Our partner ORIGINAL BEANS : A cup of tea with Philipp Kauffmann

To create the best tea-infused chocolate in the world, it takes more than just premium tea – it requires the finest chocolate. That's why we've partnered with trailblazing chocolate pioneers, ORIGINAL BEANS. Together, we're not only creating uniquely flavorful tea-infused chocolates but also a thoroughly sustainable product line. Founded in 2008 by Philipp Kauffmann, a dedicated environmentalist in the seventh generation, ORIGINAL BEANS is driven by the principle of regeneration - the belief that everything sourced from nature should be returned to it. This philosophy has propelled ORIGINAL BEANS to challenge industry norms and redefine standards. But can a brand genuinely wield a positive, sustainable influence on the world? We meet him over a cup of tea, to delve into Philipp's personal journey, the world of chocolate, and the responsibilities within the chocolate industry.


Philipp has had an eventful life. For over ten years, he has worked for major nature conservation organisations such as the United Nations. His journey has taken him across the globe, allowing him to engage with local farmers and navigate the intricate landscape of politicians, corporations, and traders. And time and again he comes up against the status quo, because everywhere he goes there are entrenched systems that prioritise the profits of a few companies over people and nature. In the chocolate industry in particular, which repeatedly hits the headlines due to child labour in West Africa, the familiar paths of exploitation seem to be set in stone. Philipp can't let go of the question of how the market itself could be changed so that it becomes regenerative.

Philipp Kauffmann:
"How can we transform the market so that it becomes regenerative for a particular place, for a particular landscape, for a particular group of people, farmers or others? So that it doesn't squeeze them out, incapacitate them, deforest them, but does exactly the opposite, namely regenerates them. Because that should be the most logical thing in the world."
Philipp_Kaufmann_PortraitThe most logical thing in the world. This clarity in his worldview defines him. Perhaps he soaked this love for nature and the people in it up at home, as Phillip stems from a long line of conservationists. Philipp shares insights into the conscious and unconscious impact this heritage has on his perspectives.

Philipp Kauffmann:
"For over 200 years, my ancestors have been actively engaged in what I'm doing now. I could sit down with my great-grandfather, the seventh in line, and discuss sustainable forestry. This connection helps me in challenging moments. It's a sense of continuity flowing through me, grounding me in the present. I'm a part of it, and that realization provides me with courage and solace."

Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, Philipp takes matters into his own hands in 2008, founding ORIGINAL BEANS. From the outset, he envisions a transformative company, integrating the existing knowledge about climate change, the biodiversity crisis, and the impacts of unsustainable farming and bad products.

Philipp Kauffmann:
"This is essentially reverse engineering the typical structure of companies. Typically, in the industry, you would identify a market segment, develop a product, price it accordingly, and then determine your supply source. We've flipped that model. ORIGINAL BEANS has evolved from the farmer, the forest, and a dedication to regenerative agriculture and nature conservation."
He calls it ORIGINAL BEANS' regenerative mandate to establish value chains precisely where the company can contribute to safeguarding the world's most critical rainforests. Building connections from the grassroots level, they engage with local farmers and communities to understand their needs for preserving the rainforest, avoiding selling it to the highest bidder. ORIGINAL BEANS has committed to long-term partnerships in eight locations, engaging with communities on a substantial scale.

Philipp Kauffmann:
"We differ from the traditional chocolate companies: if our farmers face adverse weather, we're there. When confronted with social challenges, we stand united because we share a vested interest in a long-term, quality supply relationship. This is what I mean with bottom-up."

He mentions the Ecuadorian Chocó as an example, one of the most endangered rainforests in the world, of which only 2% is left. Stretching from Colombia to northern Peru, with mangroves along the Pacific coast and a cloud forest that extends up the mountains. They are currently working with two communities in this important biodiversity area. One of these is the Chachi, an indigenous people with whom ORIGINAL BEANS is looking at their entire tribal area of over 50,000 hectares of rainforest in order to jointly develop strategies to protect the Chocó and the regional cacao traditions.

Philipp Kauffmann:
"If you hook into a regional tradition - and in Latin America these cocoa traditions often go back thousands of years - then the self-confidence and identity of the farmers runs deep, as does their agroecological practice. If they have been producing good food in these gardens for 3000 years, then you can assume that they know what they are doing. You can and should only support them in their expertise where they want support."
Philipp talks a lot about farmers. His words always exude respect and a deep connection. When asked where this connection comes from, he talks about the summers of his childhood, which he spent with his family on a farm in the Salzkammergut near Salzburg.

Philipp Kauffmann:
"The old farmers, who became significant role models for me, still hailed from the pre-industrial era. I learnt from them what farming traditions actually are. How they cultivated their own food, tended to their forests, harvested potatoes, raised their own cows... Baking bread was a constant. They knew everything. They had a beautiful farm, they made their own music, folk music, that all was a living tradition, that was their life. That left a deep impression on me. I still carry this understanding and respect for rural traditions within me."

We delve into the decision to defy the trend of fast consumption and low prices. Companies prioritizing organic and sustainability often face accusations of elitism, as it seems the norm for our grandparents' generation is now marketed as something new at a considerably higher cost. However, Philipp remains unwavering in his commitment despite such criticisms.
Philipp Kauffmann:
"If a product does not follow the logic of exploitation, but the logic of regeneration, restoration, health, then naturally the prices will be higher. Such a product must then prove itself on the market through its quality and integrity. The interesting thing is, of course, that people are trying to push us into a luxury corner. But that's such a totally warped misconception because the value that results from this kind of food production and consumption is so much more egalitarian and down to earth than what happens in conventional retail, where a few big companies produce gigantic volumes to make solid margins and everyone else makes a minus. All the little people make a loss and the little consumers get fat and ugly and sick. The little taxpayers have to pay for it all, the little farmers are being squeezed. That's such a totally warped perspective to then stand up and say: "You're elitist." Quite the opposite.

Take chocolate, for instance; it's a product with rather fixed price elasticity. The price in people's minds hasn't changed much over the last 40 years. Creating a mediocre chocolate, tossing in some vanilla, hazelnuts, and caramel on top, that's a breeze. (he laughs) But crafting a chocolate with just one or two ingredients, absolute transparency, a consistent flavor profile year after year, and so forth... Achieving that requires an exceptionally high standard of quality assurance and meticulous work. Every individual in the processing chain must consistently choose to do better."
Consistently choosing to do better. This is also the drive behind PAPER & TEA. We talk about our joint plans and the parallels between us, as brands, as well as between chocolate and tea more broadly. Philipp speaks of the pleasure-moment and the political moment, both equally present in and important for understanding chocolate and tea.

Philipp Kauffmann:
"If fast consumption is no longer the goal... Then it's really about the question, what is consumption? Isn't it an experience, a connection with others, and a connection with the world? We have the power to create more with our products than just packaging — more than a fleeting burst of color and a quick gulp.

Tea and chocolate, ancient magical indulgences from incredible cultures and marvelous regions, have endured colonization, industrialization, and the loss of their magic. Now we are rediscovering chocolate and tea, in a contemporary collaboration between the brands, but also with the farmers, environmentally friendly, organic, and yes, magical.
Ultimately, tea and chocolate are meant for a moment of pleasure. There is a lot of intimacy in these things that are so simple. And that many of us want. That's what I like about PAPER & TEA's ambition and I believe that with better products and better moments, and better presentations, we are in a position to bring people together in consumption or make them see the world differently.

Because the only way to get responsible consumers is for companies to support responsible consumers, educate them and do their job properly as companies. Because as companies, we are the ones who are responsible, not the consumers. They are not responsible, forget it. We as brands and entrepreneurs are responsible. And if we take responsibility and communicate it well, then we can empower consumers to do what they do best: Namely, to make the right choices and spend their money where it really makes a difference for them and for everyone."

The valuable collaboration with ORIGINAL BEANS has given birth to eight exceptional tea-infused chocolates, each bearing unique flavors that narrate tales of their origins. From secluded cocoa gardens in Ecuador to tea tree-lined slopes in Japan, every flavor in this collection paints a vivid picture. But above all, this collection is characterized by one thing: The decision to do better every day. From the regenerative collaboration with the farmers to the moment we enjoy the tea-infused chocolate at home. Thank you, Philipp, for the insightful interview and gifting us your time.

copyright: pictures from Ecuador: Murray Cooper