I have been closely watching the way coffee companies engage in the coffeelands over the past five years or so. Most fit neatly under one of the “3Ps” of coffee philanthropy: public relations, process and product improvements, and people-centered investment. (OK, really there are 4Ps.)
I am in Oaxaca this week — life is good. I came back to Oaxaca in late 2008 for the first time in more than 10 years, and to my very pleasant surprise found some very nice coffee shops, including Cafe Brujula.
Sure, I know there is good coffee in the coffeelands. But mind-bending coffees are hard to come by. There are a few stars in the coffeelands firmament that I know of that burn brighter than most: Cafe Palo Alto in Cali and Ben’s Coffee in San Salvador.
I have been writing in recent weeks about the issue of hunger. You may be asking yourself what hunger has to do with coffee. Unfortunately, and notwithstanding the extraordinary advances made by the sustainable and certified coffee movements, hunger is still common in the coffeelands.
The “sustainable coffees” segment of the specialty market is more crowded than ever with certifications and concepts that advance different — sometimes competing — ideas about what constitutes sustainability when it comes to coffee. I believe that all these approaches generate benefits and move in the right direction. The question I struggle with is how much benefit they need to generate — and for whom — to be truly sustainable?
I must admit that I have had a hard time getting into barista competitions. Living and working in the coffeelands where so many smallholder farmers work so hard in total obscurity to grow the great coffee that fuels — quite literally — the hyper-caffeinated gatherings of the SCAA and the Barista Guild makes it hard for me to accept the swagger of baristas who produce beverages that seem only very remotely to qualify as “coffee.” So you can imagine my delight when Sustainable Harvest had the inspired idea to bring champion baristas to origin during the 2009 edition of Let’s Talk Coffee to live a few days in the life of a coffee farmer.
Welcome to the CRS Coffeelands Blog. Why do I think we need another blog on coffee? Because even now in our current state of hyerconnectivity and infomediation, there are still real possibilities for discovery and growth in terms of our understanding of the coffeelands.