K Kat

Blue Mountain Coffee: Dodo or Buffalo?

Jan 19, 2009 · espresso · Legacy
Blue Mountain Coffee: Dodo or Buffalo?

We found this very interesting letter to the editor of a Jamaican newspaper, which describes the state of the coffee agricultural industry in different regions around that country. The writer references the fact that the farmers in non-Blue Mountain areas decreased their coffee output as a form of protest against the commercial industry's treatment and pricing. Over the last eight years, output has plummeted by nearly 85%, yet it hasn't been addressed -- or even picked up on -- by the international coffee community. Now, even Blue Mountain farmers are fed up with the industry and may head in this direction, as well, which would be a real shame. People often dismiss the essential influence of climate, environment and soil in the end result of any agricultural product -- and Blue Mountain coffee has a distinctly unique flavor. While varietals were transported to Hawaii and form the basis of Kona coffee, the environment is quite different and Blue Mountain still retains its special taste. This is part of a larger picture, however, that encompasses how we get our food -- who grows it, how it's grown, preserved and delivered. Applying a mass market ideology to our food supply has been detrimental in many respects, most poignantly in regard to the basic economic viability of smaller scale farms. If you've ever been part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group with an annual subscription, you understand that the cost and time involved in growing food on a smaller scale is significantly higher than what you might find at the local Safeway. It may not seem worth it -- you know, when you can't get oranges in December or your eggplants don't last 6 weeks. Could the Direct Trade or Fair Trade movements help balance this out? Will an international acceptance of more equitable trade practices happen quickly enough to address the issues these Jamaican farmers are experiencing? There is something to be treasured in the limited, hard-to-find, micro-production of artisan foods and we hope there will continue to be an avenue for Jamaican coffee to be shared with the rest of the world. With the explosion of the Robusta coffee industry in China, whether or not the international coffee industry will see the value in quality over quantity remains to be seen.

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