Category Archives: From the Road

Yopno Coffee Training

| October 17, 2014

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The YUS Conservation Area includes three distinct regions, named for the main rivers and languages spoken – Yopno, Uruwa, and Som.  It was four years ago that we began to work with the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) in developing a sustainable coffee program as part of their mission to improve the livelihoods of those who have pledged their land for conservation.  The pilot project began in Uruwa, which had the most coffee and also were furthest along in terms of management and processing know how.  Having just completed our fourth harvest with the farmers of Uruwa, we have turned our focus to Yopno.

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After a delayed flight and a considerable amount of waiting, I arrived at the Teptep airstrip with Benjamin, Daniel, and six coffee pulpers.  After a brief snack we hiked to the village of Nian, where the workshops were to take place. More than 70 farmers had gathered from the surrounding villages to take part in the training.  As livelihoods coordinator for TKCP, Benjamin has a wealth of knowledge and experience teaching about quality coffee production.  Joining him was Daniel of the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC), and Namu, a Yopno community leader, one of the first to pledge land for conservation.

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Over the course of four days we covered the topics of garden management, pruning, harvesting, cherry selection, pulping, washing, fermentation, and drying.  On the final day we tasted YUS coffee (from Uruwa) together and spoke with anticipation of the day that the quality of Yopno coffee would be included.  We are setting a goal for the harvest of 2015 for the first export from Yopno to Caffe Vita.  First, the farmers must finish pruning and cleaning their gardens, organize into groups to set up their pulpers and construct solar driers, and construct a storage warehouse near the airstrip.

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We spent the following few days visiting villages throughout the region, meeting with farmers and checking out their coffee gardens.  As Caffe Vita’s buyer I am filled with anticipation and excitement for the people of Yopno and their coffee.  Having witnessed the positive impact in the Uruwa region, we are looking forward to replicating the same success in Yopno.  Additionally, from a quality standpoint, the farmers of Yopno have the potential to produce some truly exquisite coffee that will be among the highest grown in the world.  Our GPS read out elevations of 2000-2400 meters above sea level at all of the farms we visited.  With massive swings in temperature between day and night, ridiculously fertile black soils, and old growth heirloom varieties of coffee, the sky is the limit.

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Coffee and Conservation

| September 26, 2014

Earlier this week I had the privilege of attending the United Nations Equator Prize Award Ceremony at Lincoln Center in New York City. Every two years, this prestigious award is given to projects that have successfully protected biodiversity while reducing poverty within indigenous communities and as Caffe Vita’s Green Coffee Buyer, I felt honored to be among groundbreaking conservationists from around the world.

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Of the 1,234 nominations this year, Caffe Vita’s friends and partners at the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) in Papua New Guinea were one of the few that received this prestigious award.  A key reason that they were chosen was due to Caffe Vita’s involvement with the coffee program over the past 4 years.  Revenues generated by our purchases have supported community health, education, and conservation projects for the people living in this region.

 

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The awards ceremony featured celebrity guests and conservation leadership from around the globe.  Al Gore gave a riveting speech on climate change and how grass roots projects such as TKCP are at the forefront of the war against climate change.  Jane Goodall also spoke, saying that ‘a healthy well managed forest can lead to economic improvement.’ The ceremony also featured musical performances from Jackson Browne, Bon Iver, and Feist.

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By working with indigenous communities in Papua New Guinea, TKCP has established a conservation area of more than 180,000 acres, including the pristine cloud forests that are home to the endangered tree kangaroo.  With deforestation being one of the leading causes of global warming, this project received special recognition for sustainable forest management.

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Coffee is unique in that it is a cash crop that can and should be cultivated under native shade trees in diverse, living ecosystems.  Part of our mission here at Caffe Vita is to have direct involvement with the farmers that grow our coffee.  Next week I will be returning to Papua New Guinea to help conduct training workshops near the Yopno River, a new area for the coffee project.  I look forward to working hand in hand with the indigenous people and local agronomists to teach proper pruning, garden management and processing techniques.

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We are honored to be involved in a project that has had a positive and measurable impact on the environment while also improving the livelihoods of the communities vital to maintaining the health of the planet.

 

 

Mexico, March 2014

| March 20, 2014
The view from Guadalupe Victoria, looking into Guatemala

The view from Guadalupe Victoria, looking into Guatemala

Greetings from Chiapas, our last stop on this harvest visit to Mexico’s coffee states.  Starting in Veracruz, we’ve woven our way south through Oaxaca and witnessed the tail end of what has been a trying harvest.  Estimates of production are at forty percent reduction due to poor weather and roya, the leaf destroying fungus I wrote about in our visit to Guatemala last year.  It’s been a whirlwind of a trip, with long days on windy mountain roads, numerous cupping sessions, and meetings with farmers. Here are some of the highlights:

Visiting Finca Fatima, near Xalapa

Visiting Finca Fatima, near Xalapa

Meeting Ranulfo Lara in Teoselo (he let us try his homemade orange liquor!)

Meeting Ranulfo Lara in Teoselo (he let us try his homemade orange liquor!)

Germinating Marsellesa, a rust resistant variety with good cup quality

Germinating Marsellesa, a rust resistant variety with good cup quality

Cupping at the Ixhuatlan wet mill

Cupping at the Ixhuatlan wet mill

Visiting La Lagunilla, an organic cooperative in Oaxaca

Visiting La Lagunilla, an organic cooperative in Oaxaca

In Oaxaca, Claudia preparing a delicious breakfast of chile de huevos, tlayudas, and café de olla

In Oaxaca, Claudia preparing a delicious breakfast of chile de huevos, tlayudas, and café de olla

The stunning mountains outside of Chico Musela, Chiapas

The stunning mountains outside of Chico Musela, Chiapas

Checking out Mario Lopez's farm near Pantelho, Chiapas

Checking out Mario Lopez’s farm near Pantelho, Chiapas

An amazing sculpture, in memory of the victims of the Acteal Massacre.

An amazing sculpture, in memory of the victims of the Acteal Massacre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Producer Spotlight : Kundi Gagi

| January 25, 2014

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The Kundi Gagi cooperative was formed in 1979 (1971 by the Ethiopian Calendar) near the towns of Metu and Gore in the far western province of Illubabor.  The name Kundi Gagi refers to the two villages of its members, Kundi in the mist and mountains, Gagi near the river. The area is spectacularly beautiful and lush with dense forests, the natural habitat of coffee Arabica.  For most of their history, Kundi Gagi has produced traditional, natural sun-dried coffee.  This method is relatively simple and requires fewer resources and labor than washed coffees.  Cherries are harvested and then sun-dried, on mats or the ground.  The dried cherry pods, called jenfel at this point, would then be sold to a merchant at low market prices, and lost in the blending and trade that followed.kundi harvest

Then about 4 years ago, the game changed.  TechnoServe, a Washington DC based NGO began a project in western Ethiopia with the goal of increasing the income of coffee farmers by providing technical and business assistance.  At the advice of TechnoServe, Kundi Gagi took out a loan to by a Penagos 1500 Pulper and began construction of a new wet-mill.  Now, equipped with the means necessary to pulp, wash, and sun-dry on raised beds, the flavor of their coffee was transformed.   Concurrently, marketing opportunities arose from this partnership with TechnoServe and a sample of Kundi Gagi’s coffee was placed in front of Caffe Vita, on a cupping table in Jimma.DSC02955

We were immediately charmed by the perfumed aroma and intricate sweetness.  Since then, we have become the primary buyer of their coffee and couldn’t be happier with the relationship.  As a result of the premium Caffe Vita has paid for their coffee, Kundi Gagi has paid off all loans and posted record profits for their members last year.  30% of this will be set aside for cooperative projects such as the construction of a health center, paving the road to the mill, and purchasing a vehicle, with the remaining 70% distributed among members based on their contribution. DSC02987

With our recent visit to the cooperative, we were able to confirm all of our criteria for Farm Direct designation.  Through meetings with cooperative leadership and members, we were able to verify traceability of payment and we witnessed a strong sense of economic and social responsibility.  Though not certified organic, it was observed and confirmed that all farming is completely organic.  In fact, much of the cooperative’s coffee is basically growing wild, in an ecologically stable and undeniably natural environment, with numerous species of birds, monkeys, and insects buzzing through the shade. DSC03329

Kundi Gagi is available now at all Caffe Vita locations and online.