The effects of climate change are far-reaching, and farmers around the world are especially sensitive to the impact. Traditional farming strategies may not yield the same results, and farmers now contend with an increasing number of variables that can affect coffee production.
At one time, East Liverpool, Ohio was known as “the Pottery Capital of the World.” Today this city – like so many others in America – is facing a jobs crisis as its industries decline. But I recently got to visit one ceramics factory that is the story of a remarkable resurgence.
Inspired by Create Jobs for USA, a program Starbucks launched in November 2011 with Opportunity Finance Network, one of our long term suppliers, Ulrich Honighausen, came to us with a vision to address a gap in American manufacturing with a modern ceramic factory.
Traveling up a mountain in the back of a pickup truck, on a bumpy road of hairpin turns, I feel dwarfed by the towering Mexican elm trees looming out of the evening mist. As we pass homes scattered among the coffee bushes that dominate the landscape, El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve feels a world away from the urban sprawl of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of the Mexican state of Chiapas, where I have spent much of the past week.
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.
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