I spent the past three months of lockdown living by the sea. Each day, come rain, wind, or snow, I’ve taken my coffee down to the beach for a morning stroll to clear my head, make space for the new day and watch the waves roll in and roll out. There’s something about the constancy of the ocean’s movements that brings me peace, its eternal timetable of tides, its stillness, and occasional temper tantrums. The vastness of the North Sea horizon helps to put life in perspective and the gulps of salty sea air seem to have a sterilizing effect on any negative thoughts or feelings.
Occasionally, whilst trudging through the stones, one will jump out at me, catch my eye and draw me in. For some reason, at that moment, I see a unique beauty in some small, round compressed marble of sand that causes me to stop, bend down and select this singular object from a million others. It might be the distinctive colours captured in its patterned face, highlighted by a fresh gleam of saltwater. Sometimes it’s just the shape or size. I’ve even stopped to pick up a few stones which appear to have letters written on them. I was hoping to collect enough to spell my name, but so far, I’ve only got S, N, Z, A, T and I’ve yet to meet anyone called Snatz whom I could gift them.
I mentioned the rhythms of life in a recent blog post, the importance of holding things lightly, and occasionally letting things go. I happen to be a bit of an expert at letting things go. Expert / commitment-phobe. You say tomato, I say – life’s too short. My work and address history make for an absolute nightmare when it comes to reference checks, but very occasionally, I pick something up and stick with it. Blue Bear and the accompanying Justice & Coffee Podcast would be my case examples, unlike “Can’t be Grassed’, the gardening business I once owned, which only lasted a couple of loops around a client’s garden and a smashed living room window. Blue Bear is now in its third year and going stronger than ever, picking up new customers every week and finding new listeners all over the world, downloading our podcast and following us on social media. This apparent and measured progress gives cause for hope. But it hasn’t always been like this and there are still plenty of days when I question whether I’m the right person to be in charge. Surely a more experienced and talented entrepreneur would have this machine churning out way more profit for our charities by now. I also came narrowly close to launching my laptop out of the window a few weeks back, after attending an online procurement event where I pitched Blue Bear Coffee to a succession of biro nibbling, white-shirted weasels with absolutely no interest in human trafficking or ethical coffee, other than how our price compared to the cheap and nasty, slavery-infused beans that filled their stockrooms. Still, on the whole, l am loving this adventure and I’m regularly reminded of what a blessing it is to be connected to a growing community of coffee lovers with hearts for justice.
This month we launched the Blue Bear Coffee Club. A unique monthly subscription service that sends supporters an exclusive bag of freshly roasted specialty beans, as we take a trip around the world’s coffee belt together. I’m excited about it. I’m also relieved to have finally got the project up and running, after many months of effort. I’m also keen to explore other ways of using Blue Bear to connect, engage and support each other, as we try and use our lives to leave the planet in a better state than how we found it. An almost impossible job, some might say, but I am unapologetic for having what President Obama once termed, “the audacity of hope.”
I think it’s unlikely that Blue Bear would still be trading if it had been established as simply another coffee company, without any apparent cause or purpose. I would have seen that, when compared with the hundreds of competitors, it was just like any other stone on the beach, and likely discarded it to make room for some new, shiny idea. It is, however, because of Blue Bear’s unique nature, our connection to the farmers, our relationship with the charities, and the growing Bear Pack of supporters, that makes this venture something worth cherishing.
Written by Bryn Frere-Smith
Founder of Blue Bear Coffee Co.