An Origin Experience

I was fortunate enough to travel recently to Nicaragua and Costa Rica with a wonderful group of women in the coffee industry. They ranged from women owned micro-roasters, green coffee buyers from large corporations, importers, quality control-barista trainers, and government aid workers. A major focus for the group was on organic and fair trade issues in small cooperatives with a majority of female membership. It was an eye opening experience for all of us. Whether it was our first or tenth trip to origin, each and every one of us learned something new and was touched by the pride and generosity of the poverty stricken country of Nicaragua that provides us with such wonderful coffee at all levels (conventional, organic and fair trade). I was fortunate enough to travel with one of the premier persons in coffee, Erna Knutsen. With all her experience and travels in the coffee business even she found that these women could still teach us new things about quality, coffee, and more importantly, what fair trade coffee can do for the farmers. Not only in a time of crisis such as we're in but a lifetime for the coffee farmer. They live in an unstable third world country where the infrastructure is so poor it takes two hours to drive less than twenty miles. Imagine the difficulty in moving the coffee from the farms, to the mills; to the ports...Small family owned plots depulping their coffee on hand turned grinders. It's amazing, the energy that goes into creating just one bag of coffee on some of these small farms. This effort and energy combines to create a high quality coffee, which in turn is worthy of a fair price. We saw first hand what this extra money can do for these hardworking people. It helps contribute to the improvement of their land, homes, and the education of their children. This money contributes to the ability to improve the level of processing and quality control where it needs to start, at the source.

This isn't a lecture or sermon on fair trade, but food for thought. Every time we buy or roast a bean, drink a cup of coffee, we need to remember, how fortunate we really are. These women invited us into their homes, onto their land and shared their love of coffee with us. We are all lucky to be making money doing something we love that starts with the hard work of others who truly love what they do. Only they do not seem to prosper in the same fashion as we do, nor do they seem unhappy about that. They are happy, proud people who grow wonderful coffee and love knowing that coffee is enjoyed. These are the women of Nicaragua, and all the other coffee growing countries in the world, and I am very happy to be able to share my experience with all of you.

Karen Gordon
Director of Specialty Green Coffee