Producer Profile: Ethiopia, Sumatra, Nicaragua

Written by Cafe Campesino on Apr 1, 2002 in NEWSLETTER, Producer Profile |

In honor of Earth Day (Earth Week?), we look at how the sustainable environmental practices of several of our producing partners continue to result in the fine Café Campesino coffee you know and love!

— In the fall of 2001, we introduced Ethiopia Limu and it quickly became one of our best selling coffees. Ethiopia is the homeland of all coffee and is still found growing in a wild state under the shade of the rainforest of the southwestern Ethiopian highlands. Several years ago we met representatives of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, or OCFCU, as they visited the United States looking for direct markets. Several members of our importing organization, Cooperative Coffees, recently visited these farmers and reported that they have never witnessed a better example of fair trade at work, nor have they ever seen as much need for this form of trade partnership that allows the farmer to earn a just wage for their harvest.

Most coffee grown in Ethiopia is naturally organic because fertilizers and pesticides have not infiltrated the local economy. Organic certification, however, is rare due to the technical reporting and fees required by certification agencies. The strength and commitment of the Oromia Union is demonstrated by their recent certification as one of the first organic-certified cooperatives in Africa. In achieving this certification, the farmers earn considerable price premiums for growing coffee the way they always have – in the shade with natural fertilizers.

Sumatra — Our full-bodied Sumatra Gayo derives it’s interesting name from the producer group Gayo Mountain Organic Farmers Association. Based in northwestern province of Aceh, this association of farmers continues to offer one of the best examples of the classic Sumatran coffee often sold under the trade name “Sumatra Mandheling.” Deliveries of the 2002 crop were severely hampered this year by the intimidating presence of the Indonesian army and difficult road conditions. In the midst of local conditions described as chaotic by recent visitors, the 450 Gayo Association farmers tend their shade-covered plots of coffee and deliver their exceptional harvest. This year Café Campesino has switched from purchasing a blend of the Association’s various production methods to a more classic green coffee comprised of 100% parchment collections. The technical explanation of this change is rather complex and we will provide this in later newsletters. For now, here’s what you’ll notice in the cup. The coffee will have more body, or “mouth-feel”, a characteristic that we love! And you’ll notice a more complex taste indicative of the subtle differences in the parchment coffee collected from hundreds of small producer that comprise this proud group of organic farmers.

Nicaragua — This excellent Latin American coffee is grown and exported by the small farmers cooperative CECOCAFEN, or Central de Coopertivas Cafetaleras del Norte. This group of 12 village cooperatives boasts a total membership of over 1,900 producers as is quickly becoming recognized within specialty coffee circles for growing some of the best Nicaraguan coffee available today. Café Campesino purchased our first lot of green coffee from CECOCAFEN in late 2001 and just received the 2002 crop in early April. Once harvested, this coffee is sun dried and processed using the traditional Latin American wet mill processing method. The coffee is certified organic by OCIA and, like all of our other coffees, grown under a natural shade canopy.

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