We’ve been talking a lot recently about the sustainable and environmentally-minded coffee cultivation in different parts of the world and here’s another dimension to add to that discussion: The Peruvian co-op CECOVASA recently received a national award for the positive impact their work has had on preserving and promoting biodiversity in the region.
CECOVASA is probably like many coffee co-ops around the world: A collection of small farmers who have banded together in order to take advantage of the economic opportunities of Fair Trade. But like so many labels, the real faces and people behind them can get lost in the shuffle, and we found this great article on a visit to the remote Andean farms that comprise CECOVASA incredibly informative.
This is another example of how choices we make in our daily lives — for example, purchasing coffee imported by Equal Exchange — can have a positive impact on both the ability of small indigenous farmers to put food on their table and to keep the ecological balance intact around them. These are market factors that can help define what kind of world we live in — not just in 50 years, but in even 2 years from now.
Maybe your days of rocking knatty dreads are over, but you can give a little shout-out to your quasi-Rastafari roots by imbibing in Rohan Marley’s new papa-inspired coffee beans.
According to this interview in the Jamaica Observer, “My father came from farmland of Nine Miles,” Rohan recalls, “There, he learned a deep respect for nature and humanity – respect that helped guide his life and ours. He said he would return to the farm one day. That was his dream.”
Incorporating the Rastafari ideal of ITAL (pure, vital foods), Rohan and his business partner Shane Whittle work to partner with farms around the globe that are engaging in ecologically and socially sustainable cultivation practices — organic, shade-grown, ethically-treated workers and environmental balance are some of the attributes they look for when sourcing their beans. Their own beans, cultivated in the world-renowned coffee growing region of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, are similarly produced and they firmly believe that coffee grown in this manner just plain tastes better. From Rohan’s own experience, he draws on early memories of his grandmother hand-hulling and roasting wild coffee cherries for her daily cup of coffee and he seeks to embody this rich, handcrafted and smooth flavor in all of his coffees.
Marley Coffee has five different blends on offer, each name inspired by one of Bob Marley’s songs:
- Simmer Down – Swiss water decaf
- Lively Up! – 5 bean espresso blend
- One Love – Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
- Mystic Morning – Wake up coffee
- Jammin Java – Bold full city roast
As the second highest traded commodity on the planet, coffee forms a complex and interconnected web that envelopes the globe. Whether we’re connoisseurs, roasters, casual sippers, baristas, equipment designers or growers, we’re all part of a wonderfully intricate chain that allows us to impact each other and the world around us. It’s one of the things we love most about coffee, actually — we dig being a tiny part of an enormous and diverse portrait.
While coffee cultivation in India has been around for a few hundred years, the infamous coffee rust blight that hit the region in the mid 1800’s definitely took a toll on the cultivation of coffee plants — the British colonialists eventually switched to cultivating tea instead, making that drink nearly synonymous with the UK. But coffee cultivation in specific regions of India has made a comeback, and this fabulous article talks about its history in the region and the present day practices of highly-integrated, forested coffee plantations that accentuate coffee’s relationship to the natural world.
From serving as the protected home to hundreds of different species of wildlife — birds, cats, lizards, monkeys — to growing coffee next to fragrant crops such as pepper or cardamom, these plantations take their committment to preserving the ecosystem that supports the production of specialty-grade coffee very seriously and it’s is more than just laudable, it’s worthy of your support. After all, the cause of the aforementioned coffee rust fungus was eventually sourced to the imbalance caused by excessive razing of the land in order to support more coffee tree planting. So why not take the time to explore specialty coffee from India? Sipping your delicious cup just may be contributing to the future sustainability of balanced agriculture.
In this episode of coffee blog love, we’d like to introduce you to Coffee & Conservation: Are Your Beans For The Birds?
This excellent coffee and ecological blog discusses a variety of topics that pertain to how coffee agriculture affects the environment. Assessing plantation growing practices and how they affect birds, reviewing different types of coffee (including the highly sought after civet-processed coffee) and information on how drinking different brands impacts our little winged friends are just a few of the subjects addressed in this blog.
If you’re interested in keeping track of the ever evolving relationship between coffee and the environment, this blog is an awesome place to start.
We are thrilled that today kicks off our series of five auctions of Giro D’Italia Giottos to benefit the non-profit organization Coffee Kids! This is such an awesome machine — we’re still waiting for them to arrive (they needed to engrave the name of 2009 winner Denis Menchov) and we can’t wait to get our grubby little paws on them.
These machines take all of the excellent performance and functionality of the Giotto Premium Plus and accent it with several specialized touches that make this limited edition stand apart — and since we’re the only US importer bringing these machines in stateside, these unique collector’s items are incredibly rare as well. But while your friends will be coveting the gorgeous stainless steel design or perhaps the Maglia Rosa-inspired pink manometer, the bragging rights will really be about all the money you donated to Coffee Kids, giving you a direct hand in helping to support tons of community projects for coffee growing families throughout Central America.
Arizona State Univeristy’s International Institute for Species Exploration released their 2009 top 10 new species, including a new strain of the coffee plant that is naturally caffeine-free.
Dubbed Coffea charrieriana, this wild species was found in the diverse growing region of Cameroon and will likely be experimented with to determine if a palatable, naturally-caffeine free brew can be made from its cherries.
Given that caffeine is considered to be the primary pest-repellent in coffee plants the world over, it’s quite impressive that this little guy has developed in the wild. Caffeine is also responsible for much of the bitter flavor in coffee, and species such as Robusta, which have significantly higher caffeine quantities than Arabica species, are known to be less palatable and more harsh to the taste. Perhaps this new species will produce a coffee that is smoother and better suited to tasting the full spectrum of flavor inherent to this little bean.
As the national obsession with greening our lives grows, examining how the things we love impact the environment has become a common topic of discussion. Up now: How green are different coffee beans?
The folks over at Greenopia devised a Leaf Awards rating system that is used to evaluate a coffee company’s overall greenness by gauging its percentage of organic, ethically sourced, naturally decaffeinated, eco-friendly packaged and efficiently produced and transported beans. They also looked for sustainability and environmental impact reporting. They then assessed 25 different brands from all over the US to determine how they measure up.
We can’t help but feel the findings a bit disheartening: Of the brands they evaluated, nearly half of them didn’t rank at all! Coffee that we love by the likes of Illy or Lavazza didn’t get a single leaf, while large American brands like Starbucks or Stumptown got just a couple of leaves.
One ranking that shined was Bellevue-based Kalani Organica, coming in at 3 leaves! We have a personal connection to this truly lovely coffee: In the mid-to-late ’90’s, we cut our barista teeth slinging java at the Speakeasy Cafe in Seattle’s Belltown district. The cafe was a devout supporter and server of Kalani Organica until the cafe was closed by a fire in 2002 — despite the fact that we regularly had small competitive roasters try to convince us to switch. We stuck with Kalani because of the founder Karen’s commitment to organic, ethically-sourced coffee — something that is talked about a lot these days but wasn’t seen as particularly important 15 years ago. We’re thrilled that her work is getting recognized and hope that a rating like this will help expand Kalani’s availability around the country.
One of the aspects of coffee that we dig the most is the interconnectedness across cultures and nations. As the second highest traded commodity, the buying and selling of this little bean is serious business for both farmers and connoisseurs — and being on the consuming end of the spectrum, learning about the life and experiences of the folks who grow coffee has definitely deepened our appreciation for the brew.
To that end, we found Zach Dyer’s Java Enabled: Portrait of a Coffee Farmer very illuminating. Zach spent time working on a Mexican coffee farm and randomly found beans from that specific field in a DC coffee shop about a year later. The discovery inspired rumination on his experiences working with Braulia Lopez, a coffee farmer who supplements her income by driving a taxi in town. It’s a wonderful snapshot of the life of a coffee farmer and a great read for java lovers everywhere.
A couple of weeks ago, we posted the first part of a series on Kona coffee farmers Jim & Sharon Skibby — writer Chris Smith has spent time learning about this small coffee plantation and offers up his experiences in learning how they care for and harvest their coffee trees.
Chris’ second installment was published last week, and it goes into more detail around the nurturing and harvesting practices that Jim & Sharon employ — as well as Jim’s tips on coffee flavors. It’s a very interesting read for those looking to learn more about small scale coffee agriculture.
A thousand feet up in the hills behind Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jim and Sharon Skibby grow top-notch coffee. Theirs is a small-scale operation, a labor of love. From 75 trees they harvest about 700 pounds of cherries (coffee fruits) — enough to make 100 pounds of finished coffee.
Read all about how this pair of boutique coffee farmers harvest and process their beans each year — quite interesting!