Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Coffee Farmer

Here I am standing in a field in the middle of nowhere. Buying coffee. Buying coffee in Tanzania. Coffee for our loyal customers who know coffee like some know wine or fine food. Those who appreciate the aroma and the subtle flavours and expect something different. Well, here is different all right. 130km of dusty climbing, twisting roads to reach this amazing place - coffee bushes all around and the bustle of the local farmer and his workers roasting beans for me to taste.

Open fire roasted coffee...the plains of Tanzania in the distance and the sound of nature all around. Does it get any better? Oh, yes. Taste the brew...taste the brew...In my mind, I can hear the sounds of all those coffee machines and coffee vending machines grinding up these beans and pouring out a unique, "slightly-tangy-on-the-side-of-the-tongue", crema rich espresso! Oh yes, I'm buying!

But wait, not too much enthusiam boyo. You may be paying Fairtrade prices...but lets not encourage a premium... "It's ok" I say. The farmer looks pained. "Not good?" he replies. His eyebrows rise and I can see this isn't just a crop of beans, these are his children he's selling off. Dang, this is hard. I relent. "Yeah, it's good...very good".

He can see I'm impressed. I can see the price rising. We look at each other.

"I can see you like this coffee" he responds after what seems like an hour. We have not stopped looking at each other. "I do like it and I think it will make a great espresso coffee through our coffee vending machines. Yes I'll buy".

He smiles, looks down at his hands, still cupping a few beans. He raises his head, and throws out his price. I know this is now the time to haggle - it's the part I hate - but he names my price. The price I had decided on. Uncanny. So I nod. We shake hands - and as I pull my hand back, he holds it firm "I can see you really liked my coffee" he says. He smiles a kind of "sly grin" smile. "That is why you get it for better price than the others". I smile. The handshake means something.

Three hours of heat and dust and potholes all mean something.

It's hard to believe that you'll wake up, press the switch on your coffee machine, drink and enjoy a fine blend of his coffee, and not even know where those beans have come from. It's sad to think you'll never see that farm, nor meet that wise old man. A simple life.

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