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Why we built an app for café regulars that prioritizes farmer pay transparency over points

Onda Go app for cafe regulars, with farmer pay transparency


We’ve tried our fair share of rewards programs for our Seattle café -- from nostalgic coffee punch cards to fancy third-party apps. I mean, who doesn’t like free stuff, right? But as a mission-driven coffee roaster focused on connecting coffee drinkers and growers, we wanted to explore new ways to build a community of people motivated by the impact of their purchase rather than just racking up points. 

So we collaborated with the small but mighty team at our sister company yave to build something more true to us. After months of designing, testing with some of our most generous regulars, re-designing, and building, we launched our new app called Onda Go. It integrates digital ordering and rewards with our transparency data on sourcing and farmer earnings. Instead of just tracking how many purchases until your next free drink, you can see how much you have increased farmer earnings through your purchase. 

Onda Go app for cafe regulars, with farmer pay transparency

Imagine buying a cup of coffee directly from the farmer who grew it

Our dream when we started the company was to enable coffee drinkers to buy coffee directly from the farmer who grew it. We worked with coffee farmers to center their stories on the bags of their coffee beans -- from their names on the front to their faces and profiles on the back. We roasted their coffees to highlight the best attributes within each harvest, and when we sold it to our community of coffee lovers, we shared revenue with the farmer so they earned up to twice as much. 

When we opened our first café, we were stoked to be able to deepen these connections by having our own physical space with customers. And with our team pumping out hundreds of espresso drinks to customers every day, we felt like there was potential to give coffee farmers a greater presence within each transaction. 

Now when you buy a cup of coffee with Onda Go, we show you the farmer who grew it and how much more they earned thanks to your purchase. You can:

  • order ahead or scan your phone in person at the register to log your purchases 
  • virtually meet the farmer who grew your coffee from your phone while you wait for your order 
  • track how revenue from your purchases has been shared with each coffee farmer based on how many drinks you’ve had of their coffee 
  • track how much you and other Onda coffee drinkers have contributed to their earnings 

As you invest more money in coffee farmers through your purchases, farmers can say thank you with little gifts like free coffee.

How pay transparency fuels more sustainable (and better tasting) coffee 

It can be hard to know how your cup of coffee impacts the people who grow it. Even though more coffee drinkers seek ethically sourced coffee, it can still feel anonymous. That’s because the global coffee supply chain is not transparent about farmer earnings and impact. Before we started working with Guatemalan coffee farmer Ivonne Herrera, she was losing money every year because the global market price didn’t even cover her cost of production. “I think that’s the big problem with coffee,” says Ivonne. “Everything is anonymous. And we just have to work within the markets without understanding how it works.”

Through Onda Go, we publish the price farmers earn (not the exporter/FOB price) to show that sustainable coffee starts with sustainable earnings for farmers. Farmers are the ones who put in the work to uphold the values we care about, whether it’s protecting farm workers’ rights or growing the most eco-friendly coffee. When farmers have the resources they need, they can make decisions that are better for their communities and the planet -- which also results in better tasting coffee.

Ivonne now earns nearly double per pound and is finally making a profit thanks to money shared from your purchases. She’s since helped all her seasonal coffee harvest workers open bank accounts for the first time, a huge milestone towards financial sustainability. “The connection with Onda has been a very beautiful thing, says Ivonne. “It’s given us an opportunity to know how one another work… [It has] provided a light to say that ok, things can change and we can continue farming coffee. It can be a business that we can carry on. It can sustain all of the people that work here and the people who depend on them. Families, children, and others... I think that if all of us work together we can achieve a better way.”


Join Onda Go, our new app for café regulars, and your first drink is on us.