How to Brew a Better System for Coffee Trade
Cafe Campesino, Georgia's first and only 100% Fair Trade, organic coffee company, seeks to raise the bar when it comes to the supplier chain.
A lot of work goes into a cup of coffee. Farmers plant, grow and harvest the beans. Roasters carefully select and roast them to perfection. It's not until then that the beans make their journey to a coffeehouse, or restaurant, or any other environment that calls for a morning brew. Cafe Campesino's vision is to raise the bar when it comes to the supply chain. "So often the farmer is forgotten," says Nema Etheridge, Marketing Director, "We want to make sure that everyone is remembered." True to their values, Cafe Campesino helped to found Coop Coffees, a cooperative committed to supporting and partnering with small-scale coffee farmers and their exporting cooperatives by importing green coffee beans directly; doing so creates a fairer, more transparent and sustainable system of coffee trade that directly benefits farmers, and their families and communities. The beans are delivered to a network of over twenty community-based roasters spanning the US and Canada before being packaged and distributed to coffee and community lovers all over. Can coffee save the world? "It engages people in various ways... whether it be geopolitical, culinary or business" says Nema, "Coffee is seductive that way."
Our interview with Nema is below:
How did Cafe Campesino begin? What passion continues to drive it forward?
Cafe Campesino started after Bill Harris met a coffee farmer in Guatemala while volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in 1997. He wanted to create a more direct connection with small-scale coffee farmers than what the market supported at the time.
What passion continues to drive it forward?
The knowledge that small-scale farmers continue to need trustworthy buyers on the demand side. And, that there's so much potential for consumers to positively impact the lives of coffee farmers- either with a visit, a purchase or a direct donation to a cooperative.
Cafe Campesino is a founding member of Cooperative Coffees. How does that tie into your business and the quality of your coffee?
The cooperative purchasing model is our business. It inspires us- knowing that there are a number of like-minded roasters in our world who are working alongside us to achieve a greater good. Practically speaking, it allows us to purchase fair trade, organic certified coffee directly from small-scale farmer cooperatives in a number of countries. And, it gives us a trusted network of friendly competitors with whom we can bounce ideas off of, ask for advice, measure our own roasted coffees against, etc.
Why is being Fair Trade so important?
For us, Fair Trade is a way of doing business- a principled approach to buying and selling- in addition to a minimum purchasing price for a pound of coffee. It says we are committed to purchasing from producers for the long-haul, we believe small-scale farmers need pre-financing and we have mechanisms in place to ensure they get it, and that that organic production, and sustainable farming practices go hand-in-hand with this.
You offer several unique coffee blends. Do you have a favorite? What's your favorite way to enjoy it?
I drink coffee like I drink wines. Depending on the weather and my mood my cravings change. In the winter, I love a something with a bit more body that keeps its complexity, so a Full City or Viennese roast blend like Mad Poet or Mocha Java. In the summer, I like lighter roast coffees with great acidities. Ethiopia Sidama light, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe and Colombia Medium are some of my favorites. Also Guatemalan & Mexican coffees in the spring are always delicious, because that is when they are most fresh- and that always makes coffee better when it's freshly harvested, roasted, ground and brewed, it is delicious.