He’s got a couple of beans up his sleeve.
The Rev. Nicholas Richards, founder of the Abyssinian Fund, a nonprofit that supports coffee farmers in Ethiopia, is in the middle of hashing out a distribution deal to launch an Aby Fund-branded coffee in the States, starting in the Big Apple.
“The Abyssinian fund believes Ethiopian coffee farmers have everything they need, but they just really need partners,” said Richards, an assistant minister at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.
The Aby Fund, as Richards calls it, was founded in 2010 and supports 1,000 farmers from Chaffee Jenette village in Ethiopia, who have received $1 million worth of training and supplies from the Fund over the last five years.
Richards envisions distributing Chaffee Jenette-grown coffee beans to such outlets as Fairway Market and Whole Foods Market, as well as restaurants and stores in Harlem, Union Square and Brooklyn. He hopes to ink deals in time to sell 1,000 bags of coffee this year, he said, adding there is a good demand for the Ethiopian-raised beans.
Richards said he and David Robinson, a noted grower of African coffee who is the son of baseball great Jackie Robinson, have been working on the deal for a year. It is not yet finalized.
Robinson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ethiopia is regarded as the birthplace of coffee and agriculture makes up 80% of the East African country’s gross domestic product, according to the U.S. State Department statistics. Coffee is one of the main crops.
“Our farmers have been growing coffee for hundreds of years,” Richards said. “This coffee is extremely unique. It’s growing wild and naturally.”
All of the proceeds from a distribution deal would go to the farmers, Richards said.
“Africa is not often seen as an equal partner,” said Richards. “We want as many relationships as possible to get the Chaffee Jenette story known to people across the country.”