Searching for thin places, Coffee

June 29, 2012


If you know me at all you are aware of my great appreciation of coffee. Coffee needs to be fresh and well made. It can be hot or cold, but finely roasted and brewed to perfection. Bad coffee is just bad. Instant coffee maybe worse. One of my sheer delights in Cambodia was their delight in preparing coffee. One of my major disappointments in Israel was the lack of appreciation for fine coffee. So you may think it odd in a country largely devoted to tea, that my coffee horizon has been expanded yet again. On Friday evenings we have staff session. The guests are gone and we enjoy some time together in a learning situation. This past week a young male volunteer shared with us his experiences from having lived on a coffee plantation in Peru for a semester. While explaining to us the intricacies and the politics of coffee, of the poor regions that produce it and of the wealthy regions that consume it, he actually roasted coffee. In a pan on the stove top. Before our eyes it went from green beans to a dark rich oily ready for brewing brown, which we then ground and brewed. There is apparently a small movement of people who are “home roasters” of their coffee. (Probably a slightly more excitable group than those that do home beer brewing.) He also explained the differences between sustainable coffee, organic coffee and fair trade coffee farming. Each has its own distracters and merits with organic being the most expensive to produce and purchase with little gain for the farmer. Sustainable is the most ecological means of growth and fair trade being the most profitable in the long run. For example, when we by a three dollar coffee at St. Arbucks, about 3 -5 cents makes its way back to the grower. In fair trade, the return to the coffee farmer may be as much as 20 cents (depending on the number of people between the farmer and the consumer). If you purchase coffee from a cooperative, such as Equal exchange, the farmer gets the most return for their efforts. So in our struggles to personally determine those things we can do to actually make an impact to help our neighbour, here is a rather simple one; purchase fair trade coffee. At a minimum. This creates a thin place.