Ask Jeff Abella if he likes coffee, and he’ll say yes. Truth is, he can take it or leave it. It was Mr. Abella, however, who lugged pounds of coffee (and cacao) beans from Cameroon in his suitcase and roasted them in his kitchen toaster oven during a yearlong testing process to create premier coffee and signature chocolate bars.
They are the core products of Moka Origins, the boutique roaster and retailer that Mr. Abella founded with Ishan Tigunait in a former dairy barn on the grounds of the Himalayan Institute, a yoga and meditation retreat in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Mr. Abella, who is the chief executive, and his team of seven are bootstrapping this business for a greater purpose. The beans are part of the institute’s humanitarian efforts to help subsistence farmers find better ways to earn money and support themselves under better conditions. Moka Origins winnows about 1,000 pounds of coffee each month and prepares 2,000 to 4,000 bars of chocolate. Also, several Moka cafes are being opened across the United States.
Companies like Toms, Warby Parker and Uncommon Goods have pushed this concept into the mainstream by creating successful business models built around helping others. This trend has led to the rise of B Corporations, a certification for companies that meet high standards of social responsibility. The program started in 2007, and now more than 2,500 companies have been certified in more than 50 countries.
Companies like Moka are a reflection of how consumers think as well, Professor Brown said. As people’s wealth increases, they think more about quality and less about quantity. They also consider the social context of what they’re buying.