SkyLark Coffee: The only 100% non-profit specialty coffee brand

Esther Gibbs
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December 27, 2023
SkyLark Coffee, custom coffee bags, custom coffee packaging, custom printed coffee bags

Nestled in Brighton in the South of England, SkyLark Coffee was born out of a desire to create a shift in the specialty coffee industry. The brand claims to be the only 100% non-profit and 100% transparent specialty coffee brand in the world. 

Founders Micah Shereh and Ben Szobody have created a brand with social and environmental impact at its heart. SkyLark offers high quality coffees while helping to repair the environment and empower coffee farmers. Beyond this, 100% of the brand’s income supports charity projects.

To learn more about how SkyLark Coffee is supporting charity projects to promote sustainable change in the specialty sector, I spoke with roastery assistant and barista trainer, Tara Greenhalf. 

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Showcasing the importance of transparency in specialty coffee

Before SkyLark Coffee was launched, the founders asked themselves two questions: How could they give back to the people who produce and grow the coffee, and how could they make the coffee affordable for cafes with lower profit margins?

Tara explains that SkyLark was born out of frustration that coffee roasters often make the largest profits along the supply chains. “The farmers and producers do not get to decide the price of their coffee,” she says. “As coffee roasters, we are often the people who make the most and SkyLark considers how we can distribute that money back to other people.” 

All the profits from the roastery go back into charity projects and the brand is registered as a not-for-profit organisation. To ensure full transparency, SkyLark publishes its traceability report each year. This breaks down the brand’s sourcing and ethical policies and accounts for all the money entering and leaving the business. 

In 2022, SkyLark donated over £15,000 to charity, and its average cost per kilo of coffee was over £9. Transparency reports are an essential factor in the industry, as they provide all-inclusive insight into the coffee supply chain. Beyond this, they inspire others in the industry to be transparent and consider the impact of their business.

“The goal of the report is to lead by example,” Tara says. “We are publishing our transparency report so that everyone can see where the money comes from and where it goes. Admittedly, we are not going to change everything straight away, but we want to be part of the domino effect that encourages other businesses to do things differently.” 

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“Paying extra to conserve nature and empower growers”

The money from SkyLark’s profits is divided amongst various projects, as it falls under the umbrella of One Church Brighton (OCB), which is also a registered charity. 

Under OCB, SkyLark Coffee donates money to several projects, including Pro Baristas. Pro Baristas is a barista training school that offers affordable courses to help people gain employment in the coffee industry. Tara is a trainer for the project at Pro Baristas. 

“Pro Baristas started 8 years ago, way before my time at SkyLark,” she explains. “But, it has always been about supporting people who may not get that support elsewhere. It’s about reaching people who are struggling with employability and working with them to improve not only their coffee skills but also their confidence and professionalism.”

At Pro Baristas, Tara has created the Dorothy Jones course, which is exclusively for women and people who are non-binary and may not feel comfortable on a mixed course. “Dorothy Jones was the first woman who was licensed to sell coffee in the US,” Tara says, adding that she wanted to use something historical in the name to “inspire people but also get people to ask questions.”

“We want to break down any barriers people may face to finding a career in the industry, and this extends beyond the courses we offer,” she says. “We offer work experience at our cafe, and support people with writing their CVs and preparing for interviews.” 

SkyLark Coffee also donates to The Stumping Project, which helps Ethiopian coffee farmers rejuvenate coffee trees and possibly double productivity and income. Additionally, the brand donates to The Wilding Projects: a local conservation project that protects the environment in the South of England.  

“As SkyLark grows, we’re hoping our impact on the industry will grow in parallel, and we can create larger change,” Tara explains. 

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Custom coffee bags that showcase sustainability

SkyLark Coffee also showcases its commitment to the environment through its custom packaging. With a pastel colour scheme, the brand’s custom printed coffee bags feature detailed images of skylarks in flight. The brand’s logo sits above customised labels that convey the processing method and flavour notes of each coffee. 

These labels showcase gold hot foil stamping, which helps to highlight information on the coffee. Hot foil stamping is a printing method used to customise packaging materials with metallic foil. The foil is often used to accentuate particular design elements, such as logos, holograms, or wording. As hot foil stamping only uses heat, pressure, and a die to transfer designs, there is no need to use inks or solvents. This makes it an environmentally friendly printing solution. 

Furthermore, the process is highly suitable for kraft paper materials and can also be applied to recyclable packaging, low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and bioplastic packaging, such as polylactic acid (PLA)

SkyLark has commonly used recyclable coffee bags for its 250g offerings. However, the brand recently switched to fully compostable retail packaging. The new packaging is a bag-in-box approach to offer customers a fully compostable and recyclable package. 

“We’re on a transparent mission for a beautiful package that doesn’t offload waste to the developing world,” the brand’s social media post read. “And you wouldn’t believe all the places plastic is hiding in standard coffee packaging.” For customers buying SkyLark coffee, it is reassuring to know that every part of the coffee supply chain has so much consideration within every detail. 

At MTPak Coffee, we understand the need to promote sustainability throughout every aspect of your business. This is why we offer recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable coffee packaging solutions made from natural sources such as kraft paper, rice paper, and LDPE with an eco-friendly PLA lining. 

We also give you the freedom to personalise every detail of your packaging, and our design team is always ready to help when needed. Our custom coffee bags offer high-barrier protection, while being made from biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable materials that will help reduce your carbon footprint. Choose to include sustainable components such as resealable zippers, tin ties, spouts, and degassing valves to preserve product freshness. 

Images courtesy of SkyLark Coffee

For more information on custom coffee bags with minimal environmental impact, contact our team

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Esther Gibbs
Esther Gibbs

Esther has been in the specialty coffee industry for 14 years working as a Q Grader, SCA Trainer and ESTA trainer. She’s also offers her services as a coffee consultant through Hope Espresso. Her passion for writing comes from her love of sharing stories about the industry and ensuring knowledge is accessible to all.

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