelines for the protection of refugees. We provide refugees a path to self-determination, and a welcome entry to their new communities.

Green Stars Review of the 1951 Coffee Company

I reviewed their Berkeley branch in 2017 and then their Oakland branch when they opened last year. Here’s my review of the Oakland branch in full:

Excellent coffee and mochi muffins in support of a social mission! (5/5 Green Stars).
Being a regular at 1951’s original café on Channing Way, I was suitably excited to try out the new 1951 location during their soft opening. There’s seating in the front and a lot more in the spacious back room – including sofas! How I miss sofas and comfy chairs in cafés! Plenty of light and power outlets for Getting Stuff Done. I was also excited to see a fairly wide selection of pastries from Third Culture and Firebrand. I haven’t yet made it to the Third Culture Bakery (or at least not since it was called Sam’s Patisserie and was housed in Catahoula Coffee on Fourth Street) so I got to try my first matcha mochi donut ($3.25) to go with my Americano ($3.50). The highlight, though was my second pastry (hey, it was Sunday afternoon!) – a deliciously moist chocolate-banana muffin ($4.25). Even if you’re not staying, walk to the back to check out the murals. And if you’ve never had a mochi muffin, start with that : )

I’m also giving the 1951 Coffee Shop 5/5 “green stars” for social and environmental impact, based on these reasons:

* The whole refugee hiring and training program is legit and the founders seem to get along really well with the staff. The name comes from 1951 Refugee Convention, a legal document signed by 144 countries that defines the term “refugee” and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of states to protect them.

* Their coffee comes from the Coffee Manufactory (who also supply Tartine), who have a mission to foster long-term direct trade relationships with smallholder coffee farmers. I look forward to seeing their first transparency report which promised open-source data on their supply chain. CM also uses compostable packaging (although I didn’t get a chance to check the 1951-branded bags).

* The now-famous Third Culture bakery supplies mochi muffins, donuts, and other delights. I talked to TC owner Sam (back when it was called Sam’s Patisserie) and he bakes with organic (and pasture-raised) dairy, eggs, flour, and fruits whenever possible. He tends to use good local seasonal ingredients from sustainably-minded suppliers, e.g. fruit from Frog Hollow farm and flour from Central Milling. His organic mochi rice flour is sourced from Koda Farms.

* Their other pastry supplier is Firebrand, in Oakland. I’ve reviewed Firebrand and thought that they deserved 5/5 Green Stars. Most of their ingredients are organic (you can find ingredients listed on GoodEggs). Their flour comes from Central Milling and their whole grains from Community Grains, both great operations with emphasis on social and environmental responsibility.

The interior of the 1951 Coffee Co. in Oakland, featuring a sofa, bar counter and large mural.
The newest branch of 1951 Coffee Co. in Oakland, CA.

The competition

Ok, so that’s the review. Here are a few more details on the competition:

  • Write a review of any product or business that deals in some way with equality
  • Include a rating for social or environmental impact on a scale of 1-5 Green Stars
  • Post your review on any site that you like (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Maps, a retail website, etc.)
  • Notify me by email or a comment below once your review is posted
  • I’ll notify winners and feature the winning reviews in a future post (or not, if you’d prefer anonymity)
  • 5 winners shall win a bag of coffee from the 1951 Coffee Company or a donation to 1951 Coffee or a non-profit of their choice
  • Deadline: August 31, 2020

Here are some resources to assist you on your quest:

Example reviews

How to write an ethical review of a restaurant

Posts from the category: Ethical Shopping Guide

Posts from the category: Anatomy of a Green Stars Review

Why we need user-generated ethical ratings

Ethical consumerism criteria

Leave a Reply