Big Issue-backed Change Please coffee now available nationwide

For two years, Change Please has employed homeless people as baristas to sell fresh brews across London. Now, its poverty-busting coffee is available in more than 300 Sainsbury's store across the country.

The groundbreaking launch of Change Please changed the way thousands of people across London looked at their everyday cup of coffee. Like The Big Issue, it offered homeless men and women a ‘hand up, not a hand out’ and the opportunity to work their way out of poverty.

Now, the revolutionary project has gone nationwide, with its acclaimed, life-changing coffee now available to purchase in Sainsbury’s stores across Britain.

This landmark expansion, which sees the premium, speciality-graded coffee available in over 375 stores nationwide, follows the success of the Change Please mobile coffee carts that in under two years have grown from one cart in Covent Garden to 15 sites across London.

Change Please coffee cup

The premise is simple. Homeless people are trained as Change Please baristas so they can sell fresh coffee from mobile carts on the high street. Baristas are paid a full London living wage and spend six months on their cart, learning valuable vocational and social skills to help them re-enter society and move on to full time work, with the assistance of numerous partners of the programme.

The Big Issue has backed Change Please since its launch in 2015 and through their social investment arm, Big Issue Invest, have provided further funding to support the production of the Sainsbury’s coffee, and offered additional support in the form of a mentor for the business from one of their partner investors, Barclays.

Formerly homeless Change Please barista Thomas's new coffee blend, which is available to buy nationwide in Sainsbury's.

Each pack of coffee available for purchase in Sainsbury’s will include stories about the people it has helped on the packaging. Thomas Noble, for example, started working for Change Please in 2017 and has used the programme to help put to an end to sleeping rough.

Change Please means “LIFE” for me, I wouldn’t be here now without them

“When I first heard about Change Please, I thought it was a fantastic idea because I know a lot of homeless people who need help,” Thomas explained “Now I’m in a position where I have some really valuable skills and the knowledge of an industry I have grown to love.”

The first Change Please coffee cart launched in London in November 2015.

Thomas described the work he’s done with Change Please as “a new chance at life, a family, friends and a job I love”.

He added: “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, I never thought I’d make it past 30. Now I’m 34, I have my own flat, and best of all I can have a chance to succeed and have a nice productive successful life with all the support anyone could ever ask for. Change Please means “LIFE” for me, I wouldn’t be here now without them, I know this for sure.”

Since its launch in November 2015, Change Please has helped 35 formerly homeless people like Thomas to completely transform their lives. This has also included support with housing, setting up bank accounts, and professional therapy. Once each individual training programme is complete, the employees return to into the mainstream world of work and all remaining revenues are put back into the project with the figure currently over £655,000.

Change Please coffee will be sold at £4.50 per bag with a share of each bag going directly to the person featured on the packaging. All profits are then put back into the social enterprise to help more people get off the streets and back in to society.

We built Change Please on being a ‘pick me up, not a hand out’

There will be three distinct flavours that have been hand selected by Change Please baristas. From Thomas’s very own blend with tasting notes of dark chocolate and caramel balanced with hits of honeyed plum and maraschino cherry to Lucy’s milk chocolate blend with hints of buttery vanilla, hazelnut and caramel. These are complemented with an elegant Ethiopian single origin blend that boasts subtle floral notes, gentle citrus acidity and a crisp finish.

Change Please barista Lucy's coffee blend.

Cemal Ezel, the founder of Change Please, said: “This is a huge step forward to helping the current state of homelessness in the country. We have built this social enterprise on being a ‘pick me up, not a hand out’ for the people involved and it is their hard work that has got their lives moving in the right direction.

“Change Please aims to create a real win win situation; knowing that we’re continuing to feed the consumer demand for high quality coffee, but on a much wider scale now through the consumer product, we can make an even bigger impact on this country’s homelessness problem.”

Change Please founder Cemal Ezel.

Peter Bird, The Big Issue’s National Distribution Director, added: “Our partnership successfully harnessed the public’s appetite for upmarket takeaway coffee to inspire, support and further both our missions to dismantle poverty through the creation of opportunity for the most vulnerable in society.

Change Please coffee cart and staff
Change Please coffee cart and staff

“Change Please provides the hand up, not the hand out, that people need to work their way back in to society with the creation of regular jobs. With the coffee now available in Sainsbury’s nationwide, they will now be able to give even more people, including our vendors, a way out of poverty and onwards to a more positive life.”

For those looking to get their coffee fix in other locations, Change Please coffee carts can be found in locations such as London Bridge, Canary Wharf, Borough Market and St Pauls with new sites in Loughborough Junction, Regents Place and Truman Brewery. You can also buy the coffee direct here.