Next in our Local Heroes series, where we big up the people, small businesses and neighbourhood spots that make London great, is Kiss The Hippo. The company is dedicated to two things – roasting speciality coffee and sustainability – and it’s excellent at both, wining the UK Barista Championships three years in a row and operating London’s first carbon-neutral roastery.

Kiss The Hippo started life in Richmond (they also have a cafe in Fitzrovia) in 2018 “because we wanted to create a space for people to enjoy a great, authentic coffee experience with a genuine sustainability ethos,” says Creative Director Maya Zara. Creating that authentic coffee experience hinges on the quality of what goes into the cup and for Kiss The Hippo that starts with ethical sourcing.

“Our coffee team have been working in the industry for a long time, and are always on the lookout for exciting new coffee that we can ethically source. We try to go directly to the farmers as often as possible, and – in pre-Covid times, at least – our Head of Coffee, Josh, visits our producers abroad to ensure our partnerships are as strong as possible,” says Maya. “We always pay 50% above the Fairtrade price, and we work with a number of different organisations investing in the future of coffee, to ensure that the whole industry is just as sustainable as we strive to be. From farm to cup, we share every step our coffees takes on its journey to our guests.”

The other element crucial to great coffee is the roasting; not only is Kiss The Hippo’s Richmond roastery Soil Association Organic Certified, they use a Loring, the world’s most environmentally-friendly roasting machine, to do it. As Maya says, “we’ve always wanted to reduce our carbon footprint, and in 2020 we’ve managed to switch our operations, and started roasting carbon-neutral as well. We’re also always looking at fresh ways in which we can be sustainable, like our new compostable coffee pods – for every subscription, we’re planting a tree in an eco forestry project in Nepal.” That initiative, done in partnership with On A Mission is just one of many that the company is involved in – they also support the Rainforest Trust UK, Just a Drop, Pride in London, Kew Gardens, World Coffee Research and the National Literacy Trust.

The roastery process achieving genuine carbon neutrality and the launch of 100% compostable pods may have been highlights for Maya but rather than resting on any laurels, “we’re continuing to work on our carbon footprint, and in 2021 we are aiming to become carbon negative in our roastery operation. And her passion for sustainability doesn’t stop with Kiss The Hippo, as she says “there are so many amazing brands out there with a focus on sustainability, I love the local cafes and restaurants with zero waste policies, as well as the more well-known sustainable fashion brands bringing ethical and sustainable products with amazing designs like Stella McCartney.”