This past weekend I had the opportunity to serve coffee at Journeyman Distillery for the Artisan Market. As I drove back to our coffee shop after the long day on my feet I was struck by a handful of things, some simple (my feet really hurt!) and some things requiring more thought and response. This blog is a result of the things requiring more response.
I love to drive and most of the time when I drive I quickly grow bored with the standard route and so I take lots of detours. Saturday night’s detour involved Flynn road and a mental detour. As my mind wandered I was caught by the days events mostly marked by the people who walked through the door at Journeyman. One by one I was greeted by people, some I knew by name, seeing them so regularly over the last three years that I was also greeted with a hug and others I only know by seeing their face regularly in our coffee shop. But when I take both of those groups of people I already feel very fortunate and blessed to be part of a community that we know as Sawyer, MI. But my thoughts went on from there…
I met a number of people that I didn’t know at all, that informed me that they had been in our coffee shop even earlier that morning or afternoon and then had come over to Journeyman to check out the Artisan market. This affected me also, because I realize that I live and own a business in a community that believes in and supports small businesses, not just mine. I owe all of you a great debt of gratitude for your faithfulness and support over the past three or four years, from coffee sampling in the tap room at Greenbush, to the extreme heat and rain of the two summers of the Coffee Cart and finally to this past summer in our brick and mortar coffee shop, I thank all of you.
There is one final group that blesses me. This group is our staff, they serve out at the counter, behind the espresso machine and in the back, next to the roaster every day. Infusco would not be what it is today without each of these individuals and there are not words to express what each of them mean to me personally and how they affect the product that we gather around every day.
Coffee for me is not just a wonderful drink that I love, but a medium that allows me to connect and interact with a community that has been gracious enough to let me join it’s rank and share in its growth. Thank you, thank you and again thank you!
Owner / Bean Burner
Infusco Coffee Roasters
Today we meet a mother and her daughters. Starting left to right we have Julianna(mother), Eunice and Ruth. They also belong to the Kamba tribe. Julianna and her daughters live in Kyandote (pronounced Chee-an-dotay.) This area of Kenya is one of the more impoverished areas and has been hit very hard by the poor coffee prices. If you look closely in the background of this picture you will see that these women are hoeing up corn or maize. A few years ago the coffee market took a very hard decline in Kenya and most farmers either stopped caring for their crop or cut it down and planted corn in its place because it is more useful for feeding their families. These ladies are actually in the process of taking the corn out from around their coffee plants. If farmers like Julianna and her husband Sammy were able to get a fair price on their coffee, they would not need to plant the corn every year. Since, coffee is harvested yearly without being replanted the cost in growing it is just the time it takes to care for it.
As we drove up to these three ladies, we drove past a mud hut with a thatched roof. When the rainy season comes (March) the hut will erode more and more. The roof will no doubt leak through the straw and sooner or later the straw will collapse in. When the roof gives way it will rain on someone, maybe an adult, maybe a child, but there will be no escaping the elements at that point. What I realized while I was there was that all of the stories we hear and pictures we see sometimes cause us to grow calloused and that behind every picture and story is a person. These people are just like us, they get cold and wet in the rain, they cry when they are sad or alone. We can see how people live in another country and see the depths of their poverty and then somehow move on unaffected.
But, even as I write this I am affected…
Meet Jones, he is a coffee farmer from the Kyuu (pronounced Choe) area of Kenya. Jones is part of the Kamba tribe. We found Jones pruning his coffee plants as we drove by. His story was a familiar one and being very friendly he shared with us what he was doing and how coffee farming has affected him as he continued to prune his plants. Just down the hill behind Jones is a coffee processing plant which is run by the local co-op. In April and May as Jones harvests the coffee cherries (which we will show you in a later post) he takes them down the hill to the processing plant. When he drops off the coffee cherries, he waits about one week and then gets paid a very small fraction of the price of his crop. He then waits about 12 months to collect the rest of his money, which is the first tragedy in the whole situation. The second tragedy here is that the money he gets paid, in total equals about $0.38 per pound of coffee cherries. This is what keeps most coffee farmers impoverished in Kenya. The final problem with this whole situation is that currently the price to buy green coffee (un-roasted) is about $5.27 per pound, which means that the system has been setup to take advantage of these farmers that produce one of the best coffees in the world. Before we left Jones, he said to us “If there is anything you can do to help us, please help!” There is more to this story please stay tuned…
Mount Killamanjaro in the background
Over the next couple of posts, I hope to introduce you to Kenya. This picture is of one beautiful scene we encountered while there, but my hope is to introduce you to the Kenyan people, specifically the Kumba tribe.
From the moment we arrived in Kalimarket (a little village about an 1 and 1/2 hours outside of Nairobi) to the time we left we were warmly welcomed. The children and adults were friendly and curious about the “glowing skinned” people who had come to their village.