It has been approximately 2,400 years since Melanesians first settled on Tanna Island, part of what is now the nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. Despite its tropical climate and and the rich soil produced by the still active Volcano Mount Yasur, the island’s coffee history is in its infancy, marked by a few short decades without much access to the global specialty market.
Instrumental in Tanna Island’s recent coffee developments has been Mike Pole, a New Zealander who has been traveling to Vanuatu for years and in 2007 helped organize the Tanna Island Coffee Project, a unifying effort among smallholders a central mill called the INIK Cooperative to help create valuable market opportunities for coffee exports. More recently, Mike’s son Tom has created the No Label Coffee brand, based in New South Wales, Australia, which currently sells three direct-trade coffees, which Pole says it promotes “through the eyes of the farmers.”
Representing some 250 farmers, the INIK Cooperative is this year expected to export more than 100 tons of coffee, primarily Dwarf Catimor and Arusha varieties, representing record-breaking production and export levels.
Both Poles independently described the coffee farmers of Tanna Island to Daily Coffee News as “beautiful people,” and suggested the fledgeling specialty industry there is helping build sustainable agricultural opportunities while allowing the island’s people to maintain their independence by not having to go abroad for work or education. The coffee, says Mike Pole, “is owned by the people for the people, and its main benefit is to the people.”
This is one of the main ideas expressed in the video below, produced by No Label, which also happens to be one of the most captivating origin videos we’ve seen: