Giving Back to Haiti :: An Important Cause and New Coffee!March 30th, 2010 by Mark
Hello from Portland,
The near complete devastation in Haiti from the earthquake has prompted me to write this letter to you. As you may already know, we sometimes find really fantastic coffees and then choose a cause to support that is working to improve conditions in that coffee producing region. We look for vital, imminent causes, such as clean water, education and shelter for abandoned children, or environmental restoration. We prefer programs that are building sustainable communities and economies rather than just short-term handouts. We raise the price for the coffee a little bit beyond what we’d normally charge, then donate 100% of the proceeds back to the cause. We don’t make a cent on the venture. It’s our way of joining forces with our customers to donate to these very important efforts.
We’ve found a way to support Haitians as they work to build an economy that can survive without perpetual handouts. Here’s the story.
Back in the middle of December, I heard of EcoCafé Haiti, which is an organization working to create economic self-sufficiency in rural Haiti. Their mission is to “enable economic self-sufficiency in rural Haiti by simultaneously cultivating land for food (corn, beans, manioc, peanuts, fruit/leguminous trees) and cash crops (Haitian Arabica Typica coffee), and restoring the ecological environment.” There are myriad problems that plague Haiti, economic, societal, and environmental. The EcoCafé approach is holistic, and builds a system that Haitians can operate to better themselves and their land.
The proving ground for the program is Ranquitte, Haiti, a village in the north central mountains of that country. The program consists of employing approximately 25 full-time local workers who are paid fair wages to cultivate land that is deforested and deemed unsuitable for agriculture. This land is owned by local Ranquitte citizens who are largely incapable of working the land on their own (i.e., the aged, infirmed, widowed, etc.). The land is planted with food crops, fruit/nut trees, and Haitian Arabica Typica coffee.
In return for receiving the food crops and the proceeds from the sale of coffee, the landowners agree to have their land restored back to a healthy state, to leave the crops undisturbed, and to learn proper agriculture cultivation practices. To restore the land, the workers are building terraces, composting unwanted vegetation, planting shade trees, and restoring native species that have been lost. Sustainable development of approximately 60 acres has been accomplished over a three year period. Another 600 acres currently is in the process of restoration.
An additional 50 or so seasonal workers are employed to harvest and process the coffee during the annual August-December harvest season. The proceeds from the sale of coffee will be sufficient to pay for on-going operating expenses (labor, supplies, transportation, utilities, etc.), to provide a modest return to the workers and landowners, and to expand the program into neighboring communities. As a result, economic self-sufficiency is realized in the fourth year of the program.
I thought the cause sounded noble, but I was skeptical about the coffee. We’ve skipped over lots of island coffees as they tend to have weak, generic profiles, and are often very expensive too. We don’t carry Jamaican Blue Mountain or Kona coffees because there are so many coffees out there that taste better for half the price.
EcoCafé sent us some samples of their Hatian coffee in early January, and we were blown away with the quality. The coffee is simply fantastic – chocolaty, big body, a hint of earthiness, and a really long finish. For those that prefer low acidity, this is a great coffee. Here’s the review from esteemed critic Kenneth Davids: Sweetly rounded aroma with hints of flowers, chocolate, nut. In the cup a low-toned, subdued acidity, medium body, continued sweet chocolate and nut notes, with a hint of malty mustiness. Clean, simple finish with some carryover of the chocolate nuance.
So we told EcoCafé that we’d take whatever they could send us. Because of the earthquake, virtually all commercial freight is shut down. EcoCafé had to find relief workers returning to the US that were willing to take the unroasted coffee in their checked luggage. This process was not only tedious, but fraught with potential difficulties along the way. We fully expected trouble by the US immigration office/agricultural department.
I’m pleased to announce that 240 pounds have made it to us!
Because this coffee is so delicious, the cause so important, and the supply so limited, we are asking $19.95 per 12 oz bag. We are hoping to send over $15 per bag as a donation to EcoCafé. We are working on getting another 250-500 pounds out of Haiti, but this first batch is the only guaranteed lot that we have.
If you’d like a tax-deductible receipt, be sure to donate through the EcoCafé website.
Thanks for your support of this hugely important cause!
Founder, Clive Coffee