Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a selection of questions we've most often gotten.
Have a question that's not here? Post it over at Quora!


  1. How does ECC control the quality of the coffee? ECC works in partnership with Esperanza Coffee Group S.A.. Esperanza is a coffee mill with years of experience exporting gourmet and high quality coffees. Esperanza has cupping (how coffee mills check for taste and quality) facilities on site to ensure quality and consistency of ECC coffee.
  2. Where is the coffee grown? The Coffee is grown in the Jinotega region of Nicaragua, at Gustavo Santos’ farm “Santa Elena” at 3000 ft above seal level.
  3. Who is Gus Santos? Gustavo Santos runs his third generation family farm, “Santa Elena” , in Nicaragua and supplies his coffee to Ethical Coffee Chain. Gus has struggled to keep his farm afloat for years due to crippling stretches of bottomed-out coffee prices on the world market. Despite the tough economic situation of the farm, Gus continues offering his farmers a variety of support programs to withstand widespread poverty and ensure ethical living conditions throughout Jinotega.

    Gus used to sell his coffee to Starbucks until its shares fell, causing Starbucks to source its coffee elsewhere. This collapsed trade deal forced Gus to sell Jinotega beans on the open market – where commodity prices often fail to turn a sustainable profit for the producer. These blind and chaotic market prices, regulated by the biggest farms and companies, leave farmers like Gus and coffee labourers around the world without basic sustenance. At ECC, enjoying the coffee you drink has as much to do with flavor as it does with knowing its origin is sustainable and fair. And aiding Gus’s struggle to keep his family farm afloat and maintain steady livelihoods for his workers is just the first drop in ECC’s Ethical Brew… and it’s people like you who can take ECC further, one bag of coffee at a time.
  4. What is Esperanza? Esperanza Coffee Group ( is a locally employed and resourced Nicaraguan mill, partnered with ECC.
  5. How will ECC help the Nicaraguan farmers and labourers? Giving your Farmer, Gus, a fair price for his coffee is the first step in helping him, his farm and his labourers. Buying coffee from Gus employs poor itinerant labourers in the region and pays them wages they can subsist comfortably on. In addition, ECC secures some of its revenue in an ongoing development fund to further community projects in Jinotega…projects suited to on-the-ground condition at the farm and voted on by you, the ECC member / owner.


  7. Can I choose which roast to have? In order to keep costs as low as possible as our membership and demand increases, we will only be offering a classic medium roast. As demand increases, we will be able to offer a host of different roasts in the affordable ECC price range.
  8. How do I cancel my order? To cancel an order contact us and we will be in touch with you.
  9. Can I buy green beans? Please contact us directly to discuss the possibility of buying green beans from Gus.


  11. How do I become a member of the co-operative? Becoming a member of ECC is easy. Anyone over the age of 16 can become a member by paying a $2 membership fee. Sign up by choosing a package.
  12. What are my membership rights and duties? Here are some of the basic rights: (1) To elect and remove directors; (2) To make motions at meetings; (3) To present and vote on resolutions; (4) To hear reports on the Co-operative’s operations and financial status; (5) To discuss any issue you have asked the directors to put on the agenda Please see our by-laws to read more.
  13. Do I face any personal financial liability by joining ECC? No. Members enjoy fair prices on coffee, the satisfaction of making a difference, and returns on their patronage and investment.


  15. How do I get involved in international development projects with ECC? Once we have built up the development fund from we ECC will begin reaching out to our members for investment ideas. Never hesitate to share your knowledge and expectations with this aspect of ECC. Send us your comments and you will be heard!
  16. How do I get more involved in the governing structure of the co-operative? You can stay involved in the governing structure of ECC by attending our annual general meetings, and any other members’ meetings we may have. You may also get involved by proposing resolutions to be considered by the members. As a member, you can even run for a Director position on our board and have a go at running the show yourself! Read more in our bylaws.
  17. How can I help ECC? The best way to help us is to spread the word about our coffee and encourage people to become members by purchasing Gus’s coffee. If you would like an even more active role, or are interested in future employment opportunities at ECC, please let us know! (Contact information is in the footer.)

  18. ABOUT US

  19. What does ECC stand for? Ethical Coffee Chain. Our legal name is Ethical Coffee Chain Trade Co-operative Inc. (Quite the mouthful.)
  20. What does ECC do? ECC is a consumer co-operative with a social purpose. It seeks to establish chains of just trade between coffee farmers in the most impoverished regions of the World and coffee consumers in Canada. By cutting out the ‘middle man’ between farmers and consumers, ECC is able to provide competitive prices to Canadians, while paying coffee farmers even more than fair trade premiums. As a co-operative, the point of ECC’s existence is…to cooperate. For us, this means harnessing our collective consumer power to drastically change the way people understand their responsibility as a consumer and go about buying their everyday necessities.
  21. Why Nicaragua? Nicaragua remains the poorest country in Latin America and the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere next to Haiti. Coffee represents nearly 15 percent of Nicaraguan exports, generated from some 17, 000 farms.

    As in most of the Americas, coffee labourers are of indigenous decent (consisting of around 5% of the population) and live on a wage of less than $1 per day. During the coffee crisis at the turn of the century, coffee prices plummeted and left over 300,000 landless peasants to feed themselves and their families without an income.

    In a sustainable reality, much of the land for coffee production should be used to feed their population; however, domestic land reform is beyond the scope of our ability to effect regional transformations. To put it in perspective, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (February 2008): “….identifies 1.5 million people as undernourished…Chronic malnutrition affects 20 percent of children under 5; the figure is 50 percent in some World Food Program target areas (particularly in coffee growing regions).

    Wealth distribution is highly unequal in Nicaragua: the richest 20 percent own 60 percent of wealth; the poorest 20 percent own 3 percent. Poverty and inequality are reflected in low attendance at schools and health centres.”

    ECC’s goal is to address these kinds of issues by providing the coffee labourers and farmers with just wages and the community building resources which are the cornerstones of a quality life, as well as helping in whatever ways we can to diversify their economy away from its heavy dependence on coffee growing. We believe that by consuming ethically traded coffees, we can all do our part in reversing unacceptable but avoidable injustices corrupting the everyday trade of our world’s most popular beverage.


  23. How do I invest in ECC? You can invest in ECC by buying Preference Shares of $100 each or a partial share if $100 is too much for you right now.
  24. When should I expect to see a return on my investment? You should not expect to see a return on your investment until ECC begins to see profits. At each annual general meeting, members will vote on investment returns. For information on how to redeem your shares, please refer to our bylaws.

    All shareholders will receive: * An annual rate of return of Prime Rate plus 2% * Good karma, having helped transform the lives and livelihoods of hundreds (and eventually thousands, hopefully) of farmers, labourers and their families enriched through doing business the ECC way.
  25. What is the difference between investing in a consumer co-operative and a business corporation? Business corporations are legally bound by one Golden Rule: to assure the highest profits possible for their shareholders. And although co-operatives also rely on profitability to ensure survival, competitiveness and growth, they are also organized under principles of justice and equity, abiding the needs and rights of their members. In the case of Ethical Coffee Chain, our purpose is to supply coffee consumers with ethically grown, harvested and produced coffee at competitive prices. If our chief aim were to maximize profits for our shareholders it would be bad business to pay our farmers more and lower the prices for our consumers. Yet this is exactly what we do as a consumer-cooperative... and we think we’re a good business.

    In the end, Business Corporations are financially beheld to their shareholders. In fact, they are contractually liable to them on most operational levels. Co-operatives, however, are controlled by the collective will and ambition of its members - and unlike corporate shareholders, each ECC member bears an equal vote, no matter how many shares they may own.
  26. What are preference shares and how do they work? Preference shares are bought by members and investors in order to help the co-operative build capital and increase its chances of success. In return for the purchase of preference shares, any profits that the co-operative makes may be redistributed to co-operative preference shareholders as dividends. Preference shares have a fixed return of Prime Rate plus 2%. Preference shareholders are paid returns on their shares with preference over regular member shares. That means that before co-operative members may be paid patronage returns based on their consumption, preference shareholders will. Returns are issued at the discretion of the directors.
  27. What is the difference between membership shares and preference shares? ECC can issue out either membership shares or preference shares. Membership shares must be purchased by people who purchase coffee from ECC. Preference shares can be bought by members and non-members alike and are sold as stakes in capital fundraising.

    All members must have a minimum of one share at a par value of $2. Preference Shares are optional and at a par value of $100 each, by any given person.
  28. What are the risks associated with investing in a co-operative like ECC?

    i) Market for Shares: There is presently no market for the shares being issued nor is a market expected to develop. Transfers of Preference Shares require Board approval. Management will strive to match buyers and sellers, but no guarantee assures holders of these shares an opportunity to sell them.

    ii) Long Term Investment: Purchases of the shares offered herein should be considered long term investments which may not be suitable for investors who may need to sell their shares quickly in order to raise money. Investors who require regular returns from their investments should seriously consider whether or not to purchase Preference Shares. ECC offers thoroughgoing consultation and disclosure for any and all prospective Preference Share investors.

    iii) Other Risk Factors: The Co-operative may also be subject to other risk factors that could potentially affect its profitability and solvency. Some of these risk factors could include (but are not limited to) the following:
    • failure to comply with governing statutes

    • increased competition

    • commodity prices

    While the Board of Directors does not view these risk factors as of immediate concern at this time, potential adverse changes in these areas may limit the Co-operative’s ability to pay dividends and redeem shares.