This past fall in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, the Association of Kilimanjaro Coffee Growers (KiliCafe) underwent a verification to continue their participation in Starbucks Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices. In 2006 a number of these arabica coffee growers elected to participate in the program, which helps coffee farmers, processors and suppliers transition toward more responsible coffee production, and to provide incentives for demonstrated progress.
The program is comprehensive, calling for just employment strategies, economic accountability and environmentally sustainable agriculture practices, all while maintaining our high bean quality benchmark, and it involves continuous efforts and long-term planning.
“Our grandfathers left us a timeless treasure,” Lankamo Lana tells me as we walk through the impenetrable lush garden farms of the Homacho Waeno Cooperative in Sidamo. “The ability to understand how to keep coffee ageless through garden farms,” he says.
Most coffee farms can be traversed with ease through the relatively wide spaces between growing coffee trees, but here, the spaces between are filled with growing food. I can barely keep up with him as I carefully avoid destroying the delicate crops. I stare at him, pretending I understood what he just said, as he disappears into the next garden.
Last month we traveled to Ghana, the second largest cocoa producer in the world. Starbucks is a member of the World Cocoa Foundation, an organization that promotes a sustainable cocoa economy by providing cocoa farmers with the tools they need to grow more and better cocoa, market it successfully, and earn greater profits.
Ever wonder how a company as big as Starbucks knows that the coffee it purchases, even from a small farm in Guatemala, is ethically sourced? We have industry-leading programs, systems and processes in place to track our purchases, but a lot also comes down to the people.
Last week I was in beautiful Antigua, Guatemala - surrounded by coffee farms and volcanoes - attending a Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices verifier training. The training was led by Scientific Certification Systems, the company Starbucks has worked with since 2003 to train and oversee the verification organizations, whose people visit the coffee farms around the world that sell their coffee to Starbucks. There were over 30 participants who play critical roles in verifying that the coffee we source meets the comprehensive C.A.F.E. Practices standards in countries throughout Latin America, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras. C.A.F.E. Practices is a set of coffee buying guidelines for farmers for the responsible production and processing of coffee, including both social and environmental field practices.
We are excited for the arrival of our new premium hot cocoa mixes at a grocery or wholesale retailer near you this month. There’s a variety of delicious flavors – Double Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Toasted Marshmallow and Peppermint, and different size options. But one thing that doesn’t vary with all these wonderful cocoa mixes is that they are all made with ethically sourced cocoa. We’ve included QR codes on the packaging to give you more information about ethical sourcing and the positive impact it has on those involved.
We recently went to India to visit some of our tea suppliers in Assam and Darjeeling and we wanted to send a brief update from the road.
The minute you get off the airplane in Dibrugarh, you are hit with the hot, humid temperatures of the region. The combination of terroir and hot, humid weather unite to create the Assam tea flavor we are so familiar with.
We continued our trip, first in Ecuador and then moving on to Colombia. (If you missed my first report, you can read it here.)
Our journey continued to Bucaramanga, Colombia. We are sourcing cocoa from 61 farms in a small town named San Vicente de Chucuri. These farmers were carefully selected for our Cocoa Practices program by our partner Compañia Nacional de Chocolates. During last year’s verification, these farms obtained the highest score ever recorded in the program, so we gave them a monetary award for their great efforts.
Unfortunately the weather in Colombia has been quite extreme. Just one day before our trip to San Vicente de Chucuri, the torrential rains damaged the roads and collapsed a bridge that prevented us from going to the ceremony. I wanted to share a picture of the event – each one of the farmers received an envelope with cash, proportional to the amount of cocoa beans they sold to the Ecocacao cooperative, one of our partners in the program. But alas.
Some of you may be wondering what is this particular cocoa used for? Well, we use it in our one-and-only triple-verified product sold at stores in the United States and Canada: the Starbucks VIA® chocolate bar! This particular product has been verified by our three ethical sourcing programs. By buying this product you are making a difference in the life of these families in Colombia.
Tazo partners Keith, Matt and Scott traveled to Guatemala a few weeks ago to visit key cardamom suppliers and secure our purchases for the next year. Cardamom prices are at 20-year highs because of record worldwide demand and subpar production. Thankfully, through our many hours of facility and field visits, we have a closer relationship with our cardamom supply chain than ever before.
Cardamom is a key component in Tazo® Chai. It’s a rhizome that takes three years to start producing cardamom for harvest, and it’s characterized by its tall, palm fronds and beautiful orchid-like flowers. Cardamom thrives in higher tropical elevations with a steady supply of moderate moisture.
This group of partners traveled to suppliers in Guatemala City and Coban with an agronomist working out of the Starbucks farmer support center in Costa Rica. By visiting cardamom suppliers it allows us to evaluate their quality and food safety programs, and it enables us to gain increased visibility to the cardamom supply chain.
The three reported that a highlight of the trip was visiting the cardamom villages in the remote mountains of Alta Verapaz that Tazo and Mercy Corps support through the CHAI project, a way for us to give back to the villages that supply us with cardamom. The villagers, who speak the Mayan language K’Iche’, are currently participating in education, health and farming programs that enhance their daily lives.
Behind every bite of a Starbucks chocolate bar there are many stories of farmers, processors and chocolate confectioners. This is my story.
I am with John Kehoe, a cocoa expert from TCHO who has dedicated his life to find the finest cocoas in the world. Our journey starts in Ecuador, a beautiful country with a long tradition of cocoa production. As is traditional in Starbucks sourcing practices, we want to establish direct relationships with the farmers, so we start by visiting a small farmer cooperative named La Fortaleza (which means “strength of a fortress”), located a couple of hours from the town of Portoviejo.
Our first stop is at the farm of Mr. Alfonso. It really caught our attention how his plantation was neat and organized – he had a quite novel irrigation system, and the benefits of all the trainings he has attended really showed. Later on he told us he used to be cab driver in New York for 17 years(!) until he felt the need to come back to his native land 15 years ago.
I’ve recently returned from a trip to China where Starbucks signed two historic Memoranda of Understanding to invest in growing high-quality coffee in Yunnan province. We’ll be collaborating with the People’s Government of Pu’er City (Yunnan Province) and the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences. These agreements signal cooperation between Starbucks and China to revolutionize the Chinese coffee market and help local farmers there grow new, high-quality coffees that are sure to be prized throughout the world.
Although we will continue to buy coffees from many countries, this opportunity allows us to help build China’s specialty coffee market from scratch. We’ll open another Farmer Support Center, manage a base farm to grow coffee for production and create a demo farm that offers training on soil quality, tree planting and pruning, and education about C.A.F.E. Practices. We will also operate wet and dry mills. Between the agronomists and partners with years of leadership in the coffee industry, we have the experience necessary to be very successful. I am excited about the immense opportunity this partnership represents.
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