Monday, 18 June 2012

Interview - Lauren Morris, Programme Manager for UK Coffee Week

At this years London Coffee Festival I had a chance to catch up with Lauren Morris the programme manager for UK Coffee Week to discuss the event and what it was all in aid of.
Joe: Hello. Who are you then?
Lauren:  Hi, I’m Lauren Morris the programme manager for UKCoffee Week, which is managed by the Allegra Foundation. UK Coffee Week is an annual national week long celebration of coffee, uniting coffee lovers and the coffee industry to raise money for Project Waterfall which funds clean water projects in African coffee-producing countries.

Joe: Why are you here today?
Lauren: The London Coffee Festival is UK Coffee Week’s flagship event. The Growing Community area within the is festival is run by the Allegra Foundation. 

Here we want to raise awareness of Project Waterfall and the need for water in coffee-growing countries. We are also we doing some fundraising and have lots of fantastic raffle prizes and demonstrations, cuppings and interesting talks. 

Joe: During UK Coffee Week what else has been going on?
Lauren: So throughout the week, the main mechanism is inviting coffee chains and independents to ask their customers to donate just five pence from every cup of coffee that they buy throughout the week. So many people in the UK love coffee – there is an enormous audience that we can reach out to and raise money for the cause.

Often it’s the coffee growing countries that don’t have access to clean water. We are working with WaterAid to deliver a project in the coffee-growing country of Tanzania, which WaterAid identified as having one of the greatest needs.   

We’ve had fundraising events throughout the week, held by coffee shops across the country. Cuppings, music events, and coffee talks are raising money and awareness, and then to complete the week there is the London Coffee Festival.

We launched a new fundraiser this year, called “Coffee at Work”.  This brings UK Coffee Week in workplaces. A lot of people drink coffee and tea at work which fuels their days – we wanted to expand our reach to his audience and give the opportunity for people to give back to those coffee communities that don’t have such luxuries.  

We also had a sponsored walk that took place on 15th April for Project Waterfall. The Big Challenge is a 10K sponsored walk along the River Thames. It started off outside the Mayor’s office and is a big loop. Half way along the walk participants had to pick up, up to 10 litres of water and then carry it to the finish line. 

This walk is symbolic of the daily task of fetching water in the area we are raising money for, in Tanzania.  Fetching water is predominately done by women and children who have to travel for up to two hours a day carrying up to twenty litres- double the amount we were carrying - and they may have to do that more than once a day.    

Joe: So in summary what is Project Waterfall exactly?
Lauren: Project Waterfall is raising money for clean water projects in coffee growing countries and it is a moveable feast. At the moment it is funding a 3 year project in Tanzania in partnership with our service delivery partner WaterAid which is now in the second year. 100% of consumer donations go to Project Waterfall which goes directly to Tanzania.

Joe: Is this a world wide initiative?
Lauren: For this first 3 years we are funding a clean water project in Tanzania but once we have fulfilled this agreement we will find another worthy project.

Joe: Why is it important?
Lauren: Water is the most basic human necessity.  Without clean water, people get ill, can die and miss out on school or work.  Without water, communities cannot develop and improve.  More people die from water diseases than malaria, HIV and TB combined and something can be done to improve the situation.  

The water is there, it just needs to be extracted, which is where the wells and pumps come in.  UK Coffee Week is a way of raising awareness and asking people for a small donation to give something back and allows people to make a big difference.

Joe: What is the practical aid? What does the money go towards?
Lauren: The money is going to Nbulu District which is in Northern Tanzania. There we work with WaterAid who are our service delivery partner. So far we have helped over 3,638 people through building wells and water pumps and training the villagers on how to use and maintain them.  

Every 6 months we get a report on project progress, and we keep the website updated with news and send regular newsletters, so supporters can see how their donations are being spent.

Joe: How did you get involved?
Lauren: I was online one day and came across UK Coffee Week and thought it was a great idea. I got in touch with the Allegra Foundation to see if there were any positions available and here we are.

Joe: What coffee do you like to drink?
Lauren: <laughing> ooh I like Tanzanian coffee me. Well I like a variety of coffee and I do love the little independent coffee shops and London has plenty of those. I went recently to Caravan and their coffee is out of this world. Having brunch at St Ali (Now Workshop Coffee Co.) is to die for.

Joe: And how do you take it?
Lauren: I do like a flat white. However I have been around a lot of coffee experts recently and doing a lot of cuppings and found the serious coffee drinkers have it black but I’m a little way off from that now.

Joe: How can people get involved?
Lauren: There are lots of ways. Coming down to the festival helps as 50% of the ticket sales go to Project Waterfall. Other ways to support the cause are to donate, either online or via text and visit a coffee shop participating in UK Coffee Week.  Many people have suggested their local coffee shop to get involved this year, some getting them signed up on our behalf which is a fantastic way to support us.  

There are a host of events happening across the country which are all fundraising for the cause and well worth a visit.   The best way to find out more is to sign up to our newsletter via the website. 

Joe: After this week has finished the work continues?
Lauren: Absolutely, now we start planning for next year and talking to the industry on how they can be involved. We are going to start working on putting on a variety of new events to keep the momentum going into year 3.

Thanks to Lauren for taking the time to speak on such a busy day. If you think Project Waterfall is a worthwhile cause and next year you would like to get involved then please support UK Coffee Week. Check out the links below for more information about the project and affiliates.

Next week I will be reviewing a Tanzanian single origin coffee from the Small Batch Coffee Company. If you want to see why Tanzania is important for coffee you can buy a little and have a taste.

Twitter: @UKCoffeeWeek


  1. Excellent interview, Joe. I featured it in "Web Picks Wednesday" at Coffee Krave.

    I look forward to reading future posts on your blog.