A Dead Man In Guatemala
The Sweet Marias twitter account posted not too long ago the following:
It's a very distinct revelation about the countries that grow our coffee, that persistent issues of violence, poverty, militarism, and other life-limiting factors are far more common than you may think. Especially while rubbing the sleep from your eyes as you sip that first cup in the morning. In reality, this sort of ignorance is not uncommon, especially if you consider the producers of precious metals and gems, whose turmoil is often more well-known. Those who profit from suffering are keen to cover it up, and consumers don't often ask too many questions about what they're buying. In coffee, though, especially at the specialty level, most of us know that a coffee is not a "Guatemala", it's the produce from a specific farm or coop, grown not by a faceless but happy individual, but quite possibly by a man and his family struggling to scrape by, hoping their shipments won't be stolen on the road to port. The truth of coffee production is unfortunate, and many are taking steps to counteract years of profiteering on the backs of hard-working farmers. Still, many coffee-producing countries still experience hardships, and those lucky enough to get noticed by volume buyers for good quality produce may still just be diamonds in the rough.
I took the opportunity today to bring this issue up with some folks at Coffee Common. The NYC event they're hosting right now also features Google+ hangouts, with folks like 2008 United States Barista Champion Kyle Glanville, or Counter Culture Coffee's Peter Giuliano. Peter, along with a few other coffee professionals, took part in a hangout today to discuss coffee sourcing, which turned out to be a fantastic conversation. The video below is just over an hour long, so if you're interested in the topic of addressing conflict at origin, jump to about an hour in, where Peter brings up the point of "background" in coffe, and I respond with the Sweet Marias example, and my questions. The entire discussion is full of great info though, so it's worth a watch/listen.
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