Green Mountain Coffee Family of Brands Blog

Fair Trade: Making a difference in the heart of an Incan empire

Concepcion TunquiConcepcion Tunqui's day begins at 3 am. She gathers firewood to cook her breakfast, then joins other members of her coffee cooperative on their organic farm in the southern highlands of Peru. Around 11, she'll stop to cook a communal meal for the workers. She'll clean up, then return to her chacra (land parcel) to hand pick the reddest, ripest coffee cherries until the sun sinks behind the towering Andean peaks that surround her. She is 57 years old, and she has done this all her life.

Until recently, Concepcion barely made enough money to get by. Fair Trade has changed that. With Fair Trade, these farmers are guaranteed a fair price for their harvest. Now they can afford to eat chicken on occasion, visit a doctor when they're sick, and keep their kids in school. Fair Trade premiums have also allowed them to improve their drying patios, and the overall quality of their coffee.

"We only live off coffee," Concepcion says in her native Quechua language. "This year has been the first year of change. My farm has improved, and my house has improved."Matilde

Nearby, another member of the cooperative agrees. "We have so much hope in coffee," says Matilde Quispe de Quispe. "Finally, we're able to receive decent prices and our children are able to eat."


One cup of Terroir, please

In my five years at GMC, I've by no means become a coffee expert. But I'm getting better. My biggest learning is our odd obsession of roast at the expense of source. We Americans generally don't seem to care where our coffee comes from. At the same time, we'll claim to "love a super-dark roast", while drowning our brew with excessive cream and sugar. If you use three scoops of sugar and a long pour of cream, I'd argue that you like coffee-flavor, not coffee. And you probably don't enjoy a super-dark roast. Do you add anything to your favorite wine?Map of Kenya

Vermont gourmet circles and our own coffee experts have taught me to relish terroir, a taste of place.  The Buy Local campaign is extremely prevalent here in Vermont, encouraging support of local farmers and food traditions.  It helps keep our lovely countrysides in tact while appreciating the beauty we have around us.  It's the postive way of opposing uniformity, suggesting a better path instead of merely cursing another.  Everything has its place.

Anthony Bourdain tackled this topic in reviewing Timothy Taylor's Stanley Park.  I'll confess, I don't have the patience for Taylor's 432-page discourse, but I love a good Bourdain rant.   Taylor argues the chef world is divided into fusion freaks (Crips), hell bent on merging incongruous worldy ingredients into creativity stew, and terroir tyrants (Bloods), dedicating their souls to preserving local traditions and ingredients.  Bourdain seems to prefer a looser, middle ground, admitting he started in the terroir camp, but has all too often traveled into fusion festivals deserving of admiration.  He later comments "I've since come to believe that any overriding philosophy or worldview is the enemy of good eating".  Agreed.

Let's apply this thinking to coffee.  Why do we always focus on roast, mindlessly add condiments, but ignore source?  The flavor wheel spins much more vigorously when comparing a smooth Guatemalan brew to a lively animal-like Kenyan offering than when debating the pros and cons of light versus medium roast.  I agree that a fantastic cut of steak should be quickly seared while a more modest cut should spend more time on the grill.  But isn't it more exciting to debate the kind of meat than how to cook said meat?  Choosing the source of your coffee is the equivalent of picking your meat.

I urge you to try (cup, if you will) a black cup of our Sumatran Reserve™ next to another black mug of Colombian Fair Trade Select.  There are significant differences between the coffees from these two equatorial regions.  But I won't describe those differences here -- please experience them for yourself.  Then compare our Kenya Highland Cooperatives (my favorite) to that same Colombian or our Guatemalan Finca Dos Marias.  Which cup is bright, which syrupy, which wild?  You tell me.

With this appreciation, maybe some of you will switch from "blends" to single origin coffees.  Blends certainly have their place, but by following the fusion / Bloods need of mixing unique offerings, something is lost.  That something is local climate combined with tireless, but unique quality controls applied by various coffee farmers across the world.  Their exhausting efforts should not always be blended away.

You'll see and taste what I'm talking about.  Then the next time someone asks "how do you take your coffee?" you can reply with a well informed "Kenyan, please."


New K-Cup Samplers Offer More Variety

K-Cup extra bold samplerK-Cup fans, you'll be happy to know we just launched two new K-Cup Samplers: a Celestial Seasonings Tea Variety K-Cup Sampler and an Extra Bold Variety K-Cup Sampler.  In addition, our Decaf and Flavored Samplers now include four varieties in each box, instead of just three.  Plus, there's more Fair Trade. We are happy to announce that our Regular, Decaf, and Flavored Samplers now all include a Fair Trade Certified™ coffee.

GMC Day at Habitat For Humanity

GMC volunteers at Habitat For Humanity project in Milton, VTOne great perk of working for Green Mountain Coffee is "Cafe Time", which is paid leave for community service.  Yesterday, Cafe Time came to life for our Marketing group as ten of us worked on a Habitat For Humanity house in Milton, VT. 

Many of us here believe Habitat For Humanity is a great cause.  The mission of the VT Green Mountain chapter is:

  • Constructing simple, decent, affordable houses in partnership with families who currently live in unfit, indecent, inhuman conditions and have no possibility of obtaining a home through any conventional means.Helping Raise The Roof, literally, with HFH

  • Selling these homes to the partner family for cost, with no profit and no interest. Reinvesting the mortgage payments from these partner families to build more simple, decent, affordable homes.

  • Providing a means for people who have resources of time, money, or materials to channel them to the poor. Involving an ever increasing number of people in the work of Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity.

  • Tithing from donations to support the work of Habitat for Humanity International in countries with greater need than exists in the United States.

  • Working with people of good conscience and other organizations with similar interests to raise awareness of housing issues so that everyone in the world can have the opportunity to have a simple, decent, affordable place to live.

We enjoyed helping the cause.


Special Reserve Guatemala Chajulense now available!

The care that Chajulense Cooperative puts into their beans is abundantly evident in this Coffee.Yesterday we roasted our third Special Reserve coffee for 2008:  Guatemala Chajulense.  We only roasted enough for about 1,000 bags -- get yours through a single purchase or by signing up for our Special Reserve Tour (and never miss any of our Special Reserve roasts).

This coffee – a Fair Trade Certifiedand Organic cup from the Chajulense Cooperative – is a genuine crowd-pleaser.  But don't take my word for it (I just say "it's yummy"), here's how Lindsey Bolger, Director of Coffee Sourcing & Relationships, describes this special brew:

The small lots we’ve selected...display lovely flavors of juicy red fruits and citrus, enhanced by deep chocolate, almond and honey notes.  They are a reflection of the cooperative’s dedication to excellence in the cup and service to its members.”

If interested, buy now -- as with all our Special Reserves, this is a one-time, special roast.


Well, that was fast. Our entire lot of Chajulense is sold out! You can still sign up for our Special Reserve Tour... which may be a good idea if you want to ensure you don't miss out on the next SR origin.


Update on the Great American Voter Trek

Here’s an update on the “Great American Voter Trek,” the event organized by Cabot in which college students bicycle from Vermont to Wyoming to register voters for the 2008 presidential election.

The Voter Trek Team is now almost halfway through their route and as of July 3, the cyclists have traveled over 800 miles! Over 100 newspaper, web, TV and radio stories have featured the Trek to date. Nineteen stops remain until their arrival in Laramie, Wyoming on August 1.

Team Shot by the RV

The team has collected some great stories along the way:

In Syracuse, NY at the Dinosaur BBQ, the Team met 17-year-old twins, who did not know that they could register to vote as long as they would turn 17 before the next election. The Trek Team got their paperwork filled out, giving two more people their voice to vote.

In Phelps, NY, a Vermont transplant, Art Meiggs, drove from his New York home to join the Team for dinner. Mr. Meiggs was Max & Hayden’s high school baseball coach and middle school math teacher years ago, and was proud to see his former students making a real difference in the world.

Visit the Voter Trek website to track the route, watch video clips and see some of the great media stories featuring this impressive crew:


Tried our Chai Tea K-Cups?

Indian Spice Chai Tea K-Cups Chai fans have spoken! Our Chai Tea K-Cups are gradually converting Chai fans to Keurig single-cup brewing. This relatively new product already has a five-star consumer rating. My favorite quote comes from Pollie of St. Augustine, Florida:
This Chai tea is so great! It's as good, if not better, than S******** Chai tea. And you get to add whatever you want to keep it low fat.

Give it a try and let us know what you think.

Rick Peyser's Elephant Interview

Rick Peyser -- Green Mountain's Director of Social Advocacy & Coffee Community Outreach  -- recently participated in a panel discussion on Fair Trade at the LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) Conference that took place June 18-21 in Boulder, CO. Rick's fellow panelists included Denise Hamler (Cofounder of Co-Op America), Wolf Ludge (CEO, Hess Natur), and Wayne Zink (CEO Endangered Species Chocolate).

Boulder-based Elephant Journal (a frequently irreverent guide to ‘the mindful life’: yoga, organics, sustainability, genuine spirituality, conscious consumerism, fair fashion, and the contemplative arts) conducted an interview marathon at the LOHAS conference, chatting with more than 40 individuals and companies devoted to living a good life that also happens to be good for others, and our planet.

Here's Rick's interview with Waylon Lewis, Editor-In-Chief of Elephant... or click-through to Elephant's web site to view a high rez version.