Sunday, January 31, 2010

Haitian earthquake fund set up through Just Haiti

Coming into today, I had different intentions for this post. I had an idea to write about some health benefits of coffee I came across, but through my research I found something that I thought was more interesting at this particular time.

On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 M earthquake struck the capital city of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. More than 150,000 people have been reported dead and the numbers keep coming in. Thousands of commercial buildings have been destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly and the Port-au-Prince Cathedral.

After weeks of seeing all of the devastation online and on the news on TV, I have began to wonder about the economy in Haiti now, mainly how the earthquake has affected coffee production in the country. Just Haiti, a program committed to help alleviate poverty, hunger, violence, illiteracy, and disease in Haiti through developing small businesses and aims to build a equitable fair partnership between coffee consumers in North America and coffee growers in Haiti, has asked supporters to contribute to an earthquake relief fund that will benefit Baradères.

 Baradères is the home to coffee growers in Haiti, who grow Kafe Lespwa. Ever since the devastating earthquake, thousands of Haitians are fleeing to towns or other remote areas that aren't as affected as some of the main cities like Port-au-Prince and Léogâne. Many of them are escaping to Baradères, where family and friends will try to feed them, clothe them and help them through this rough time.

Baradères is located at the far end of a long peninsula that stretches west from Port-au-Prince and the region covers about 60 square miles. The economy is solely based on subsistence farming and coffee production only occurs within that context. Subsistence farming is where only enough food and crops are grown to feed the family and maybe only a little extra to sell on the market. According to the Just Haiti Web site, people of Baradères don't -or can't- participate much in the cash market.

Just Haiti is primarily focused on the coffee-growing area around the Baradères River region. The amount of coffee grown there is unknown, but two coffee varieties are grown, based on elevation. Up until about 1986, Brokers in Baradères and elsewhere in Haiti purchased the growers' coffee crop, but today the growers produce and sell their coffee primarily to local residents, sometimes for barter or cash.

Production of the coffee is all done by hand, no chemicals or machines are used during the process. When the coffee cherries are ripe, they are picked and put into a water tank. The bad cherries float and are then discarded. From this point, most countries use wet-milling processes, but the process here is a bit different. After the floating, growers dry the cherries on cement patios, which produces what the Haitians call kafe an krok. Coffee can be stored for several months in this state. Coffee that is not stored, hand tools are used to knock off the pulp and remove the husk in a single step. The husked, ready-to-roast green bean parts are sorted and cleaned. This is done by a circular mat made of palm leaves. These beans are called kafe pile. (A loan fund set up by Just Haiti, will help the growers to eventually be able to finance the establishment of wet milling methods. This will help make processing more efficient and increase earning potential of the farmers' labor).

Since the population of Baradères will be growing more quickly, they need to build a more sustainable economy, and that is what the funds will help. Just Haiti lists coffee as being the anchor of that economy and encourages supporters to buy Kafe Lespwa.

Even through this terrible time for Haiti, I think it is remarkable that they are still able to make a living with their coffee and that it wasn't destroyed in the earthquake. If you are interested in donating anything here is the link, Even if you don't donate anything, I just ask, that the next time you enjoy a cup of coffee, just think about all that has happened in Haiti and hope that the people there get the much needed support they need to get their lives back on track and the country cleaned up.

Until next time, I leave you with these couple of photos from the Just Haiti Web site of Baradères.

Baradères river valley region

Grower hand-sorts coffee.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How the java got its jo: The history of a popular American drink

I started drinking coffee when I was still really young, I know it probably wasn't the best idea, but my parents got me hooked. I would wake up and my parents would already have a big pot brewed and ready to go, all  I had to do was pour some into a cup and add cream and I was good to go for a couple of hours. For many of us, coffee is the type of drink that is usually just there, wherever you go, but have you ever sat down to actually think about how coffee even got here and where it came from?

According to National Geographic, coffee dates back to A.D. 800, when the legendary Ethiopian goatherd, Kaldi, noticed his goats dancing from coffee shrub to coffee shrub and grazing on a cherry-red berry that contained coffee beans. He wondered how the berries would effect him, so he chopped himself some and soon after he was dancing and frolicking with the rest of his goats.

As the National Coffee Association and legend has it, Kaldi shared his findings with the abbot at the  local monastery and he too was filled with much energy and alertness through the evening prayer. The abbot then shared his findings with other monks at the local monastery and from there the word about coffee started to move East as more and more people found out about the effects of it. This was just the beginning of the journey of coffee that would become a huge phenomenon all across the globe.

Coffee is grown in a multitude of countries around the world today, including; in Asia, Africa, South America, the islands of the Caribbean, and the Pacific.

The first people to begin trading coffee were the Arabs, and by the sixteenth century it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Coffee was huge in this area at that time because the Muslims prohibited alcoholic drinks by the Koran, so they found that coffee was a close substitute to experiencing the same type of feelings when consumed.

Coffee then spread to Europe and by the mid-1600’s, coffee was brought to New Amsterdam, a location later named New York. This new drink spread into houses rapidly, but tea continued to be the drink of choice until about 1773. That is when colonists revolted against a heavy tax on tea, which was imposed by King George. This revolt, known as the Boston Tea Party, would forever change the American drinking preference to coffee.

Now that you have learned a little about the origins of coffee, I leave you all with this...

A cup of coffee shared with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

And so it we go!

Hi everyone! This is the first post to this blog that I have dedicated to coffee. I am a sophomore at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio and right now I am taking an Online Journalism class and one of the requirements of the class is to write a blog throughout the entire quarter, so this is why I am doing a blog about coffee.Through this blog, I hope to not only learn more about coffee, but enhance my journalism skills and learn a new form of writing-blogging. I have written articles that have been published in a couple papers and I do have another blog, but I haven't actually had a blog before that was anything more than just a "diary," so I hope this blog goes beyond that and I learn a lot from writing it.

I had a rough time trying to come up with a topic that I could connect with the Athens community and be interested in it at the same time. I came up with the idea of coffee, because my professor, Jennette Lovejoy, said that a blog should be about something you wake up and think about. When I wake up (as well as many other people) the most important thing on my mind is getting coffee. I know that may sound cliche, but over the years I have broadened my liking for coffee and started drinking different coffee drinks beyond just black, so I really do enjoy coffee and look forward to learning more about it.

I am still trying to think of different things to write about and how I can make this interesting for my readers and I have some ideas, but I hope that once I get more into this I will think of some unique topics especially since there are some pretty cool coffee shops in Athens. I look forward to learning more about coffee and enlightening my readers about things they may have never thought of and to get out and talk with people in Athens about it. Of course, I look forward to trying new coffee drinks I have not yet had.