Where to begin? We received our first order of beans from the Hingakawa Women's Association (more on them later), Jon has been up to his eyeballs in beans roasting over the past two weeks, I've been in discussions with some incredible potential partners, we purchased a new roaster, started with a great wholesale client, sleep has been harder to come by, and we're loving it! The feeling of controlled chaos I mentioned in this post has become both more controlled and chaotic at the same time. It's kind of like raising a kid or pet. You learn how to handle what they throw at you as it happens. But as soon as you figure one thing out they pull something new out of left field to throw your way. It definitely keeps us on our toes.
Community In Coffee
As I have mentioned in other posts, Mark Smesrud and Purple Door Coffee taught me how not to compromise the standards of a high quality product while still cultivating true, lasting growth in their employees. Parallel to that Scott Byington, the owner of Queen City Collective Coffee, has been instrumental in opening my eyes to the beauty and necessity of creating community through coffee every step of the way from sourcing to storefront. When I say community I mean relationships that are ongoing and real. I'm not talking about slapping a fair trade sticker on a bag then making one trip to a farm and taking some pictures to post online or put in your store. Scott has been integrally involved with farms around the world helping get their products to roasters in the US while also assisting them to improve their products and increase their own profits. He also knows that to truly help farmers and their communities we cannot just helicopter in at our leisure with good intentions. We have to listen: listen to who they are, the roads they've walked in life, what they need for their farms, what they need for their children and communities, and listen to what is most effective for us to do in their eyes, not our own. What works well here may be ineffective, or actually destructive, somewhere else. Because as much as we think we know, we don't know much.
Scott has spent a considerable amount of time in Rwanda where the Hingakawa ("let's grow coffee") Women's Association is located. Oh Hingakawa, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Seriously, they are incredible. Scott has a close relationship with the person instrumental in building the farming network there to be what it is today. Many of the women who work with this farm, and another smaller one called Dakundakawa ("we love coffee"), lost loved ones and family members during the Rwandan genocide. Hingakawa has been incredibly effective at providing restoration and sustenance for these women and their children. Not only does it provide work and income, there is also a system in place that allows the women to cultivate the land around the farms to produce more income for their communities to use at their discretion for essential needs. As amazing and impactful as this is, the amount of revenue generated by coffee only goes so far. We're working to build a relationship with these ladies that best benefits them both as individuals and collectively in their communities. I'll write more on this as it develops and we'll have their beans available in our online store within the next couple weeks. Can't wait for you all to try them!
These are a couple great reads from The Perfect Daily Grind on sourcing methods that explain what relational, direct trade, fair trade, and actually are.
This one is written by Torch Coffee and provides more info on Hingakawa.