Three Questions with Muna Mohammed of Canada’s Eight50 Coffee
Born in Ethiopia as the granddaughter of a coffee farmer but raised mainly in Canada, Eight50 Coffee Founder Muna Mohammed had a profound experience when seeing coffee’s origins for the first time as an adult.
“It was something that always fascinated me, but I didn’t quite understand it,” Mohammed recently told Daily Coffee News. “I knew we drank coffee — I knew it was culturally integrated into our heritage — but it wasn’t until I visited Ethiopia after graduating college that I got to understand the complexities of coffee.”
After witnessing harvesting, processing and the work that farmers put into production, Mohammed returned her previous home in Toronto, Ontario, with plans to more deeply engage with coffee.
While simultaneously maintaining what would be a 14-year career in marketing, Mohammed began to devote much of her free time to learning about coffee. After another formative trip to Ethiopia in 2008, her desire to work in the industry grew, and in 2018, she began to put concrete plans together for Eight50 Coffee.
At long last, in 2020, Mohammed officially launched the coffee business in Ottawa.
“I think COVID helped because it was a time where I was like, ‘It’s now or never — I’m going to launch this business,’” said Mohammed. “But I’m glad I took the time that I did [beforehand] because I started to really understand how the supply chain worked.”
Mohammed drew upon her marketing background to develop a name for the business that may begin to tell a story and also lead to more questions. The Eight50 name references the year (850 CE) in which coffee was first discovered in the wild in Ethiopia, according to popular legend.
Said Mohammed, “I meet people all the time that think coffee comes from France or Italy.”
Mohammed now sources Ethiopia Harar coffee from her family, and she works with a group called Coqua Trading to source coffee from other regions of the country. Brazilian coffees come from Atlanta-based BD Imports. The latest Brazilian coffee comes from producer Neide Peioxoto, a woman in Minas Gerais.
In addition to coffee, Eight50 Coffee has a new line of chocolate bars, each with its own unique sourcing story and art on the packaging to represent the individual countries. The cacao comes from Cameroon and Jamaica.
Mohammed also launched a cascara harsha tea over the summer. Made with dried coffee cherry and infused with natural flavors, the sparkling RTD drink comes in two canned flavors.
“Cascara is near and dear to me because I grew up drinking it,” says Mohammed. “I wish people started gravitating to coffee byproducts because there’s a lot of opportunity to support farmers and diversify their offerings.”
Here’s more from DCN’s conversation with Muna Mohammed…
What about coffee excites you the most?
I’m excited to showcase coffee usage and coffee byproducts in sustainable ways. This year we launched our Trio Coffee Bean to Bar and Cascara Hashara, a sparkling coffee cherry tea that’s made by repurposing the coffee peel. It’s a beloved drink, commonly consumed in the eastern region of Ethiopia, that I grew up drinking. The possibilities of incorporating coffee in different products are endless, and I’m excited to continue developing products that highlight coffee.
What troubles you about coffee?
The future of coffee and the impacts of climate change are troubling. The reduction of coffee yield has become more frequent, yet it’s still a crop consumers take for granted. I think we should be paying a lot more for coffee at the retail level. I believe farmers should continue to advocate and sell their coffee at higher prices. I hope to continue seeing the specialty coffee community advocate and continue to support these efforts, as well.
What would you be doing if it weren’t for coffee?
I would still be working as a marketing and brand professional. In many ways, I brought these skills into my own business at Eight50 Coffee. I’ve always loved telling stories, creating, building brands, and working with product development. I understand the importance of being the author of your story and telling it with authenticity.
Is there someone in the coffee industry who inspires you? Nominate them for a “Three Questions” feature here.
More From DCN
Jen Roberts is a Paris, France-based writer and avid coffee drinker. She’s currently writing a book on women in coffee.
Source: Daily Coffee News