It's an interesting and challenging time to be a Fair Trader. Market pressure and changing weather patterns in the coffee lands have conspired to make "business as usual" a
more difficult proposition for our producer partners. In this issue of Peace Spokes, Anna offers an examination of this complicated issue in her Harvest Update. Kyle reports about the trip to visit our Guatemalan suppliers that he, Queen Bean Lee and Peace Coffee prize winner Sara Elhardt took in recent months. We also feature a Q and A with Katie Dirks in our Meet the Barista series, and IATP Report from Andrew and an upcoming events calendar. And last but not least, we've got a new cartoon caption contest! It's a pretty meaty issue so grab a cuppa, sit back, relax and read on...
by Anna Canning, Peace Coffee Project Manager
Perhaps you've already noticed it in the grocery aisle; perhaps you're an avid follower of the commodity markets; or perhaps you've read, seen, or heard the news lately: coffee prices are up. "What's going on in the commodity market?" seems to be the question of the season. It's a complex system and experts disagree on the precise causes of the rapid rise in coffee prices that have now reached 34-year highs -- and no one can say for sure whether they'll continue to rise or fall. General consensus is that we're experiencing the interaction of a few factors. As we reported last year, recent harvests in many areas have been lower, which producers are attributing to changing weather patterns, putting pressure on the available supply of quality coffee. Add to that increasing coffee consumption around the world in producing countries such as Brazil and as well as in emerging markets such as China, where more people are reaching for a coffee mug every day.
So far, that's classic supply and demand, forces whose interactions are sketched quite neatly in a straight diagonal line across the pages of high school econ text books across the country. Real life, however, is not so neat. In recent years, as the rosy glow paled on the notion of investing in real estate and vague mortgage products, investors flocked to diversify into commodities. Increased speculation has increased volatility across the markets for various products and means that an increase in coffee prices can no longer be so cleanly linked to bad weather in Brazil, for example (if curious, our parent organization IATP has thought extensively on this topic.
All these factors impact commodity market prices for basic, Folgers' grade coffee. Similarly, as more coffee drinkers come to appreciate coffee as more than a generic caffeine delivery system, demand is increasing for specialty grade coffee. We've long told the story of the coffee we roast as being unique from region to region, community to community, not just "decaf" or "regular" or the "washed mild" of the trade. That's not just marketing hype and just as the flavor of each bean is unique, so too is the impact of recent developments on each farmer group.
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by Kyle Feldman, Peace Coffee Customer Service Representative
Coffee has been so intertwined with American culture and routine for so long that it cannot help be taken for granted by most of those who rely on it for their daily dose of energy or pleasure, or their chance to relax. For many of us, it is easily accessible and not usually worth more mental, physical, or emotional consideration than making sure that it is the right temperature or strength to do the trick.
One of the most important changes that the specialty coffee movement has brought into our modern culture is the consciousness that coffee is more than a commodity -- it is a nuanced product of specific lands and specific people, with varying degrees of quality, different processing techniques, and ecological considerations. And those who choose to look closely learn the stories of small-scale coffee farmers, both individual and collective, usually fraught with poverty, land ownership struggles, and disenfranchisement by the political and economic systems in which they are compelled to participate.
Fair Traders like Peace Coffee have sought to give coffee growers a more honored and valued place in the chain that brings coffee from their land to your cup, by working with cooperatives that give individual farmers the collective power to compete against the large plantations and by paying prices that reflect the tremendous amount of work and struggle that goes into producing organic coffee. We strive to form long-term relationships with farmers based on transparency, mutual trust, and shared goals. Within this model, the importance of face-to-face meetings with our coffee producing partners cannot be understated. It is our chance to establish and maintain strong relationships with coffee cooperatives, exchange information face-to-face, and experience their daily context first-hand.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to go on my first such trip for Peace Coffee. Along with our Queen Bean Lee Wallace, and Sara Elhardt, a lovely local lady who actually won the chance to visit a coffee producer country in a drawing that we did at the State Fair a few years ago, I joined a delegation of coffee folks put together by our importing co-op, Cooperative Coffees, to visit Guatemala, the source of two of Peace Coffee’s most popular brews and the home of two of our longest standing trade partners.
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An interview with Katie Dirks of the Peace Coffee Shop at Wonderland Park
What do you do when you’re not working at Wonderland Park?
I got a big floor loom that belonged to my husband’s great grandmother last Christmas so I've been spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to weave and make wonderfully practical things like rugs and dish towels. I also enjoy poking around on the trails down by the rivers and creek in Minneapolis. There are so many great little tucked away spots in this city.
What is your favorite Peace Coffee brew & why?
I really enjoyed the Bolivian that we had this past fall and winter. But lately the Twin Cities Blend has become my go to coffee of choice.
What’s your favorite drink to make at Wonderland Park & why?
When everything is working right I love to make and serve straight espresso.
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you want to go and why?
I have been slightly obsessed with the Arctic ever since seeing Planet Earth a few years ago, so I think that I would go to Northern Alaska and stay long enough to see what it is like above the Arctic circle in both summer and winter. But really I would be happy to go anywhere new and different.
What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten & why?
hmm... I don't think I can pick just one!
What’s your favorite fact about coffee?
It takes one coffee tree one year to produce enough cherries to yield one pound of roasted coffee. It was pretty crazy to me how quickly we all consumed one years worth of hard work from a coffee tree somewhere!
How do we know when you have control of the music in the shop?
To be honest I generally try and stay away from the Ipod...
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by Andrew Ranallo, IATP Communications Assistant
First and foremost, I'd like to apologize for this article to those not residing in Minneapolis -- it may make you jealous, or worse, hungry. On the upside, it may also inspire you to take action in your city.
Fresh food is literally getting back to its roots in Minneapolis: The Homegrown Minneapolis Urban Ag Policy Plan passed last week, opening up the doors to the use of urban land to produce and distribute fresh food. According to Homegrown's website, "The plan will help identify where and how land should be used to grow and distribute food through community and commercial gardens and urban farms." This is great news, and the result of lots of work by city staff and volunteers in Minneapolis. Read more about the urban ag plan, check out a summary of past successes and learn how you can get involved on the Homegrown Minneapolis homepage.
In other Minneapolis food news, food trucks are going to be winding their way further than ever before throughout the city. Previously, as of April 2009, food trucks were confined to the downtown zone of the city. Now, by unanimous decision, vendors with permits -- and parked at a preapproved locations -- will be allowed throughout the city, meaning you just may find some nosh in your neighborhood. For the full report, see the announcement on the City of Minneapolis website.
And, last but definitely not least, IATP's Mini Markets are about to come back and if last year is any indication, they'll be all over the city. Last year, 21 markets were scattered throughout Minneapolis bringing healthy, fresh and local food to all kinds of communities. The markets were made possible by an innovative public policy creating a protocol specifically for mini markets, developed by the City of Minneapolis in collaboration with IATP. The 2011 locations, dates and times of IATP’s Mini Markets has been posted at iatp.org/minimarkets. Stay tuned there and on our Facebook and Twitter for the more news as they get rolling!
So whether you're growing it, buying it from a vendor on wheels or a farmer at one of our Mini Markets, expect to eat well this season, Minneapolis.
Andrew Ranallo is the Communications Assistant at IATP. He’s extremely excited for Peace Coffee to get its sidewalk cafe license -- one more delicious thing on the streets of Minneapolis.
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Crafting, Biking, Paddling, Yoga'ing! We’re doing it all this spring. Check out our crazy fun schedule of events for the end of April into May.
Handmade Heart Felt Artisans Fair - April 23, 11am - 6pm
The Arts and Crafts Initiative will host the 1st annual Handmade Heartfelt Artisans' Fair at the Ballentine VFW (2916 Lyndale Avenue South). This event is sponsored by Yeti Records and Peace Coffee.
Gorilla Yogis - April 23, 10am
This month Gorilla Yogis will benefit the Will Steger Foundation. Bring your mat and join over a hundred people for a Vinyasa Yoga Practice at the Science Museum of Minnesota. This is in conjunction with Earth day, Friday, April 22.
Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride - April, 26 6:30am
The Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride brings over 5,000 bicyclists together each year. There is something for all cyclists as there are 30, 62 and 100 mile routes. All routes begin and end in Lakeville, MN.
Active Living Bike Expo - April 29 3pm-9pm, April 30, 9am - 6pm
This event will be held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds Education Building, and will feature the latest in bicycles, riding apparel, gear and accessories. There will also be clinics on safe riding, commuting, mountain biking, road racing, and tips on making your business and community more bicycle friendly. Admission is free with a non-perishable food item!
Craftstravaganza - April 30, 9am-5pm
There will 70 outstanding artists, and free arts and crafts workshops throughout the day. The event will be held at the MN State Fair Grounds Fine Arts Building.
Biker Appreciation Day @ Whole Foods Minneapolis - April 30, 10am - 2pm
Stop by and get free bike repairs from Full Cycle, a non-profit that provides homeless and at-risk youth with access to healthy and free transportation. There will also be several free samples, including Peace Coffee.
Kettle River Paddle Festival - April 29 -May 1
The Paddle Festival has a full weekend of paddling activities for whitewater and flat water paddlers. Enjoy some white-water rapids or some easy paddling on the Kettle River's upper or lower sections. Peace Coffee will be served to all participants!
Bike MS Allianz - May 7
Donations raised through Bike MS directly help people affected by multiple sclerosis. Join the ride and bike 30 or 60 miles along the Gateway trail. The ride finishes at the Aldrich Arena in Maplewood, Minn. The registration fee is only $20. Register today.
Living Green - May 7 - May 8,
This two-day weekend event will take place on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. There will be more than 300 exhibitors, workshops, and demos that will showcase the latest in green and sustainable living within the 4-H, Education, Fine Arts, and Progress Center buildings. Suggested $2 donation.
Arbor Day Event: Midtown Community Works - May 7, 9:30am
The Arbor Day tree planting event on the Midtown Greenway has utilized volunteer efforts to green the Midtown Greenway over the past 10 years. Join the community in an event adults and children will enjoy. Free Peace Coffee for volunteers!
Regla de Oro - World Fair Trade Day: May 14, 12-4pm
Join us in celebrating World Fair Trade day at Relga de Oro Art and Fair Trade Gifts. The event will include an exhibit by artist-activist Ricardo Levins Morales and a performance by Nicaraguan musician Carlos Lumbi from 1pm – 3pm. Peace Coffee and Common Roots Café will be providing samples. A free, fun event for all!
Rides of Spring Bike Rally- May 15, 8am
Before heading over the Lyn Lake Street Fest, take a nice ride around the Twin Cities. This fun family event helps support the Blaisdell YMCA scholarships for health club memberships, and after school programs for low income families. The Ride begins at 9:00 a.m. with snacks and coffee provided by Peace Coffee and Whole Foods. End your ride with a nice cold Summit beer and great music!
Art-a-Whirl - May 20-22
Over 500 local artists will be gathering in Northeast Minneapolis in the course of 3 full days. We’ll be serving FREE cups of coffee at Bicycle Theory, Suite 400 in the Northrup King Building. Stop by and see the art, over a hot cup of coffee.
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Submit your caption for one or all of these comics to firstname.lastname@example.org, we will choose three finalists for each cartoon by May 1st, and ask the public to vote for their favorite. Finalists for each cartoon will appear on our Facebook page May 1st. Voting ends at noon on Friday, May 6th. Winners receive a $25 Peace Coffee Gift Card for use online or at the Peace Coffee Shop and their caption will be published in the Twin Cities syndication of The Onion Newspaper.
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"Everyone is the age of their heart."
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Peace Spokes is a monthly publication from the crew at Peace Coffee.
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To learn more about the farmers that grow your coffee visit: www.mapmybeans.com