Small businesses, sustainability and coffee – our favourite thing! Green Ocean Coffee is a premium sustainable coffee brand that aims to produce coffee in the most environmentally conscious way possible. They have partnered with Clew Bay Oyster Co-op to fund the restoration of sea grass and oyster beds in protected areas in Clew Bay, Co Mayo. Each bag of Green Ocean Coffee funds the restoration of 1 square meter of the seabed. Oysters and seagrass play an important role in sequestering carbon and enhancing underwater biodiversity, which is why this is so important to them.
We had a chat with the directors of Green Ocean Coffee, David and Marguerite Lawlor, about their story.
Have you always had a great love of Coffee?
Our coffee story started in the early 90’s when instant coffee was the norm and heading to Bewley’s on Grafton Street was one of the few places around that you could get a ‘fancy’ coffee. We bought our first Gaggia espresso machine in 1998 and this was the real start of our coffee journey.
Can you tell me about your own background in the food industry?
Marguerite and I bought Watermark Coffee in 2007. At the time, the business specialized in distributing commercial espresso machines and coffee machine servicing solutions across Ireland. Within a couple of years, we started with our own coffee brands to reflect the changing tastes of Irish consumers. Over the past 5 years we have combined our love of coffee with our love of the outdoors to bring Woodland Coffee and Green Ocean Coffee to the market which combine great coffee with authentic environmental initiatives here in Ireland.
What inspired you to set up your business? Did you notice a gap in the market?
The early 2000’s was an exciting time in Ireland, foreign travel coupled with net inward migration from Europe was having a major impact on how Irish people thought about food and drink. Coffee was starting to play a bigger role and it was easy to see that coffee was starting to become much more important for society.
How did you set up the business and how has it been growing over time?
We bought a small business employing 6 people at the time and this has grown to almost 20 people now. Our main priority has always been to ensure that we deliver a great customer experience, and this will continue to be our focus over the coming years.
Where do you source the ingredients used to make your product(s)?
Our coffee machines are all made by Gaggia Milano in Italy and our green been coffees originate from all around the tropics (Kenya, Sumatra, Columbia, Brazil, Costa Rica) and roasted in Ireland.
Can you tell me about some of the benefits associated with your product(s)?
Our two main coffee brands Green Ocean Coffee and Woodland Coffee are specialty grade coffees sourced directly from the farmers in the coffee growing areas. These brands have an environment purpose that improves habitat and biodiversity in Ireland.
With each bag of Green Ocean Coffee, 1 square meter of seabed is being restored by reinstituting oyster and seagrass beds in Clew Bay, Co Mayo.
Oysters are a keystone species which help to create a healthy and vibrant marine ecosystem.
With Woodland Coffee, each case of coffee funds the planting of 1 tree in our woodland plantation in Co. Limerick which helps to sequester atmospheric carbon and promote biodiversity.
How important has social media been for you in spreading the word?
Social media is key to showing our audience the story behind our great coffees and the work we are doing in Limerick and in Mayo.
What makes your product unique?
We have created outstanding quality coffee that enables our customers to make a meaningful, transparent and authentic difference when they choose Green Ocean Coffee or Woodland Coffee. In a sense, they are coffees with wider purpose.
Where can people get your product (shops, restaurants?)
Our coffees are mainly sold via a B2B channel by calling and arranging a coffee tasting but they can also be bought directly from our website.
Are there any other small Irish food producers you admire?
Michael Mulloy of Blackshell Farm in Mayo grows mussels on ropes for the domestic and export market. This is an excellent way of producing great quality organic food which has a low environmental impact.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced since going into business?
As a small business getting our message out to the market is a constant challenge. When we meet new customers they are blown away by the brand values and ethos.
What do you feel is your biggest achievement to date with this business?
Our aim is for Woodland Coffee and Green Ocean Coffee to be environmental enablers, in other words to have a much greater environmental impact than what we would be able to accomplish as individuals. So hopefully we are working on our biggest achievement, but it can only occur with the support of our customers.
Could you ever have imagined doing anything else with your life?
I could imagine life as an organic farmer too.
What does the future hold for your business?
The feedback we are getting from Green Ocean Coffee and Woodland Coffee has been really encouraging in the sense that people really like our coffee and love the authenticity and ethos of the what we are doing.