I am now the proud owner of a handful of fichas de finca — the coins with which plantation owners here in Guatemala used to pay their workers in lieu of government-issued currency. As I understand it, they were only good at the “company stores” that estate owners set up for workers (along with housing, […]
The Colombia Cup of Excellence competition held earlier this month may have marked the coronation of Nariño as the source of the country’s finest coffee. Farmers from Nariño claimed the first six spots and eight of the top ten. Such dominance leaves little doubt that the center of Colombian coffee has shifted definitively to Nariño.
I recently had the opportunity to visit with a group of farmers in the sun-baked department of Usulután in eastern El Salvador. These farmers live at the lower bounds of coffeelands, as low as 400-500 meters above sea level. At this elevation, the sun is relentless and punishing and water is scarce. The only hope for sustainable coffee farming is effective shade management. When one middle-aged farmer observed that the leaves fell from the coffee plants that were directly exposed to the sun, an older one in the group shook his head and offered this wisdom: “Shade is the foundation. Without shade, there is no coffee.”
The CRS Coffeelands Blog is going to a weekly format for the foreseeable future — a post a week on Tuesdays, starting tomorrow.
I have published some critiques of Fair Trade Certification here in recent weeks, and have gotten some thoughtful and even-minded pushback about it both online and off. I feel compelled, as they say in the U.S. Congress, to “revise and extend my remarks” about Fair Trade. In so doing, I will turn for help to one of the great parliamentarians of the 20th century, and a small group of allies working to shape Fair Trade in the 21st.
Last week, the Seattle Times published an article on Direct Trade that did not reflect particularly well on Fair Trade Certification. Then a bad moment for Fair Trade was made worse when Sprudge cherry-picked the worst lines of the article, which had more than its share of unfortunate content.
Unfortunately for the people — and coffee — of Guatemala, the year of superlative rains continues. More rain fell in the month of August than normally falls in an entire year. And this weekend, 30 mudslides were reported along a particularly tragic 30-mile stretch of the Pan-American highway that cuts through the coffeelands here.
There have been discussions here recently of the market for the $3 cup of single-serve coffee, the challenges of sourcing distinctive coffees and the current high market. I realized during a conversation last week with a veteran coffee importer that although these three discussions here were separate, they are related.