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Organic? Fair Trade? I just want a cup of coffee!

We have officially made our first “switch” in products. We ran out of coffee and I thought it was the PERFECT opportunity to try and make an informed buying decision.

So, I started to do some research. WOW. There is a lot to consider when you are looking for that “smart” choice in coffee.

First off, I knew the coffee beans themselves wouldn’t be local. I live in Wisconsin…..enough said. So, to bring in the local aspect of my purchase, I knew I wanted to find a local coffee roaster. After performing a simple Google search, I found the perfect spot!

Black Waters Coffee is located right in my area. They roast the beans themselves (in their warehouse just down the street from where I live) and have a cute little coffee shop selling their roasts and fresh, hot cups of java! They even have a bit of deli food if you are also hungry.

I love the cozy feeling of the place. It is more than just a mom and pop store, but it was built around that same type of business.  It is 100% locally owned and operated. Come to find out, they supply the coffee for the break room at my husband’s office in town!

So I found the perfect supplier, but what kind of coffee should I buy from them? I knew I wanted organic (because of the agricultural benefits to the land), but then also discovered the world of Fair Trade Certified (FTC) coffee as well. Luckily, Black Waters has multiple varieties that fall into both categories.

I decided to go with the Las Capucas Honduras Roast and the Sumatra Permata Gayo roast.  Both are organic and both are Fair Trade Certified.  My husband and I normally like dark roasts best, so I knew we would like the Sumatra.  However, we have already tried the lighter, medium roast and it was delicious!

Now, I didn’t want to just settle knowing I had purchased organic, FTC coffee.  I wanted to know more about where it came from!  So after I got home, I did a little googling (to learn more than the brief description on the bag and handouts that were at the coffee shop).

The first one I did a search on was the Las Capucas roast.  I learned that Las Capucas (in Honduras) is home to one of the most progressive coffee cooperatives in its country — the Cooperativa Cafetalera Capucas Limitada (COCAFCAL). 

COCAFCAL has obtained Fair Trade, Organic, and Rainforest Alliance (guaranteeing they use strict guidelines to improve and protect the environment, wildlife, and workers in their local area) certification within the past few years.  For you geography buffs, Capucas is situated near the Mayan Ruins.

Each harvest season, the cooperative produces about 181 tons of coffee and is sold out several weeks after the harvest’s end (that means I need to buy as much of it as Black Water has roasted at a time!!).  The cooperative currently has about 100 members (producers).

On their website (CapucaCoffee), I learned that every year they have a specialty coffee competition where their members prepare samples for international tasters to become the “favored” producer of the cooperative.  This annual competition also aides and educates the producers in how to supply the highest quality coffee bean they possibly can.  They even have a beauty pageant crowning the “Queen of Coffee”!

The cooperative of COCAFCAL uses its earnings to better the lives of their producers and their community as well.  COCAFCAL offers funds to community programs such as a new soccer field for the children, a tree nursery which provides new coffee trees and hardwoods to the producers, and focuses on paying their producers the best possible price for their coffee (by getting Fair Trade certification, the producers are guaranteed a minimum buying price which is above standard average prices).

The other coffee I purchased, the Sumatra Permata Gayo comes from a wonderful cooperative as well!  The Gayo Organic Coffee Farmers Association (PPKGO) is an organic, fair trade cooperative consisting of small scale farms.  The cooperative is located in Sumatra, Indonesia near the Gunung Leuser National Park (in the Gayo Highlands of the Aceh province).  Interestingly enough, all of their coffee is grown in the shade!

The cooperative, even in a region that persistently experiences political conflict from an ongoing civil war, is an ethnically diverse group (and 20% of them are women).  The cooperative is made up of 1,600 growers from 32 different communities.  Of the growers, 5 different ethnicities are represented (Gayo, Javanese, Acehnese, Padang, and Batak).  Therefore, this cooperative stands as a model for unity between races within this area of Indonesia (keep in mind they are also still struggling from being torn apart by the recent tsunami).

The PPKGO also helps the local communities their producers live in.  They have built portable water systems, constructed new roads, refurbished mosques, and established a credit union.

On their website (Gayo Farmers Association), one producer is quoted as saying “Thanks to Fair Trade, one of my children is now in medical school and the other is in midwifery school.”

After looking at both of these organizations, and the fact the cooperatives’ coffee beans are then roasted locally before my purchase, I can feel good each and every morning as I sip the coffee that is helping so many people!


One Response

  1. mm.. i was googling about gayo coffee, and that picture led me here, and i was just about to say something about “ethnicity” thing.. but then i felt that’s not important, until i read the whole article and you did mention a little bit about that.. as an indonesian i find it a little confusing, they sell community/fair trade coffee from aceh but put non-aceh traditional house in the label. do they (the sellers) ever really come to aceh or just simply not even trying to use google image… well, perhaps it does not a big issue, and it is not to me, but here in indonesia, things like that is quite important for some people because it represents community/identity thing..well, i am just saying anyway 🙂

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