On November 18, Hazel, Kent and Finley zipped over to Portland and back for an evening “Meet the Producers” event, hosted by Stumptown. The guest of honor, Aida Batlle, is a rarity in the coffee producing industry — a woman(!) managing not one, but three, of her family’s coffee farms. We tasted her award winning coffees and a traditional tea made from dried coffee cherries. Sweet, earthy and potent with caffeine!
Aida is known for her meticulous farming and harvesting practices, as well as the generous wages she pays her workers. In her presentation, Aida described the farming methods she uses including skilled tree pruning and transitioning her farms to certified organic practices. She also described how she is experimenting with fertilizing the soil by digging compost holes amongst the coffee trees.
In a conversation with Stumptown owner, Duane Sorenson, Hazel asked how he found Aida and other coffee producers with whom he establishes Direct Trade relationships. He shared that it’s through word of mouth, asking lots of people throughout a given country, “Who has the best coffee?”. Duane explained that it takes anywhere from 16 months to 3 years to transition to a Direct Trade relationship between Stumptown and a given coffee producer. Time is needed to build relationships, and insure transparency — making sure that money paid to a farmer or co-op makes it to the worker; that standards in coffee quality, farming and harvesting are consistently high; and that workers and the land are well cared for.
Duane lamented that only about 1% of the producers he or Aleco Chigounis approach are able to sell them coffee. Many farmers are already under 10 – 20 year contracts – being paid minimum prices for outstanding coffees. Some of the farmers have to break these contracts to grow more profitable crops, such as bananas. When reflecting on this, it saddens us to think what happens to the coffee trees that had been so carefully maintained for possibly generations, as the land and resources are now needed for a different crop like bananas.
For the coffee producers who are able to earn generous prices for their coffees by working with roasters like Stumptown, we are honored to do our part by serving their coffees, such as Finca Kilimanjaro and Finca el Injerto, at thump. Each sip is the result of great effort put forth by every hand that touched the bean: Duane and Aleco who established the relationship, the coffee producer who is the steward of the land and the local community, the farm worker who laboriously and skillfully tends the land, harvests and processes the coffees, the roaster who artfully roasts the bean, and the barista who carefully prepares your drink! Drink up in honor of them all!