Asher Van Wollingen was inspired to start the Co.Lab Coffee Roastery as a response to the way our consumer habits can sustain and create cycles of poverty. Co.Lab seeks to honour people and the environment all throughout its business model, as these are two elements that normally lose out in consumer markets.
‘One of the best things we’ve done in response to this is giving people the opportunity to meet the farmers behind the coffee, like at our LAB events held at our roastery or local cafes,’ Ash shares. ‘We had a Kenyan friend share about his grandma’s coffee farm at our last event, and seeing people ‘get’ the idea of the people behind their products, it was one of those moments where I felt the Kingdom of God pierce through a little bit.’
Ash is passionate about helping people in the hospitality industry recognise the core of what hospitality is all about: people being welcomed. It’s something that we see modelled in Jesus and exemplified most beautifully in God’s welcoming of people into relationship with Him.
‘Across the hospitality industry, and even in the way we do eating at home or work, we can reclaim a lot of what God has given us in slowing down, appreciating the time and complexity that goes into growing food, and doing it in a way that looks after the earth.’
In addition to giving a portion of profits to one of Tearfund’s partners in Ethiopia, last Christmas, Co.Lab gave each cafe who uses their beans a homemade pudding and made a contribution to a Tearfund Useful Gift on their behalf. ‘It was great - many of these cafes have chosen us because we supply good coffee, but it really gave them an insight into the deeper side of what we’re on about.’
‘My favourite gift is actually the Women’s Community Group,’ says Ash. ‘I’ve been really moved by the inequity experienced by women and the associated issues. I have two daughters, so that gift has been the most poignant one for me in the last few years.’