Peace Spokes - Peace Coffee

  1| Colombian Adventure

  2| A Story of Unfair Trade

  3| The Farmers of Pangoa

  4| Crafty Corner

  5| Roaster's Corner

  6| Quote of the Month

This month, the Peace Crew celebrates Fair Trade Month and Co-op Month by spotlighting our farmer partners. We've got three great stories from recent visits to Colombia, Peru and Mexico. Fair Trade has been in the mainstream press recently, thanks to a recent Time Magazine article on the "limits" of the Fair Trade System. While we applaud Time's efforts to bring Fair Trade to the forefront, Lee Wallace, Peace Coffee's CEO and Queen Bean, had few points to make in response. And since you can't comment on a Time article on their website, she posted her response on Facebook. Also, we recently joined the nonpartisan coalition of Fair Trade organizations, vendors, and consumers, whose goal is to cordially invite First Lady Michelle Obama to join the Fair Trade movement by declaring the White House a "Fair Trade Home." We want to encourage everyone to join the coalition by visiting

Sadly (as it truly signals summer's end), it just snowed in Minnesota but that doesn't stop our friends at Bike MN 350. These brave souls are biking 350 miles across the state arriving at the capital on Oct 24th in honor of International Day of Climate Action. Check their website for a complete list of actions across the world.

With our trip reports, the Roaster's Corner and a Crafty Corner, it's a pretty meaty but extremely interesting issue this month. Warm yourself with a steaming mug of Peace Coffee goodness and read on...

by Angelica Cox-Vazquez

For several years the people of Colombia have been fighting against the perception that they are all part of the narco-trafficking trade. A leader in this effort has been the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (FNC). The FNC, which is a non-governmental organization, has been working with and supporting coffee farmers since 1927. They do this by ensuring that profits go back to coffee farmers, promoting the Colombian coffee around the world, assuring that the farmer's coffee is purchased, and providing technical assistance in each community to create the highest quality of coffee. One of the many projects the FNC has implemented is to introduce buyers from around the world to the coffee growers, a practice uncommon in the conventional coffee buying world but one Peace Coffee has been doing for several years. The FNC invited two representatives from our importing cooperative to join them at the 2nd Annual Expo Especiales International Specialty Coffee Fair in Ibagué, Colombia. Erik Iverson from Larry's Beans and I happened to be the lucky representatives from Cooperative Coffees to take part in this amazing educational trip. Others in attendance were producers, non-profit organizations, traders, buyers, entrepreneurs, certifying companies and producers.

My adventure started in Bogotá, Colombia, where I met other representatives from different coffee companies from around the world. Our host from the FNC, Nicolas, took us to visit the famous Museo de Oro where we saw pre-Hispanic gold work and learned more about the history of Colombia. After a trip to the museum and after a delicious Italian lunch, we decided to take a tour of the FNC headquarters office. The drive there was fascinating, because it allowed us to see the streets of Bogotá. I saw several beautiful and colorful murals as well as the mountainous hills that surrounded the city. Following our drive was the tour of the FNC cupping lab where coffee is evaluated and cupped. The cupping staff explained how their lab is used to control the quality of coffee. Before being exported, all coffee must have at least 4 or 5 cuppings (cupping is one of the coffee tasting techniques used to evaluate coffee aroma and the flavor profile of a coffee, and is also used to assess a defective bean). Since one of the main goals of the FNC is to export quality coffee, the cuppings are an essential stage in the exporting process. Our second stop was to the FNC Juan Valdez Café, where we had a "tinto" (black coffee) and learned about the quintessential Colombian cafetero Juan Valdez, who has come to symbolize the Colombian coffee farmer. Our afternoon ended with a trip to the airport and a flight to Ibagué, where we were to spend the next few days at the Expo Especiales fair.


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by Andrew Ranallo, IATP

In late September, Matilda Pilacapio came from Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, to Minneapolis in hopes of changing some minds at Cargill -- the largest palm oil importer in the United States. A human rights advocate and traditional land-owner, Pilacapio has seen the negative social and ecological impacts of palm oil plantations from many angles and from the very beginning. Palm oil first arrived on the island in 1994, when Pilacapio was the Minister of Agriculture. IATP was fortunate to host a brown bag luncheon as an opportunity for Matilda to share her story with community members and organizational leaders.

"The day the (palm) seeds arrived in our country on the plane, I wondered, `what are these seeds?'" she told us, explaining the beginning of Papua New Guinea's rapid and unfortunate transformation. The island nation is still home to some of the world's intact rainforests and biodiversity, and though Cargill only took over the Milne Bay mill three years ago, their rapid expansion and lack of ecological (and social) sensitivity has the people scrambling to retain their culture, land and community structure.

As part of an effort by the Rainforest Action Network, Pilacapio was in Minneapolis with four simple requests for Cargill: 1) stop the expansion of palm oil plantations, particularly from traditional landowners and onto virgin lands; 2) share its profits with local governments and landowners; 3) provide workers with better wages and working conditions; and 4) clean up water that is downstream from their milling plant. More information about Matilda's visit to IATP is available on our blog. See to learn more about the costs of the current state of palm oil agribusiness.

With Fair Trade Month now in full swing, stories like Matilda's are strong (though unfortunate) reminders of the value of Fair Trade for all involved.

Andrew Ranallo is the Communications Assistant at IATP. He has never seen a Yeti, but is constantly on the lookout.

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by Stacy Adrianson, Peace Coffee Customer Service Representative, and Meagan O’Brien, Peace Coffee Bike Deliverer

She came in quietly and climbed into a chair. Her feet were dangled in midair, nowhere near the ground, and her hands folded neatly in her lap. She was introduced to us as Zilda, secretaria of the Vigilance Committee, a group of co-op members who ensure the co-op is run with member's interest in mind. It was early morning. The sun was still rising over the mountains, the air damp with dew, and the roosters were still waking. This was our first meeting with the members of Pangoa Coffee Cooperative in the rainforest of Peru. It had taken the four of us three long days of travel to arrive in this quiet, beautiful place. The twelve of us sat in a make-shift circle, smiling nervously, making due with bits of Spanish and English, as soft morning light poured in through the open windows along with the rousing sound of waking moto-taxis. Truly local coffee was served to us in floral tea cups as Don Luis, the president, explained the history of this war-torn region and struggles of the cooperative. He spent a great deal of time telling us how the Fair Trade premium is used to improve the community -- college loans for children of the cooperative, grants for burial of co-op members, loans for healthcare, along with a half dozen other programs.

Eventually we all stood and gathered for pictures. Zilda smiled politely as camera shutters snapped and we all filed out to see the rest of the co-op. Tours, introductions, photos -- days of this lay ahead. But it was still new and most of us were quiet. As we traveled in a small mob, complete with paparazzi, our various personalities peeked out. Meagan asked incessant questions about the agriculture of the region; Lee happily posed for all the cameras, Esperanza (the co-op manager) listened intently to anything anyone had to say. But the biggest surprised was Zilda. The Zilda we came to know was so very different from the quiet woman introduced to us on that first day.  She was a force of her own, a whirlwind of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm. She had a laugh that would pull a reluctant sun from the clouds. She spoke with such animation that it was nearly possible to understand her despite our limited Spanish. She hugged like she meant it and she squeezed cheeks like a familiar Aunt. If she caught wind of any maladies, she'd disappear into the jungle, reappearing minutes later with fistfuls of vegetation and firm instructions on how they should be used. At one point, Stacy brushed against some jungle plant and large, burning blisters soon appeared on her arm. It was a little alarming, but Zilda simply laughed it off and said not to worry. Sure enough, within a half hour they had faded into memory.

Read on...

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Suzanne Murphy, our crafter extraordinaire, has created another simple and practical bag design by turning our clear five pound bag into a small waterproof snitching back pack. It's the perfect size to carry your gym clothes, shoes, a lock and your ID inside. (Just be careful of what you put it in since everyone can see it!) Now, Mel is off to her first indoor soccer game with everything she needs for playing in her new bag!

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Our featured product this month is the hand-thrown Peace Coffee mug by Deneen Pottery, the perfect vessel in which to enjoy our tasty brew. Buy it or anything else on our website and get 15% off your entire order (before shipping charges are added). To get your discount, enter COOPSROCK in the Promo Box at checkout. Offer ends November 16th.

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by Keith Tomlinson, Peace Coffee Head Roaster

In early September, as part of grant work with Cooperative Coffees and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), I traveled to Oaxaca City, in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Traveling with me was Brad from Larry's Beans, Joe from Third Coast Coffee and Monika with Cooperative Coffees. The work that we were doing with Catholic Relief Services involved several days of workshops followed by two days of visiting coffee farms in Oaxaca. Peace Coffee for the last year has been roasting coffee from the Michiza cooperative in Oaxaca, Mexico. We have in the past carried coffee from another organization called Maya Vinic located in Chipas, Mexico, the state directly east of Oaxaca. Maya Vinic, as you may remember, is the cooperative to which we donated the Probatino roasting machine that my team won at the Roaster's Guild Retreat three years ago. The three days of workshops all took place at Michiza's offices. Maya Vinic as well as two other organizations affiliated with CRS were in attendance. The purpose of the workshops was to offer advice, dialogue and demonstrations in the areas of roasting, quality control and marketing. Each organization has endeavored to pursue roasting and selling their own coffee in local markets, and we were there to provide our collective experience on the roasting side of things.

Read on...

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"If anyone can set a good example, it would be Michelle Obama. As The Atlantic recently said about her influence on the people, 'It's like her outfits. When she wears a J. Crew dress, everyone goes out and buys it. It's going to be the same thing with kale.' And if she can get people to buy more kale, certainly she can get more people to go Fair Trade."

~ Zarah Patriana, Activism Blogger, Fair Trade Resource Network

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Peace Spokes is a monthly publication from the crew at Peace Coffee.
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