For the last few years, some roasters have been actively establishing relationships with farmers. These direct trade relationships bypass many parties that typically exist between the farmer and roaster, thereby bringing the roaster closer to a coffee’s origin (think Slow Food). Ideally, the farmer gets more money for the coffee as well as active feedback on quality from the buyer. Coffee drinkers seem to be excited about this type of trading scheme and are supporting it with gusto. Unfortunately, most coffee drinkers don’t get to have the direct relationship to the farmer but must live vicariously through the roaster.
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In the last few weeks, fellow RoastE blogger biscotti has interviewed and blogged about two Hawai‘i coffee farms (Kona Earth and Rusty’s Hawaiian; nice work, biscotti!). While he has conducted some other interviews, none have been with farmers. Fortuitously, he has discovered an amazing reality about direct relationships with Hawai‘i farmers: they’re easy!
Most importantly, they’re easy for any person, roaster or not, to establish and maintain. I don’t know any farmer in Hawai‘i that doesn’t have a mailbox, telephone, and internet connection. Any consumer who is interested in having a direct relationship with a coffee farmer can do so from the comfort of their own home, no roaster needed!
Moreover, farmers want those relationships. They are proud of their work and their coffee and they love to talk about it. Trust me, they’ll be very excited to hear from you.
I encourage you to instigate a relationship with a Hawai‘i coffee farmer. Start by drinking their coffee. Then, contact them and share your opinion. While you’re at it, ask a few questions about their life or their farming. I promise, when you drink their coffee again, you’ll discover it to be a very different experience.
Most of us are disconnected from agriculture and food production. We have little idea about the effort and resources necessary to produce our food. Frighteningly, we have little sense of what it really costs to produce anything we put in our mouths (retail prices don’t always reflect actual costs, unfortunately). It isn’t until you begin talking with a food producer that all of this information coalesces into anything meaningful.
By getting in touch with a Hawai‘i coffee farm, you’ll make coffee personal. You’ll understand the journey coffee takes from its origin to your cup. You’ll learn things about varieties, processing, and roasting- but you can get all that from reading books. The value of having a relationship with the farmer is that you’ll learn about the humanity embedded in each cup you drink.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it?