I recently got back from Colombia where I joined Fair Trade USA to meet with ExpoCafe, coops, and coffee farmers. The trip included a lot of travel in 6-7 days and we went from Medellin to Bogota to Popayan to Cali. In Medellin we travelled about 2 hours outside of the city to farms in Antioquia. In Antioquia there are several thousand coffee farmers and mostly all are small multi-agricultural farms due to the mountainous regions of the country. These small family run farms are self- sustainable and the farmers grow potatoes, carrots, beans, and fruits all in addition to coffee. The farmers also keep livestock such as chickens and pigs. Almost everything is composted and reused as fertilizer, which makes for very vibrant and healthy soil. This is something we saw a lot of on the trip and uncommon compared to estate coffee or coffee plantations.
The trip was headed up by Fair Trade USA and we heard from Melissa of Fair Trade USA on the benefits of certification for coffee. Fair Trade coffees fetch a premium price and ensure a portion of this premium is returned to the farmers and farm workers to be used for various value adding programs such as what is defined as “productivity” or equipment purchases and technical support, social services and education. Of course, the consideration of “Is there a real impact from fair trade was brought up”, and I’ll get personal here: My view is that no matter how much a farmer or roaster might be wary about how definitive the impacts are, if Fair Trade USA didn’t exist, we would wish it did. Fair Trade offers transparency, accountability and technical support for farmers. Obviously good business and Fair Trade are not mutually exclusive, but Fair Trade works hard to improve the lives of everyone at origin – something that is very difficult for a small roaster to do, so relying on them is helpful in this regard. For GreenStreet Coffee, we proudly maintain our Fair Trade Certification due to the excellent job that Fair Trade does at being a resource for coffee at origin – and hell, I don’t speak Spanish! Someone’s gotta help me try to buy coffee from guys who like me, work hard and want a fair price. Seriously, working with Fair Trade is an honor and while GreenStreet stays its course as ethically sourcing some of the best tasting coffee in the world; I hope to see Fair Trade USA more and more. The trip went fast and after visiting farms and doing a cupping at a cooperative in Antioquia we flew to Bogota to the HQ of ExpoCafe a Colombian export company. ExpoCafe exports a lot of Fair Trade and Organic coffee and in total exports about 15% of all Colombian coffee. The next Cooperative we visited was outside of Popayan and called CoSurCa, which just installed a brand new mill to process parchment and a place I expect to buy coffee from. Coffees that have come through this mill placed in this year’s Cup of Excellence competition and it was here we spent about 2 days cupping and meeting one on one with farmers and producers. I’m to help bring great coffee to the market place look forward to samples from producers at CoSurCa. It’s incredible how different the coffees of Colombia actually are; widely known as mild and mellow. Some of the ones we cupped showed signs of high acidity, fruity notes, with big bodies rather than being conventional Colombian coffees. One department in Colombia we didn’t have a chance to visit was Huila – known for some of the best specialty coffee in the country. I purchased a bag of this coffee this week through Cafe Imports, based on their recommendation and from the tasting notes am very much looking forward to offering this coffee as a single origin. While there are many sources of Colombian coffees out there, we continue to seek out the best, fairest coffee we can find and please expect nothing less than that from the gang at GreenStreet Coffee. The pictures on the trip were taken by my brother Joe Molieri.