Saturday, September 29, 2007

Nica to LA: from Crop to Cup

During the coffee crisis a few years ago, many advocates, especially Oxfam, used some version of a visual called something along the lines of "From Crop to Cup" to demonstrate the links in the coffee value chain. In my book I include a version from Cafe Campesino, which refers to a coffee "path." Most folks think of these chains or paths as a way to illustrate the need to eliminate middlemen, or coyotes, who take value away from farmers. I finesse that somewhat by saying that we need to eliminate "exploitative" middlemen because it takes a lot of work from farmers, green bean processors, exporters, roasters and retailers to get you a good brew. I saw up close and personal many of the links in the value chain at the Annual General Meeting of Cooperative Coffees in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, where farmers debated composting methods, technicians identified common bean defects, and cuppers explored the fine distinctions of a coffee's "profile."

There are many steps on the path and I'm relishing being on a metaphorical one this weekend heading from Nica to Los Angeles for the annual Fair Trade Festival. I will be speaking at Groundworks coffee which is a chain of socially responsible coffeehouses in the LA area. Besides having the fun of seeing lots of vendors and local businesses represented at the Festival, I'm looking forward to being hosted by Groundworks because of their take on "relationship" coffee which may or may not be TransFair certified or part of the Fair Trade Federation. Stay tuned to see if any controversies brew (no pun intended).

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