Caravan and Cafe Femenino

I recently had the pleasure of sharing a meal of yellow curry and sticky rice with Connie from OPTCO as we discussed the work their Café Femenino Program was doing, specifically with the families and communities in Peru. The cause this coffee stands for has been dear to my heart ever since learning about it. This beautiful program that also includes a foundation helps partner with communities to bring empowerment for women through education, leadership training and practical application to coffee-growing communities around the globe.

As its name suggests, Cafe Femenino has women in leadership and decision-making roles throughout the coffee’s cycle. One story I took away from my lunch with Connie was how the Cafe Femenino Program has strongly encouraged and implemented women meeting together with other women to knit together a sense of community and support for and with each other. In some areas, women have not been allowed to step foot outside of their house without permission from the man of the house.

With assistance from Cafe Femenino Program, what used to be communities with household dictatorships, are being transformed into working partnerships running the house together. Women are now getting the credit they deserve from their hard work on the coffee farm, being paid directly and creating empowerment among themselves.

We have proudly sourced this coffee for over 3  years and it has continued to be the best selling origin in our Tasting Room. The Certifications it boasts are a sign of the hard work and attention to detail that these women take in handling their craft.

 As a barista responsible for the final presentation of these women’s combined efforts, I proudly pour this coffee as a final piece to the journey.

– Kat Stauffer

Caravan Giving Back

Caravan Coffee has partnered for 8 years with Newberg Early Bird Rotary Club for humanitarian projects in La Plata, Colombia. La Plata is our “sister city” where we not only give back but build relationships. We invest 5% of our monthly coffee club subscriptions into projects in La Plata.

This relationship in Colombia started almost a decade ago with an introduction from our Colombian coffee hunter, Alejandro Renjifo. He introduced me to a group of Colombian Rotarians in La Plata who were passionate about helping the poorest of the poor in their community. Through a series of meetings and personal visits in Colombia, we first started working together building biosand filters for the outlying areas where the drinking water was not clean. This led to many other projects over the years, including building a series of parks in depressed neighborhoods.

This year we are working on a sanitation project on a hillside above the city of La Plata. There, a community of about 400 have not treated their sewage in generations, which has not only polluted their own water table, but has contributed to polluting a river that flows down into the city of La Plata. This has lead to much sickness, which especially impacts the children who miss school due to dysentery and other maladies from poor hygiene.

This project has been complicated due to the steep terrain and heavy rainfall in the area that creates many washed out roads and landslides. There are no paved roads nor access to public utilities for this community. Due to these conditions, building a septic system requires bringing in supplies by horseback and manpower.

The following pictures are before and during the construction of the Sanitation Units with private toilets and baths using traditional septic systems. Completion of the project is anticipated this fall, when will send a group from our Newberg Rotary team to inspect the Sanitation Units and the impact that it is having on the community. In addition, we will be completing an assessment to discover the greatest needs for our next project. Stay tuned as we build relationships, change lives, and have fun.

Specialty coffee is going corporate

I live just down the street from Stumptown Coffee’s original store on SE Division Street in Portland, OR. Often, I’m one of the first customers there, blinking with sleepiness at 6 am, and clutching my hot cup of drip coffee like it’s a lifeline to sanity. The baristas know me, and sometimes they buy my coffee (which I attribute to my Very Charming Daughter). To me, as a dedicated coffee drinker, this is the perfect neighborhood coffee shop.

Ironic, then, that Stumptown is owned by Peet’s Coffee & Tea, a massive coffee chain which also acquired Chicago-based quality coffee company Intelligentsia, and is in turn owned by a German holding company (JAB Holdings) which holds controlling stakes in or owns the most coffee brands in the world. I’ve watched changes happen nationally and globally for Stumptown, but in the day-to-day, I’ve observed nothing different from the gritty coffeehouse I love.

What does it mean for my industry that coffee brands which, ten years ago, stood for independence and “not-selling-out” are now owned by a massive, foreign company? While many decry these changes as disastrous to the specialty coffee industry, I view them as a way to hold my finger to the wind and see which way it’s changing. What does it say about the small roasters I love so much that they are growing (fast) and that corporate business is sitting up and taking notice? That these brands (Blue Bottle is another) are being changed, yes, but their individuality is being retained and in fact turned into brands so cohesive and iron-clad that they are covering the world with fans.

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To me, it says something beautiful and gives us a warning. It says that we coffee drinkers who care about transparency, who put our money where our mouth is, and who value connection with the growers and roasters who create our coffee, are driving the international coffee industry (which is a behemoth, the second-most-traded commodity in the world) to change to our values. Which, because slavery and many abuses of human rights still happen in coffee growing, and because there is so much more work to be done, is a good thing.

Which, because slavery and many abuses of human rights still happen in coffee growing, and because there is so much more work to be done, is a good thing.

It also warns us to hone in on exactly what makes us different from the big brands, and to remember that a brand is always changing. Here at Caravan, we have been serving beautiful coffee to the Willamette Valley and throughout the nation for twenty years, and we will keep doing that. We are also dedicated to continuing to adapt in every way we can to be more intentional in our sourcing, roasting, and brewing.

We continue to evolve our visual branding. And… most important: we recognize that you, our treasured customers, are changing, and that this community we’ve created together will keep changing as the years pass. Thank you for honoring us—a small coffee company with dedicated staff and customers—with your coffee choices and support.

Change is a good thing! Let’s embrace it… together!

Emily McIntyre

Emily McIntyre circle

Rainforests – Jewels of the Earth

 

We all know that sustainable practices are vital for responsible agriculture around the world and coffee is no exeption. Rainforests–so-called “jewels of the Earth” for their extraordinary biodiversity, a cornucopia of natural medicines, and crucial air quality function (nearly one-third of atmospheric oxygen is processed by tropical rainforests) are under an alarming threat.

Agriculture adjacent to tropical rainforests is encroaching on and destroying the rainforest at an unfathomable rate. Over sixty percent of the earth’s total rainforest ecosystem has succumbed to harvest, destruction, or redevelopment since the industrial revolution, an incalculable loss.

 

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It may seem like an insurmountable task but there are people and organizations on the forefront of the sustainable agriculture movement  that we can support. One such organization is Rainforest Alliance.

Rainforest Alliance certifies producers that meet the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard which includes general and local conservation requirements, environmental protections, child labor restrictions and other worker protections, guidelines for the reduction of agrochemicals, and the prohibition of transgenic crops.

 

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Caravan Coffee is proud to offer a number of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffees.

Brazil Monte Carmelo and El Salvador Las Isabellas.

While Rainforest Alliance certification isn’t a guarantee of absolute sustainability or other ethical credentials (worker protections, for instance) it is regarded by academia and third-party evaluators as a meaningful part of the burgeoning sustainability solution for products with a historically devastating impact on tropical rainforests and workers alike including coffee, tea, cocoa etc.

(Note that certified organic and Fair Trade Certified coffees such as Caravan’s exquisite Organic Sumatra Mandheling are also regarded as generally more sustainable and ethical than many non-certified counterparts.)

– Garrett Schwanke

Garrett

Mothers in Coffee

My motherly smile is shining as I sit staring at the desktop background image of my sons, Shepard and Jamison. We recently made a trip to the grocery store and I unashamedly bribed them with the promise of two rides on the pink horse carousel if they listened and stayed close to me for our “quick trip” inside. This time, the bribe paid off (hallelujah!) and I helped them up on the beloved pink horse together. As the mother to these little darlings, I’m constantly adjusting the way I learn to steward their vastly different personalities and protect who they are while they are just beginning to figure that out for themselves. This sense of stewardship surfaces when I think about cultivating a concept of the ceiling of my talents and ideas becoming my children’s floor and launching pad for something bigger, better and brighter.

One of my favorite definitions of the word ‘mother’ is something or someone that gives rise to or exercises protecting care over something else; origin or source.  What a beautiful picture this portrays. Whether you are a woman who has birthed and mothered a child or a woman who has birthed and mothered an idea from deep inside, you are given this title as the origin or source of that beautiful creation. Women across the globe have given birth to movements and inspired the healing of lands, relationships, and human rights.

Throughout the world of coffee, the term mother is used both literally and metaphorically in a myriad of ways. Ethiopia is referred to as the mother or birthplace of coffee. When we reference coffee origin and stress how important the traceability is, we give credit to its motherland and those who have taken protective care over the wonderful beans we roast and brew.  I see coffee stewards everywhere doing their best to create a better world for the current and next generation of coffee producers, roasters, and enthusiasts alike.

If we, as a coffee industry, do just what this definition suggests and intentionally give rise to new thoughts, talents, and conceptions, I think we will continue to see a coffee world better than what we could have created by trying to hoard all the next big ideas for ourselves.

Cheers to all and Happy Mother’s Day!

Kat Stauffer

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Arbor Day: My First Coffee Tree

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National Arbor Day was last Friday. As the nation gathered to celebrate trees, their impact on the world, and the way they help keep us in good shape physically and emotionally, I took a moment to recall my first coffee tree. Touching it after 7 years working in coffee changed my life in many subtle ways.

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Our Driver, Jorge

Getting to Finca Timbuyacu through the northern Peruvian Andes mountains was tortuous. We crept in a rickety bus over mountains forbidding in their wildness, with sheer drops of thousands of feet and spare inches for the tires. At times, parts of the road would melt off the side of the mountain. Once I almost fainted when I looked over the crevasse.

Newly bathing in my adopted language, Spanish, and jotting vocabulary on the palm of my hands as I struggled to eat yet another boiled chicken-and-potato dish, with my mind and my heart exploding with newness and strangeness, I collapsed in the quiet hotel in Chachapoyas, deep in the region of Amazonas, relieved to stop moving and to feel the cool tiles under my feet. In the morning, the mists lifted the town into fairyland.

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Finca Timbuyacu is a dream for owners Karim Rosario Araoz and her husband Alfonso Tejada, who also own Cafe Monteverde, a cooperative with around 300 farmers in the area. “Coffee is not easy,” says Tejada, who with Araoz owned a travel agency in Lima for years before returning to their home region. “When we came back here we started Monteverde with the idea of being a local broker. Once that business was up and running, we started working our own land, which was pretty much abandoned. Everyone told us the land wasn’t worth anything, but we have had success. My goal is to produce the best coffee in the country.” At Timbuyacu, Tejada and Araoz perform many tests on processes, including fermentation time, washing time, percentage of mucilage removed, and other measurables.

For me, when I cupped the green leaves of coffee trees in my hand and smelled the rich green sap running through the plants, Finca Timbuyacu was the site of my own crowning moment, a new chapter in the life of this roving coffee professional begun. I snapped a warm globular coffee cherry from its stem and popped it into my mouth, feeling the give of the dark red skin pop and the sweet mucilage cover my tastebuds. At the center of the tiny pudding-like desert was a double coffee cherry. It gave a little under my teeth. I spat it out upon the ground and watched it disappear in the undergrowth.

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Trees anchor us. Coffee trees make this huge global trade possible. This Arbor Day, let’s honor the coffee trees that produce our favorite coffees all over the world, Ethiopia to Peru.

A Roaster at Origin

Pineapple. It is such a common fruit that you could walk into almost any grocery store in America and be overwhelmed by the selection and preparations of pineapples. Whole, sliced, chunks, canned, you name it. We are all very familiar with pineapples but how well do you “know” a pineapple?

You can look at pictures, get the latest stats on importing pineapples and even do a number of lectures on such a topic. But to “know” a pineapple, one needs to bite into one or, even better, go to the actual plantation. Only when you can talk to the farmers and taste pineapple from the origin, will truly “know” a pineapple.

You might be asking, “Where are you going with this?”

It’s easy to pontificate about coffee’s many different attributes and feel like you have a full understanding of it. Until you have been present locally with the coffee farmers and walked on the farm yourself, you don’t really “know” coffee.

To see the trees, to touch the freshly dried seeds and to smell the unique fragrance is nothing less than inspiring. But you truly begin to “know” the coffee when you are standing side by side, cupping coffee with the men and women who grow your coffee and who share in your passion for it.

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So last year when Pete, Caravan’s Proprietor, suggested a 3 week trip to origin, I was more than thrilled. A trip like this would not only benefit Caravan Coffee or me personally, as Caravan’s roastmaster, but it also benefits you, our customers, by giving you a chance to “know” your coffee.

When you travel to origin, the coffee is no longer simply a commodity; it becomes an extension of the real people who work the soil, tend the trees and harvest the coffee. No longer is it just a co-op in Kochere, Ethiopia, but it’s Miriam, living with his sister, passionately working just 2 minutes from the Kochere dry mill on his 2-acre plot.

When I was there I was even able to see our broker, Dominion Coffee, at work and caring for the people they buy from. People like Tsehey, a double amputee, who was provided with prosthetic legs which allow her to go to school and get an education. She beams with joy! Knowing their stories and other personal narratives bring a new depth and perspective to the coffee we sip.

Even back at Caravan, when I am able to visualize those men and women, the daily tasks seem purposeful and energized.

It is an amazing experience to find that your pursuit of excellence in roasting is mirrored in extremely inspired farmers who feel the same connection to their own product as we do in roasting it.  Quality focused farmers are looking for someone they can connect with just as much as roasters are looking for great coffees and their farmers to connect with.

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When those connections happen, quality suddenly goes to a higher level. I was able to partake in new crops of Kochere, Abaya, Yirgacheffe… probably over 30 different coffees in the land they were grown and with the people who grew it. You can be sure the coffee you get back at Caravan Coffee will be both very personal and very delicious.

Coffee is not coffee without people connecting over it, and to truly “know” coffee is to know its story from beginning to end. This is either going to be in the form of a shared cup or an awareness of all the crafting hands involved in its journey to your table.

-Paul Allen

 

Women In Coffee – Traudel Germann Mick

Deep through the tortuous roads of Villa Rica, Peru, over the Andes mountains from the metropolis of Lima, is a bonny coffee farm. With varieties like Pacamara, Red Catuai, and Gesha lining the dusty roads for kilometers before the final grind to the house, worker lodgings, and processing facilities, Finca Santa Josefa is almost, but not quite, as impressive as its owner, Traudel Germann Mick.

Traudel impresses you on first meeting. Her eyes wide with passion as she discusses her farm and her coffee with a tumbling mix of German, Spanish, and English, she dominates any room. Until recently her beloved husband, Juan Luis Vier, stood beside her as a quiet counterpoint to her enthusiasm. Together they began changing Peruvian coffee producing culture in a way none of us will forget.

Santa Josefa had long produced a lot of solid Villa Rican coffees, but nothing very exceptional. Four or five years ago Traudel caught the specialty coffee vision. Juan Luis, who was an engineer, took her vision and executed it on their farm, creating processes, methods and equipment that allowed them to begin experimenting with fermentation times and types, variety separation (for the first time), and other unique approaches to coffee production.

It was with great sorrow that we, around the coffee world, learned of the death of Traudel’s husband Juan Luis, after a long battle with cancer. This hardship has only firmed Traudel’s resolve to produce better and better Peruvian coffee, proving to the world Juan Luis’s legacy of quality. As a coffee professional who counts among my most treasured moments the days I spent with Traudel and Juan Luis on Finca Santa Josefa last year, I also vow to carry his legacy through the years.

We women of coffee are widely diverse, remarkable, and courageous. We work on the impossible Andean slopes picking cherries, we drive international companies, and we tell stories that change the landscape of the world. Traudel Germann Mick is just getting started, and so are we. United by passion and hard work and our love for this wonderful beverage that brings us together, we, the women and the men of coffee, pivot from the old to the new with joy in our hearts.

Emily McIntyre