Coffee review: Counter Culture Finca Mauritania Microlots

by on January 7, 2008

Plainspoken Coffee. A Coffee Review for Ordinary People by Ordinary People, #32

In our background post on El Salvador, one of the coffees we reviewed was Counter Culture’s Finca Mauritania, from the slopes of the Ilamantepec (Santa Ana) volcano. The Santa Ana region (shaded on map) is a premier coffee-growing area in El Salvador. The Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range where Finca Mauritania is located is in close proximity to one of the country’s most important parks, El Imposible.

Counter Culture still offers the straight Bourbon varietal from Finca Mauritania. They’ve also had a limited offering of Aida’s Grand Reserve, a peaberry selection from all three of owner Aida Batlle’s neighboring farms: Finca Mauritania, Finca Kilimanjaro, and Finca Los Alpes. For this review, we chose another special set of microlots, Counter Culture Coffee’s Finca Mauritania Microlot Gift Pack. This unique set consists of three microlots, all from Finca Mauritania, but each set of beans underwent a different type of processing.

Nearly all coffee from Central America is “washed” or wet processed. After the coffee cherries are picked and sorted, the cherries are sent through a depulping mechanism that removes the skin and flesh. Some amount of sticky mucilage or flesh may remain, and so the beans are soaked in water for one or two days to break down this matter, which is washed away by more fresh water. Beans are then dried, often in the sun on large patios.

Pulped natural is a process by which the cherries are only skinned or partially depulped before they are dried. The climate in Central America, especially the humidity, is such that this drying process must tended to vigilantly, with a lot of raking and turning, not only so the gooey beans don’t stick together, but also to prevent molds or fungi from developing. Nearly non-existent five years ago, this process is becoming more popular in El Salvador because the country grows so much Bourbon variety coffee, according to Counter Culture buyer Peter Giuliano. The pulp natural process and Bourbon beans are great for espresso blends. In Latin America, Brazil dominates the espresso-component market, where the drier climate is more appropriate for pulp natural processing. Conquering this technique opens up new frontiers for El Salvador.

If done with finesse, the enzymes in the pulp transfer flavors to the beans — the intensity will vary depending on the amount of pulp left on, drying time, and other factors. This method lowers acidity and increases body, and introduces an often fruity sweetness.

We indeed found this to be a medium-bodied coffee with a syrupy mouthfeel. Nearly all tasters found some curiously unique flavors in a French press preparation: pepper, salt, garlic (which was not as bad as it sounds), basil, spice, a complicated enzymatic astringency (this from a student who had just taken his chemistry final). As a drip coffee, it struck a couple of us as vaguely Sumatran, with muted woodsy and leather tones. One taster adequately summed up what we all experienced, “There’s a lot going on on my tongue right now.”

I was reminded of the pulped naturals we’d tried from Brazil’s Daterra Estate, although this selection was clearly more complex. I think it had the characteristics that would in fact make it terrific in an espresso blend. It was interesting and valuable to taste beside the other lots, but we were sort of confused by it and agreed that on its own, it was the least compelling of the three to drink straight. It garnered 3 motmots.

The more typical wet processed selection in this gift pack was the peaberry microlot. Peaberries are those coffee cherries which only develop a single, round seed rather than the pair of flat-sided seeds usually produced. About 5 to 10% of coffee cherries produce peaberries. These small, round beans roast more evenly than typical flat beans, but also more quickly because of their size so they must be roasted with care.

Although there isn’t any scientific proof that I know of that each peaberry gets “twice the flavor,” they are commonly thought of as being more intensely sweet and acid. Nor can I say that this peaberry microlot was twice as sweet as the rest of the FM crop, but we all agreed — bright, clean, sweet, deep, and lovely! Various tasters got some malt, baker’s chocolate, nuts, cherry, and honey. I picked up a bit of a floral aroma and tasted sweet apple in the cooling cup (I’m always pretty pleased with myself when I can pick up some sort of unique flavor, and nearly pulled a muscle patting myself on the back when I read later that some of Counter Culture’s cuppers also tasted apple). The finish was super smooth and syrupy when prepared in a French press.

This is a superior example of an exceptional classic Central American coffee. I could drink this every day and not get tired of it, and when I think of great coffee, this is the profile that I hold standard. When we cast our votes on this one, something happened that hasn’t occurred in a long time: it got 4 motmots across the board.

“Pasa” means “raisin” in Spanish, which is what coffee cherries look like when completely dried with their flesh intact. Dry process coffees are dried without removing any of the coffee cherry; the beans are removed, or hulled, after drying. The drying may take up to a month, and as with pulped naturals must be done very carefully — especially in humid climates — to prevent any molds, fungi, or bacteria from tainting the cherries. This process, common in more arid African nations, creates bold flavors, often berry-centric fruitness with heavy body.

Dry process is essentially unheard of in Central America, but it captured the imagination of Aida Batlle. I’ll let Peter Giuliano relay the story:

“Aida has completely innovated the Pasa process, based on things she has heard (but never seen firsthand) about Ethiopian and Brazilian natural processes. Aida has a strong experimental streak, and jumped into the process with her trademark enthusiasm and quality focus. Aida is always innovating, and she decided to experiment with tree-dried coffees. Just leaving them on the tree to dry was a challenge, she had to post a security guard so that people would not sneak onto the farm and pick the coffee while it dried on the tree!  Milling was another challenge — since nobody does dried-in-the-fruit coffee in El Salvador there was no equipment to do the milling, so they had to improvise with a small mill intended to husk samples in a cupping lab. As a result, it was incredibly labor intensive to produce this coffee.”

We were blown away when we opened the bag of Pasa — it was boldly fruity, mostly the familar blueberry aroma of an Ethiopian coffee. There was also a bit of a woodsy/earthy smell. The blueberry translated into the cup, although perhaps not as forcefully as an African. I’d recently tried Counter Culture’s Ethiopian Biloya and the Pasa was its more restrained and modest sister. Other than the berries, tasters commented on hints of apricot, the balance, smoothness, creamy mouthfeel, and overall sweet richness. We would have certainly thought this was a dry-process Ethiopian, but I believe we also would have wondered about the quiet differences. 3.5 motmots.

Post-script: I don’t know what Aida’s future plans are for the Pasa, but I think this a perfect substitute for an Ethiopian coffee. It has the added advantage of having less distance to travel — less fuel for shipping. Whereas Ethiopian coffees come from many small shareholders, we know exactly where the Finca Mauritania comes from, and that it is grown in a shade polyculture that benefits biodiversity. Aida is also in the process of converting all of her farms to certified organic. I know if I had the choice between a dry process African and this coffee, I’d pick the Pasa. Same great flavor, more sustainable.

Tasting these three selections, from the same farm with different preparations, was fun and enlightening…and tasty, of course. Bravo to Counter Culture for putting this package together, at a bargain price.

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Revised on March 23, 2014

Posted in Coffee reviews,Latin America

Chris O'Brien, BeanActivist January 26, 2008 at 3:52 pm

I'm curious to hear more of your thoughts about Counter Culture's sustainability practices. I just returned from visiting several producer groups in Colombia – one of which sells to Counter Culture. They were growing conventional coffee in full sun.

I'm also confused about Counter Culture's fair trade practices. On their website under "sustainability" they have a "fair trade" link that opens a pdf in which they claim they that they sell Fair Trade Certified coffees but searching their site I couldn't find a single coffee that was advertised as being fair trade certified. In my understanding, their whole 'microlot' approach is by definition disqualified from being certified as fair trade since it comes from individual growers not coops.

It does appear that they are paying high prices to farmers for their microlots but how much of the coffee sold by Counter Culture is microlots? Do they also sell lots of coffee that is bought at market prices?

I don't have lots of preconceptions about whether what these guys are doing is good or bad or mixed – I'm just curious to learn more.

Cheers,
Chris

P.S. I'll be posting soon on http://www.BeanActivist.com about the three coops we visited in Colombia.

BirdBarista January 29, 2008 at 7:52 am

Overall, I'm very impressed with CCC's sustainability efforts, both relative to other retail roasters and in general. They work directly with a lot of producers, and provide a lot of specific information about farms to help consumers decide on how eco-friendly their coffee is (e.g., their Source project), and these are things that I think often provide more value than a certification seal on a package.

I don't think their literature on Fair Trade certified coffees is misleading. They say that not all of their coffees are FT certified because of their own relationships with farmers, some of whom don't qualify for FT certification. Since it's been my observation that CCC has increased their direct relationships the last few years, and has a high turnover of offerings, it could be that right now they don't have any FT certified coffees.

I haven't reviewed or researched any of CCC's Colombian coffee, but I see that they are not noted as being shade grown.

I don't want to seem as if I'm in a love-fest with CCC. I review quite a few of their coffees because 1) they so often have offerings I'm interested in trying, 2) they make it much easier for me to research the sustainability of the source because of all the info they provide, and 3) I like to support a roaster that is moving in the direction that I think is worthwhile. I can't tell you how often I come up against a coffee I'd like to try or review, but there just isn't the information I need to make a sustainability assessment — when I write to the roaster, they don't even know.

I think someone from CCC will weigh in here and answer your questions more specifically. Meanwhile, I look forward to your stuff on Colombia. The American Bird Conservancy has encouraged me to visit their preserves on or near shade coffee farms there. If anybody out there would like to help finance this trip, there's a tip jar on the sidebar! :-)

Kim Elena Bullock January 29, 2008 at 8:49 am

Hi Chris,
Thanks for raising some interesting questions about complex subjects! I am Counter Culture Coffee’s Sustainability and Producer Relations Manager and I am always happy to dig a little bit deeper into fair trade and sustainability issues.

First of all, I'm excited that you visited some of our producer partners in Cauca! That part of Colombia is one of my favorite places in the world. The not-so-shady farms of some of CCC’s La Golondrina producer partners in Cauca seem to counter our dedication to shade and environmental sustainability, but I think that the nature of the La Golondrina project helps explain it a little bit: because the focus of the project is to find quality, provide incentives for quality and build a relationship model as an alternative to the undifferentiated, volume-focused model that has defined Colombian coffee in past generations. We're still in the early stages of this project (this is year two) and we're thrilled by what we've found so far, but we recognize that we all have a long way to go in many areas, shade among them! Most of these producers have never sold to anyone other than the Colombian Coffee Federation (FNC) and CCC is still in the stage of building trust with associations of farmers around Inzá, Popayán and Páez. When I was in Colombia in September for the La Golondrina awards ceremony, I visited numerous small farms and my experience probably parallels yours: I saw some poor shade, some decent shade and no dense, forest-like shade. I couldn’t help but be a little bit disappointed, but then again, we're just beginning and I believe in the potential in these communities! Plus, the FNC has not historically advocated for shade, plant diversity or heirloom coffee varietals. I asked the owner of the least-shady farm I visited in San Antonio, Pedro Rivera, whether he had cut trees on purpose to increase production, in fact it’s quite the opposite: he has planted trees over the past few years and has seen positive results in his soil and coffee. Experiences like this one inspire me and remind me of the huge potential we have to effect positive environmental, social and fiscal change in partnership with these farmers. That said, Julie is correct that we do not sell it as shade grown (and it's one of two exceptions in our Latin American coffee lineup) because it's definitely not there yet.

As for our stance on fair trade and your observations on the absence of Fair Trade Certification, what you have noticed on our site is not an accident. As you know, FTC applies only to co-ops of small farmers, and in fact, we currently purchase seven FTC coffees from co-operatives certified by the Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO). We choose not to sell them with a FTC label or Transfair USA’s black-and-white logo for two reasons: first, because no existing certification expresses all of the work we put into building direct, long-term relationships with farmers based on communication, trust and quality; and second, because it only applies to co-ops of farmers and some of our most progressive, sustainability-minded partners are ineligible for FTC because their farms are too large or because they don’t belong to co-ops. In our case, the international FTC floor price is at the low end – a jumping-off point, if you will – of the spectrum of what we pay for coffee, whether we buy from a FTC co-operative or from an individual farmer. To support quality and provide a sustainable livelihood, we’ve found that we need to pay at least the FTC minimum, and that getting to know farmers and co-ops directly gives us a better sense of their needs than any floor price could. Fair trade is both a confusing and a hot topic in the coffee-drinking world these days, so you can imagine that we get a lot of questions about what fair trade means to us. The pdf file on our website is meant to explain that to Counter Culture, the principles of just, fair trade apply to all of our coffees, whether those coffees are eligible for Transfair USA’s Fair Trade Certification or not.

Finally, you are right to assume that micro-lots are not interchangeable with FTC: in some instances, we buy micro-lots from a Fair Trade Certified co-op of farmers – for example, last year’s Karaba micro-lot from the Koakaka co-op of Karaba, Rwanda – and because the co-op is certified, the coffee is, too, whether micro lot or regular lot. In the case of larger farms, we might purchase a micro and a regular lot from that single producer. We believe in selecting micro lots and paying premiums for those small lots as a way to provide an incentive for producers to pursue ever-better quality, but it bears mentioning that our regular lots are still exceptionally delicious, high quality coffees and that the prices we pay for these regular lots are still well above “market prices.” One other great thing about micro lots is that they help consumers recognize superb coffee and connect higher prices to higher quality taste experiences!

Whew! This is a long one. I hope I've answered some of your questions and I looking forward to reading about your visits to Colombia (and elsewhere) on your blog.

thanks,
Kim Elena

BirdBarista January 29, 2008 at 10:41 am

Thanks to both Chris and Kim for this conversation!

Question for Chris: The coffee "C" price is about $1.35/lb. I also see that FLO "unanimously decided not to change the Fairtrade Minimum Prices and Premiums" at their 16 January meeting. I take it this was after their December 2007 announcement that raised the price to $1.25 per pound to take effect on 1 June 2008, which won't be reviewed until 2010.

We often hear the minimum price is $1.26. What is the current minimum and current proposed price, is it tied with the "C" market (which was the price Fair Trade was responding to to begin with), and with the "C" price being higher now, what does that mean to co-ops with existing FT contracts? I know the "C" is a composite of various coffee types, but isn't there the risk that producers are going to get less than they would on the open market, given the rise in prices?

Peter G January 29, 2008 at 12:55 pm

We could have a whole discussion on fair trade and its certifications! It's a complex subject.

Technically, the fair trade minimum price as set by the Fairtrade Labeling Organization is 1.21. On top of that, there are "social premiums" paid to the co-op to use at the discretion of the co-op management. This was recently raised from 5 cents to 10 cents, and the "organic premium" was raised from 15 cents to 20 cents. So, as far as roasters and consumers are concerned, the fair trade price has gone up to 1.31/1.51 (conventional/organic). However, very ironically, there is no norm within Fair Trade Certified about how much the farmer himself gets paid, and this varies widely. In some Fair Trade certified co-ops, the farmer gets paid exactly, or even below, what they would on the open market. No system is perfect, and that includes the Fair Trade Certified system.

When the 'C' market exceeds the fair trade minimum, the Fair Trade Certified price becomes the C price, and therefore fluctuates. This is itself a controversial thing that is not necessarily good for farmers, which I could go into in detail if you wish. I could talk about this stuff all day.

As Kim mentioned in her post, it is our feeling that the Fair Trade Certified base price is far too low to produce great-quality coffee sustainably. So, we seek to drive both the price to the farmer and the quality higher every day. So far we've been able to pay premiums to farmers that far exceed fair trade minimums. We're really proud of that.

It's also our feeling that the best way to deliver great prices to farmers, and also assess and improve the environmental impact, is to work directly and constantly with coffee farmers. That's both my and Kim's job. A wonderful byproduct of that work is that we get to collect lots of details about our supply chain, and share those details with those who want to know more. That's transparency and we really love it. We feel that is the future of great, sustainable coffee.

And, Chris has a good point: although microlots are not per se non-Fair Trade certifiable, so far Fair Trade has not found a way to accept direct programs like our La Golondrina program into the certification scheme. This is because of a number of reasons, including the current rule that all Fair Trade Certified coffee must come through a co-op system.

It's all very interesting, sorry for all the details.

Peter G

Chris O'Brien, BeanActivist January 29, 2008 at 9:11 pm

Wow, glad my comment elicited such thoughtful replies. All very appreciated.

ALL:
In full disclosure, I should mention two things. First, in case you visit my http://www.BeanActivist.com blog, I'm Chris O'Brien not Chris Treter. He's the other blogger there and my soon-to-be coauthor. Chris T. owns Higher Grounds Trading Co. with his wife Jody. I am a member-owner of the Seven Bridges Cooperative (www.breworganic.com), a company that sells organic beer-brewing supplies but also sells green coffee beans for homeroasting, all of which are fair trade and organic certified.

Second, I should also mention that my professional work involves certifications. I don't get any money from certifiers, but I do strongly support them in general. See our organization's website for more about who we are and what we do: http://www.ResponsiblePurchasing.org.

BIRDBARISTA (I realize you're the blogger here but I don't know your real name):
I have the same challenge you do, i.e. getting access to credible information about businesses' sustainability and justice practices. That's what I find most valuable about certifications, even with their flaws, at least they confirm claims against a verifiable standard so consumers don't have to rely on a company's good words or good intentions. And hey, I gotta add one of those tipjar thingies to my site too!

ELENA:
I also heard from the farmers that the FNC discourages organic production and actually has standards prohibiting too many trees on a coffee plot (we were told no more than 5 shade trees were allowed in a hectare). However, ASORCAFE, the group in Cauca, said that no one has ever asked them for organic or shade grown coffee. At the end of our meeting with their board and a group of their members, many said they were eager to explore organic certification as soon as possible. Several expressed outright frustration at the Federation's pressure to remove trees and use chemical inputs. They gave me the impression that they were serious. I urge you to express to them that you too support organic and shade and that you're willing to pay extra for it. As one of their buyers, I think they would be responsive if you asked for organic and shade.

PETER:
Thanks for explaining the fair trade pricing for Birdbarista.

You said that visiting your producers (which I do agree is central to improving fairness and sustainability in the coffee trade) and collecting lots of details is "transparency." I disagree. As many shortcomings as the certifications may have, the one thing they do is provide an independent verification of claims. I'm afraid you can tell me your company pays fair prices all you want, but where's the proof? I don't actually doubt you (in fact, I believe you), but trusting your word isn't good enough. Many companies actually do lie, both intentionally and accidentally. Certifications level the playing field so that any company can adhere to a given standard and have it verified. If the standard isn't strong enough for you then participate in the process to get it strengthened or have your own practices verified another way or make your corporate records publicly available. In short, show me a certification or show me your contracts. That's transparency.

By the way, I'm eager to attend one of your Friday tastings at the DC office. Might get there this Friday – are you two in DC or one of the other offices?

Thanks for the good dialog.

Cheers,
Chris O

Peter G January 30, 2008 at 7:13 am

Thanks for the conversation!

Chris, as for the points you made to me, I agree completely. Transparency is the willingness to share all information with all parties, no matter what. This is a central value in our company, and I have always been willing to share the details of our contracts. However, we've always lacked a way to share them in an organized way with those who are interested, especially because any discussion of coffee prices gets complicated: you have to explain the difference between FOB and farm gate, for example, and the "C", and fixed prices, and prefinancing, etc. etc. etc. We love to do this work, and have sought out these conversations, and responded eagerly whenever asked about coffee prices or farmer's share. Of course, that's not enough, though. To be truly transparent, a company should make it easy to find and evaluate pertinent details, and we've been trying how to make this information easily available to everyone, especially since we're so proud of what we do! We're always trying to do a better job at being truly transparent. I will say that real transparency goes beyond just the contracts, however, and includes details like farmers' real names, geographic location, environmental commitment, etc, etc.

Third party certification is another matter, of course, and I agree that it is very helpful for consumers to have clear, legitimate, third-party certifications. I'll never forget when I really realized this: I was doing a question-and-answer after speaking about our trading model, and a college student asked: "That all sounds wonderful, but how do I know you are telling the truth right now? I feel like companies lie to me all the time."

So, we agree that third-party certs are helpful. I would add that it is important that third party certifications be clear, themselves transparent, and available to everyone who wishes to participate in the certification program. As far as the TransFair certification goes, we have long been involved with this community, trying to make that certification better and more widely available. These are big challenges, as you no doubt know!

Thanks for the good questions, Chris. I know you are asking in the best way. This is how we get better, and we treasure the opportunity to talk about all these things. I hope you make it by the DC training center sometime- also, you're always welcome if you want to come visit us in Durham! I'll be in DC in a couple of weeks for a coffee conference (coffee fest) and if you come by to a cupping then, I will no doubt be there! It would be great to meet you.

Peter G

Kim Elena January 30, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Veeeeery Iiiiinteresting.
Among the roasters that participate in this quality-finding-and-development project called Las Mingas (that's the multi-roaster project, and our coffee is called La Golondrina… confusing enough?!), CCC is the only one who has made supporting organic production a top priority. We currently have two separate La Golondrina lots, one of which is certified organic and from an association called Organico in Popayan and Timbio, the other of which is conventional and comes from ASORCAFE (and this year, ASCAFE of Paez).
My dream is that we buy 100% certified organic coffee for La Golondrina and that we buy more coffee from ASORCAFE, which is one of the strongest associations that I've seen anywhere. I definitely expressed our dedication to shade-grown, organic coffee and our willingness to pay premiums to support those transitions at my meeting with the association, so I'm surprised to hear that the message didn't seem to stick. That said, I also recognize that it was my first visit and that supporting a project like this will take some time and a LOT of emphasis. I couldn't agree more that shade and organic are the right direction for ASORCAFE and I look forward to further work with them to move in that direction!

BirdBarista January 30, 2008 at 9:39 pm

Chris, you mention something that essentially launched this blog:

"That's what I find most valuable about certifications, even with their flaws, at least they confirm claims against a verifiable standard so consumers don't have to rely on a company's good words or good intentions."

One of the main problems with shade or environmental certification, I believe, is that consumers believe it is the best possible coffee for birds, without understanding the criteria or understanding that there are perfectly viable (sometimes better) alternatives from uncertified farms. I think the Smithsonian criteria are very good, but there are so few SMBC-certified farms, and consumers just tend to believe that any coffee labeled "shade" or "bird-friendly" (using SMBC's trademarked phrase) is just fine, despite the fact that no third-party certifier or even a person that can tell the difference between a Black-faced Solitaire and a Clay-colored Robin is deciding whether a farm is really eco-friendly. American consumers, at least, are lazy. Some sort of standardized seal on a package of coffee is ideal, but we are a long way from a "biodiversity" seal that 1) actually represents criteria that are ecologically sound and applicable to various regions of the world, 2) is financially manageable to far more producers than they are now, 3) is are backed by an organization that offers plenty of support on the ground rather than just a list of rules to follow, and 4) is understandable to consumers.

I don't know if this is attainable, or how to get there. My "strategy" right now is to try to inform people about what's at stake, and support producers and roasters that are doing the right thing (as best as I can determine).

Kim – I wrote a letter of support to the 21st of September co-operative in Zaragoza, Mexico which I think you delivered. I wonder if this is helpful — to communicate directly with producers and encourage them to preserve biodiversity, use sustainable growing methods, etc. (in addition to buying their coffee, of course!). I'd go straight to Colombia and deliver the message myself, of course, if only that tip jar would work!

I have more thoughts on shade certification coming up. I'm sure the more I learn about this the more embarrassed I'll be looking back at the things I say now, but we all have to start someplace and I've only been drinking this stuff for a couple years!

One more thing, Chris…I know Seven Bridges is in CA, but is it named by any chance for the Seven Bridges in WI?
– Julie

Chris O'Brien, BeanActivist February 1, 2008 at 11:36 am

Great conversation here – wish we were having it in person over cups of coffee.

Regarding transparency, there's one effort afoot that I think is on the right track. The folks at Cooperative Coffees (the cooperative importer for about 20-25 roasters in N. America) has created a website called coffeepath that allows its roaster members to post their contracts online in pdf. The coffee bags display a tracking number so consumers can go to the website and type in the number and up pops all the documentation about the coffee – the contracts with the coops, the certifications, the shipping docs, etc. It's complicated to be sure and few people are likely to ever bother using a site like this, but it should only take a few users to "follow the coffee path" using the site and verify a company's integrity. Then the company's reputation is established as being genuine and transparent. I think it's a great idea and in many ways it trumps the need for certifications – which can help remove the certifications' financial burdens from the farmers.

Regarding shade, nature sure is messy. So no shade certification is ever going to be perfect. And really, one of the major flaws seems to me to be not just that the certifications are imperfect at measuring diversity but that they put much of the burden of proof on poor farmers who can't afford the fees. It seems backwards that we force the "good guys" to pay to prove their goodness instead of charging the "bad guys" for being bad. Ultimately I think it comes down to the need for policy changes, in producer countries as well as consumer countries. The full sun, low-price, chemical coffee estates should be the ones paying extra fees for violating basic minimum standards for sustainability and equity.

But how do we get there? I really don't know. Any ideas? Should the International Coffee Agreement come back in full force and be adapted to include sustainability standards? No one seems to be talking about the ICA but it seems to me like a reasonable starting point – a global agreement on production and consumption that establishes some predictability in the marketplace, thus removing much of the speculation (i.e. gambling) that causes the drastic swings in pricing; and that establishes minimum environmental agriculture practices expected by consuming countries.

Thoughts?

Cheers,
Chris O

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