I got an email on Friday from Alison at Sound Horticulture who is a freelance consultant in the agriculture industry. She gave me a link to a website doing a live radio show on coffee titled “WHAT’S IN YOUR CUP”.

I then sent an email to METROFARM commenting how I feel Fair Trade is not Fair and of course they quickly replied asking me to call in- which I did from GUATEMALA.

With out going into lengthy monologue about why I think Fair Trade is often good, sometimes bad, but rarely ideal or great I’ll spare you listening through an hour of coffee talk and share that the subject was never broached there either. I thought it prudent to be careful with my words NOT because the featured guest owns and operates a 100% Fair Trade coffee company, but because I’m not good at live interviews =)

However I did learn much from Dean Cycon who is both a wealth of information and owner of Dean’s Beans which is also 100% Organic. As a proprietor of a business that operates exclusively on Fair Trade coffees he has done much homework and gone the extra mile in connecting and learning about the people that produce his coffees rather than just purchasing certifications for the marketing power that they do in fact have. If everyone purchasing Fair Trade coffee made half the effort Dean does to connect with origin, Fair Trade would in my opinion be much more in line with the spirit of Fair Trade. I think that agencies that certify Fair Trade products do a fantastic job at meeting their goals and mission statement. However I question how sustainable is Fair Trade?

Bottom line accountability is expensive and I believe it is only quality that is sustainable in the long run. If the only value in a product is that it is guaranteeing a fair wage to people at origin with no quality criteria, there is no incentive for excellence, rather reward for mediocracy. It is concerning to me that so many in agriculture who produce what is the second largest commodity in the world are producing something that intrinsically is increasingly worth less BECAUSE of charity. Again, the issue of sustainability in FT is not really discussed, but Dean does a wonderful job educating listeners about many of the real social concerns related to coffee growers, as well as sharing about some excellent programs that help address these problems.


IMG_2305, originally uploaded by edwinfvh.

There’s always magic in the air when the seed to cup circle is completed. Picture with the half head is Tony from Octane, then M’lissa who I have to imagine is a vital part of Octane, then Chris and David who represent Counter Culture Coffee in Atlanta and finally my father, also Edwin Martinez. Chris and David led a blind cupping of two coffees from Cauca and a washed Yirg with a memorable intense aroma. Others attended and collaboratively shared an ocean of VERY specific descriptors that made me want to go back and cup everything again. I still have so much to learn about cupping…  Click here to see the descriptors.


M'lissa Chris Edwin Nina 

I try to spend little time blogging.  I find it worthwhile to both be consistent and put up good content.  Seems I rarely do both.  Last week Nina and I had a great time meeting some serious coffee people that don’t HAVE to talk about coffee.  One thing is for sure, for Chris and M’lissa, coffee is not just a fad.  And YES!  M’lissa did beat me to the punch in with her post.

mike being himselfI gave some coffee to Mike… and he reciprocated by giving me a bomb.  I grew up with fireworks in Guatemala, but this – I was afraid of.  It was heavy.  I kindly accepted the gift, but was not going to light it.  All I could think of was how badly it could go.  Me tripping as I’m running away, getting arrested… etc.  I couldn’t give it away or delay my decision of what to do by taking it with my wife AND in-laws in the van or much less on the plane back to Bellingham, so I called Mike back and got some help lighting it.  Take a close look at the wick.  It gives you just enough time to get about 100 yards away if walking briskly which is barely enough time.   Mike actually does fireworks professionally for resorts around Guatemala… among many other things.  If you’re in Panajachel he’s worth paying a visit to.Crossroads cafe in Pana   Roaster at Crossroads in PanaPictured above is the outside of Crossroads and his roaster, which of course is hidden in a secret (now not so secret) room behind a false bookshelf.