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Thursday, 15 January 2009

Wake up to a new taste

Wake up to a new taste

Who am I? A Homo coffea universalis, one of those new species that are emerging in this world that perceives coffee through a holistic view, trying to comprehend the underlying structures of the coffee crisis by joining the dots in the coffee “community”, and exploring new avenues for positive change. I have a passion for coffee, and a passion for people. Not just coffee or people but coffee grown, processed, retailed, brewed and finally drunk by people with a vision for future generations and respect for nature and planet Earth.

The idea behind this article came during my visit to the Tea & Coffee World cup held in Hyderabad, India. While reading the program and particularly the coffee symposiums , somehow I expected from the speakers and their presentations a message of hope and inspiration about the global coffee and its economic and ecological implications. Understanding coffee from a more integral approach, where consumers and producers lifestyles are more in balance with the natural resources on which they depend, to result in achieving a perfect joe.

So, I asked myself, instead of complaining let's do something!. While walking into the Tea & Coffee Magazine booth to subscribe for one more year, I meet the man that could help me. Mr Heneage Mitchell, the managing editor of Tea & Coffee Asia Magazine. At the first glance I knew that he was also a Homo coffea. After a friendly gastronomic conversation about English cuisine and listening to Heneages' plans to become a coffee farmer, I asked him the possibility of writing an article to share my thoughts about how I see the future of coffee. My intuition was right and he encourage me to do, so here am I.

Since the discovery of coffee as a beverage up to nowadays, the human factor has played a decisive role. First coffee was safeguarded and monopolized by the Yemenis at the Harbor of Mocha, then slowly spread over Europe and the rest of the world. It was banned by Kings, Sultans or even Popes claiming that it had devilish properties which in reality were freedom of thought practiced at the cafes or mystic ceremonies celebrated in secrecy by Sufis.

But somehow, coffee's journeys could not be stopped by any means and spread all over the world. But, wait a minute. What is the coffee mission on Earth? What do cafes have to offer to humanity?

As the French Revolution started at cafe Procope, today we are witnessing a global Revolution, since the world is interdependent and the entanglement between all living creatures more obvious than ever. Our planet resources are being depleted, our population is increasing and the gap between super rich and super poor is widening.

Nevertheless, that sector of society that continues to insulate themselves from these issues, reacts in two ways: either by ignore them or playing the passive role by saying “ I can not do anything about it, it's too complex and I'm too busy”.

For Homo coffeea universalis, coffee is much more that an amazing aromatic complex drink, it is a phenomena that is uniting the world. How? even if you are not a coffee drinker, I'm sure that you love to meet your friends at a cafe.

Local cafes run by local entrepreneurs are social platforms where people exchange ideas, share experiences and concerns in a respectful mode with each other beyond their religion or social status. In another way, when we are at a cafe we have a sense of belonging to a community.

The main stream coffee businesses are mainly focusing on growth and cloning cafes all over. But growth at which cost?

This question came while sipping a cup of Ethiopia Yergacheffe at a well know global branded cafe. The barista was explaining to me the complexity of its taste and amazing aroma of such coffee and he was feeling very self-satisfied to have pulled up a shot of that creamy Joe. The coffee experience was up to that moment memorable, the coffee was great, the customers having a great time sharing ideas, lounge music in the background, baristas doing their job... a truly cafe experience.

But something happen when I asked the barista for the bill, he said with a big smile .- 3 Euros.
While getting the cash form my wallet, I asked him some questions.
- How much does the man that produced this coffee get out of this 3 euros?
- Is he having the same sense of wellness and community life than us?
- Is that coffee grown organically?

His face turned pale and he did not have a clue what to answer. After a while he said, The management did not inform me about such details. I told him that if a barista is meant to pass over the great work of the coffee farmers to the consumers by pulling out a perfect shot, it would be interesting for him to know the other side of the story. I recommend him to go to the internet and do some research on Yergacheffe coffee and on organic farming as well. He politely agreed to do so. The tragedy is that most of the time, for every 3 euros that we pay for our coffee only 3 cents goes to the producer. Did you know that if you drink 2 cups of coffee a day you will need 18 coffee trees? I walked out of the cafe with a Moca taste of this unique coffee but with a bitter aftertaste in my consciousness. I realize that the solution is not only with the cafe management but also with the consumers, if we would be a bit more conscious about the other side of the coffee cup story, brands will make a change in their purchasing policies, so eventually they will offer “ethical and organic coffee”.

So, let's wake up to a new taste, become a homo coffee universalis and drink the beverage that unites people, saves the world from ecological destruction and helps to abolish social inequity. If you want to be part of the solution and not the problem, you need to just ask your barista or retailer for shade grown organic and ethical coffee. Or even better open your own cafe or rotisserie like I decided to do in south India and spread the word.