Coffee Tasting with Helene
Quadra Island does not only offer beautiful scenery but also a very inspiring and welcoming community. Helene, a beautiful French-Canadian woman, is part of it. She’s also the owner of the Aroma Roastery. Helene has invited us to a couple of super interesting (and delicious) coffee tastings by now where she taught us so much more than the difference between ‘fragrance’ and ‘aroma’ (fragrance is the smell of the freshly ground beans and the aroma is what you sniff when you hold your nose over a mug of ready-to-drink coffee). My brother, the modest Pro-Barista, was honestly jealous when we sent him pictures of the elaborate event and we can’t wait for the next one!
In Helene’s roastery, she processes organic, Fairtrade beans from a cooperation that supports only female growers. And it was her who inspired us to write this post and made us more conscious about our choice of beans.
Why exactly? Let’s see…
The strictly non-profit NGO was founded in 2004 by more than four hundred Peruvian women. They now support female growers in Peru, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Sumatra. Gender inequality, abuse and poverty are still major problems in many coffee-producing communities and women (and their children) are often affected the most. Café Femenino provides cultivation trainings as well as financial grants, allowing them to start their own business. They thereby help to improve the life quality of many families. We also really liked that all the Café Femenino farmers grow their beans traditionally (under a rich, natural rainforest canopy) and not in monoculture. In 2016 alone, the foundation and its donors supported 35 different community projects and we assume that they have expanded even further by now.
And by all means, their coffees taste spectacular!
How fair is the coffee industry in general?
Coffee is the world’s second most tradable commodity after oil.
This sentence should immediately make you aware that it’s BIG money. And with big money usually comes injustice. You probably won’t even be surprised to hear that the actual growers and farmers are NOT getting their fair share… Far from it. The coffee market is dominated by a handful of large companies who are interested in producing lots and lots of cheap coffee. And why wouldn’t they – the demand in Europe and Overseas is high and rising! So, while rich brokers sip cocktails at a pool, many of the coffee farmers live in poverty. In fact, it’s quite common that they only receive 5-10% of the final retail price!
And there’s more: Environmental Issues
A very informative blog post on consumewithcare.org stated that “coffee beans were [traditionally] grown under a shaded canopy of trees, which provided a habitat for various species of animals, insects and plant life. Modern farming practices, where the forest canopy is removed (…) are undermining the sustainability of traditional growing methods and threaten biodiversity. (…) The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reports that 2.5 million acres of forest in Central America have been cleared to make way for coffee farming, and this deforestation is continuing at an alarming rate. Incidentally (but probably not coincidentally), 37 of the 50 countries in the world with the highest deforestation rates are also major coffee producers.” Dang! That’s a pretty clear link between deforestation and coffee growing. The traditional and natural way of cultivation is outdated: More than ¾ of all coffee plantations in Brazil and Vietnam (the two biggest coffee exporters) contain NO tree cover at all. The plants here grow in mere monoculture, just like many other crops.
So, drinking coffee seems unethical. And now what?
Frankly, we can’t see ourselves stop drinking the black goodness. Just like we choose not to be Vegan. Yes, we confess to be not perfectly in line with all ethical and environmental issues. BUT we do make sure to pay those few extra bucks to get certified coffee (such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, USDA, …). If you find these labels a little confusing, here’s a great and concise article about them. Also, we try to stay well clear of big companies such as Starbucks or Costa. They might polish their public image until it glows and sparkles like a Disney fairy-tale but most of that is fake. See for instance Starbucks’ own website where they brag about being the “2017 world’s most ethical company”. Has a nice ring to it, hasn’t it? But as soon as you start doing some research about which institute issues that rating and what it’s based on, the truth looks just a liiiiittle different. Don’t you just hate it when big concerns take their customers for fools!?
Here on Quadra, we will surely get our caffeine fix from Helene and maybe you should also think twice the next time you go for the cheap stuff or that addictive Pumpkin Spice Latte…
Helene Arsenault Aroma Specialty Coffee Roasters P.O.Box 582 Quathiaski Cove, BC V0P 1N0 www.aromacoffees.ca email@example.com