Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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P U L L : E V E N T S PHOTOS BY JORDAN SANCHEZ, SCA COFFEE PRICES DICTATE A SOMBER RE:CO, INSPIRE PLANS FOR FUTURE POSITIVE CHANGE AS OF PRESS TIME, the price of commodity coffee is less than a dollar a pound. That's why the organizers of Re:co—the coffee conference that invites innovative thinkers from across various disciplines—decided to focus the 2019 event in Boston singularly on the coffee-price crisis. The annual forum held in conjunction with the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Expo is a breeding ground for new ideas and out-of-the-box strategies to better the future of the global specialty-coffee industry. After opening remarks from Peter Giuliano, the SCA's chief research offi cer, former SCA Executive Director Ric Rhinehart took the stage to frame the problem at hand: Coffee prices are below a dollar per pound, they have been there for a long time, and we've ignored it for long enough that it's gone from a problem to a crisis. Ric, who now heads the SCA's Coffee Price Crisis Response Initiative, used his session to shake up attendees. He assured the audience that this wasn't simply a problem that snuck up on us overnight, but is representative of a system that has long been broken, and which we have continued to perpetuate. To frame the problem, let's step away from Re:co for a moment and travel to "Ask Me About the Cost of Production," an event series hosted by Mike and Caryn Nelson of Junior's Roasted Coffee. On the evening of the last day of Expo, Mike and Caryn teamed up with Kristina Jackson of the Boston Intersectional Coffee Collective to put on the event, breaking down how much it costs for coffee farmers to produce one pound of coffee. Research was gathered through an intensive study with one farm in Guatemala, Santo Tomás Pachuj, operated by Andres Fahsen. "We were able to determine that it costs Andres $2.87 to produce one pound of green coffee," Mike said. That number is simply the cost of production—what it would take Andres to break even—and doesn't account for the cost of living or the minimum wage to stay above the poverty line. It's clear there's a huge problem, and the speakers invited used their expertise to discuss why the problem persists and what the specialty-coffee community can do to address it. One of the ways the speakers at Re:co talked about address- ing the price crisis is to differentiate potential exit strategies for farmers who currently rely on the C market for their coffee. Right now, most thinkers posit quality differentiation as a solution, but that doesn't make sense if every farmer is directed into this avenue—and that still means there are actors left out. Janina Grabs, a postdoctoral research associate at the Univer- sity of Münster, Germany, aimed to get attendees to reconsider the solutions we currently suggest to farmers. Janina's talk centered around the fallacy of the single exit, which she framed using an analogy: Imagine a crowded theater that suddenly goes up in fl ames. What measures are in place to get people out? If there's only one exit, not everyone will be able to get out, but if there are multiple exits (and a sprinkler system to quell the fi re), more people will survive. Right now, we have no sprinkler system, and we have only one emergency exit, which is asking farmers to differentiate themselves by produc- ing higher-quality coffee. Another relevant question that came up consistently is who adds value to coffee. Vanúsia Nogueira, director of the Asso- Photos from top: In the panel discussion, "Alarms & Leadership Toward Change," moderator Chad Trewick (from le ) and panelists Peter Dupont, Rene Leon Gomez, Michelle Bha acharyya, and Herbert Peñalosa discuss PROMECAFE and the impacts of lasting low coff ee prices within the 10 countries it represents, as well as what actions they've personally taken in driving their businesses toward positive change in spite of dominating free-market forces that keep values for coff ee low. Middle: Meghan-Anne e Reida (le ) of Kickapoo Coff ee Roasters in Milwaukee, Wis., and Adam JacksonBey of Tell Coff ee in Washington, D.C., were among the exceptional baristas charged with preparing exceptional coff ees for Re:co a endees throughout the two-day event. Lower photo: Renowned Oakland, Calif.-based roaster/retailer Keba Konte drew from his personal experience operating Red Bay Coff ee as a fi rm commitment to ensuring coff ee production is not only high quality and sustainable, but a vehicle for diversity, inclusion, social and economic restoration, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability, in his discussion, "Creating a Space that Empowers and Brings New Consumers to the Table." 30 barista magazine

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