Tuesday, July 14, 2009

OFF THE RECORD: Fair Trade = Peace

Today, I had the privilege of visiting Equal Exchange headquarters in West Bridgewater, MA for a facility tour and cupping.

(Above: Daniel & Mike explain the difference between the samples we tasted.)

First off, let me just say the coffee was incredible! Mike introduced us to three varieties; one from Bolivia, one from Peru, and one from Ethiopia. My favorite was the Peruvian, which had notes of caramel and maple syrup, and was incredibly smooth and light, even though the beans were a year old! (Harvest time is approaching in S. America, so EE will be getting new stock from their co-op partners in Peru soon!)

(Above: the Brew Crew form we filled out during our tasting)

More importantly, all the coffee we sampled, indeed all the coffee they sell, is certified organic and fair trade. In essence, Equal Exchange’s coffee (and their tea, cocoa, chocolates, and new line of snack foods) promote peace. How? By working only with farmer cooperatives that grow their product without chemicals that harm the earth, Equal Exchnage is encouraging farmers to work sustainably. By empowering farmers with knowledge that helps them improve their product and marketing efforts, and by offering the best prices possible to the farmers who supply their product, this company is keeping people out of poverty. As far as I can tell, poverty breeds desperation, which ultimately leads to fighting. Empowerment leads to peace.

Daniel, who arranged the tour and cupping, laid out the company mission for me thusly:
“We’re pretty much a social justice organization, using [coffee, cocoa and tea] as tools.”

If you’d like to participate in a tour and cupping at Equal Exchange, email Daniel (dsteinberg@equalexchange.coop)for more info. The next tour is scheduled for August 18th.

p.s. I’m also inspired by Equal Exchange’s efforts to keep their refuse out of landfills. You’ll be able to read more about that at Conscious Cow soon!

1 comment:

  1. Rebekah,
    We really enjoyed having you and the other tour participants come out to visit. For others' convenience I'm pasting here the sign up page for our public tours http://www.equalexchange.coop/tour/.

    Besides the August 18th tour I'll mention that the September tour will be on 9/15.

    Lastly, just so there's no misunderstanding, about 90% of our coffee is organic (not 100% as stated above). But of the remaining 10% it is mostly the equivalent of "low-spray" produce, meaning that very few chemical inputs are used - typically only some nitrogen fertilizer. And some of it is organic, but not certified (such as the Tanzanian).
    The confusion may have come from how 100% of our tea, cocoa, and sugar is organic, + how 100% of the coffee roasted here in our Bridgewater location is organic.

    Until next time, Rodney