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Vancouver-Based Coffee Company Helping Thai Village Flourish

LANGLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- (Marketwire) -- 12/11/12 -- It's a well-known fact that Vancouverites love their coffee and in a city brimming with big brand coffee shops on nearly every corner, coffee connoisseurs also know that not all beans are created equal. One local coffee company has taken this belief to heart. Vancouver-based Doi Chaang Coffee Company has been rated in the top one per cent of coffees worldwide by the leading independent Coffee Evaluator. It operates in a "Beyond Fair Trade®" business structure, which means the majority of its earnings flow back to the indigenous Akha coffee farmers in Northern Thailand, where the company purchases their beans.

As part of their partnership, the Akha farmers are reimbursed in excess of the recommended Fair Trade price, and in addition to keeping 100 per cent of the profits from the sale of their beans, they have been gifted 50 per cent ownership in Doi Chaang Coffee Company. This unique coffee partnership is internationally renowned and has won numerous awards and recognition as a role model for its economic viability and socially responsible business practices. Most recently, Doi Chaang Coffee Company was named in the top 10 small and medium sized enterprises of 2012 at the World Business & Development Awards during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

"We're really proud to be a local, family-owned business that allows us to give back and support our global community," shares John M. Darch, chairman of Doi Chaang Coffee Company. "Our relationship with the Doi Chaang Farmers was not motivated by the usual business approach of maximizing returns with minimal investment. It really stemmed from our desire to help a community that despite all their dedication and determination, have not been successful in helping themselves."

"By purchasing our coffee, our customers are really investing in the welfare of the farming families in Thailand, enhancing their standard of living, health care, education and cultural heritage and identity. When the growers are able to benefit from the sustainability and prosperity of their goods, they gain financial independence, security, dignity and control of their own well-being. With basic survival no longer a priority, these farmers are motivated to sustain production and quality control. And that, simply put, is why our partnership with them continues to strengthen and flourish."

Increased consumer awareness is also helping to fuel Doi Chaang's growth. After the company's "Beyond Fair Trade" partnership with the Akha farmers was made aware to the public, sales grew exponentially, and in just one year, sales of Doi Chaang coffee more than tripled. Darch is confident this growth will continue, especially across Canada and into the United States as consumer demand for high quality, fair trade and organic coffee grows. In order to meet consumer demands, Doi Chaang recently secured funding from First West Capital to significantly increase its inventory of coffee beans.

"With the expected growth of our company, we needed additional working capital in order to increase our inventory," says Darch. "We were first introduced to First West Capital by Canadian Western Bank who told us of the team's innovative approach in handling their clients' needs. After many decades of dealing with the major Canadian banks, I can say that our experience with the First West Capital team was very refreshing and satisfying. Robert and the entire team were very engaged in helping us succeed. Plus, they took the time to understand the unique characteristics of our company and our financial needs in order to expand our operations in North America, Europe and Australia."

"As soon as I had spent a few hours with John and the team at Doi Chaang Coffee Company, I knew we were dealing with some very special individuals who had devoted considerable time, talent and money to building a partnership with the Doi Chaang farmers," says First West Capital vice president, Robert Napoli. "This is one of the most unique companies we have ever funded and we are so proud to be a part of their growth journey. By building a strong business, John and the team are able to devote resources to building the Doi Chaang Foundation, with the end goal of building a new school for the village children who currently do not have access to education."

Napoli adds, "Not only is their coffee outstanding, but the fact that we're helping them make a difference in so many individuals' lives is truly remarkable."

Doi Chaang is now sold in over 400 grocery stores, including Safeway, Costco, London Drugs, IGA and Shoppers Drug Mart, as well as over 200 coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and universities.

About Doi Chaang Coffee Company Inc.

Doi Chaang Coffee Company is one of the most innovative, socially responsible, yet economically viable, specialty coffees on the market. Rated among the top 1% in the world, the coffee is the only single-estate, 100% Arabica, USDA Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified and shade grown coffee grown in Thailand. The beans are cultivated and processed by the indigenous AKHA hill tribe in small, family owned gardens in Doi Chang Village located in the Chang Rai Province of Northern Thailand, but freshly roasted and packaged in Vancouver, Canada. For more information, visit www.doichaangcoffee.com.

About First West Capital

First West Capital is First West Credit Union's newest division, and is a $100 million fund established to provide subordinated debt and mezzanine financing to small- and medium-sized businesses. Led by Kristi Miller and Robert Napoli, the First West Capital team has more than 25 years of commercial lending experience including 18 years in subordinated debt financing.

Formed through the merger of Envision Financial and Valley First credit unions, First West Credit Union is committed to local decision making and taking advantage of local business knowledge. The same is true for First West Capital. With on-the-ground knowledge of its local markets, First West Capital has the advantages of speed and flexibility. For more information, visit www.firstwestcapital.ca.

About First West Credit Union

First West Credit Union offers members the financial strength, comprehensive product selection and extended branch network of a large financial institution while maintaining local brand identities and a unique grassroots approach to service. Led by Launi Skinner, First West is British Columbia's third-largest credit union with $6.6 billion in assets under administration, more than 169,000 members and close to 1,400 employees. It operates 37 branches throughout the province under the Envision Financial and Valley First brands. For more information on First West Credit Union, visit www.firstwestcu.ca.

Follow us on twitter: @firstwestcu

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