Cafe Justo XV Anniversary

Cafe Justo XV Anniversary

Coffee?  Yes, please!

I don’t know about you, but coffee is pretty important to me.  Every morning begins with grinding the beans and inhaling their dark fragrance, sometimes chocolaty, or floral, or spicy and sharp, depending on the beans and roast that morning. Then careful measuring, brewing, waiting, deciding on whether to add milk or creamer or flavored syrup, or just to enjoy the deep honest black essence.

I don’t just want my coffee. I need it.

Yet for something with such an important role in my life, I haven’t known much about that coffee. Other than the brand on the bag of beans and the date on the label, before very recently I haven’t paid much attention to some pretty important questions:

Time to wake up and smell the coffee. Who grew this coffee?
Where did it come from and how did it get to this country and my store, much less to my kitchen? Where did the coffee plants grow, and whose hands picked the ripened beans? Whose lives touched mine through this magical brew, and does my need for coffee affect them?  

The answers were waiting for me in Agua Prieta, a Mexican town just across the border from Douglas, Arizona, where I got to know – really know – Cafe Justo.

Ordinarily, the coffee we drink in the U.S. comes from multinational corporations like Nestle (Nescafe,) Smuckers (Folgers,) Kraft Foods (Maxwell House,) and of course, Starbucks. It is an international commodity second in importance only to oil with the rise and fall of coffee prices affecting the economies and politics of numerous developing countries.

For decades, trade was negotiated under the authority of the United Nations for the ICO – the International Coffee Organization. But those agreements fell apart in the 1990s, and by the early 2000s, coffee prices had fallen to a fraction of previous levels. [PBS “Independent Lens, Black Gold.”]

Now, when I hear media reports about Free Trade Agreements, it’s just part of the news I take in every morning with my coffee. Those price fluctuations might mean a few cents more or less on a pound of coffee.  But to a farmer in Chiapas, it can mean the difference between making a living on the family farm, and migrating north across the border.    

This is where Café’ Justo comes in.  Coffee farmers  in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas are no longer forced to sell their harvests to middlemen, brokers, wholesalers and corporations. Through the Cafe Justo Cooperative, organized farmers transport their coffee to their own facility in Agua Prieta where it is roasted, processed, packaged and exported directly to consumers in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Instead of selling their crop to “coyotes” for about $35/sack, they now earn well over $150/sack.  Families can afford to stay on the land, children can go all the way through school, and new generations are not forced to migrate north across the border to earn an honest wage.

This is the mission of Café’ Justo, growing, harvesting, and marketing pure, organic coffee in the spirit of Justice.  And I was honored to be part of their Quinceanera, to share friendship and food, music and celebration. Now I know where my coffee comes from, and I know whose lives I touch through every blessed cup.

Written by: David & Starr Hicks


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