Each year, groups of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc (GMCR) employees get the opportunity to travel to the very beginning of our coffee supply train: They travel to Source. Susanne, one of our lovely Green Mountain Coffee marketers, offered to share her experience this past March as she ventured to coffee cooperatives in Mexico. This is her story:
I recently returned from a Mexican source trip sponsored by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.
A source trip is a unique opportunity for a select group of GMCR employees to visit several remote coffee farms and cooperatives to better understand their coffee growing practices. Since I spend each day sitting in my “Vermont” office trying to “Market” coffee, it seemed only fitting that I was chosen to better understand the true value of specialty coffee by actually visiting its source!
While traveling throughout Mexico, one of my favorite coffee growing regions that I visited was the Chiapas region. I quickly became educated on Fair Trade coffee practices. I also learned the art of patience, humility and harmony with nature.
Here is excerpt from my journal:
“After a five hour van ride from Tuxtla, I was ready for a sitz bath, foot massage and tequila shot! Instead, my colleagues and I hopped in the back of a pick up and set off on a 2 hour ride straight up the mountain. Holding on for dear life, we gasped our way to the top of a cloud-filled rainforest where coffee beans sunned themselves on the edge of the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, one of the most important nature reserves in the world because of its size and biodiversity. Home to over 400 different species of birds, this area also grows some of the finest Fair Trade Organic coffee.
I strolled over to the concrete patios where rows of coffee beans sat baking in the sun. I bravely peeked over the mountain’s edge to view the steep terrain. (It reminded me of the double black diamond ski trail I begrudgingly tackled the week before with my 8 year old son!) There, below me, I saw several farmers handpicking select red coffee cherries from the lush green bush they clung to. Excited to give it a try, I managed to pick a couple handful of cherries in approximately 30 minutes – a mere portion of what the farmer next to me was able to pick. I concluded I was not going to be offered a new job anytime soon!
After picking, sorting, washing, fermenting, processing, and drying (I might have forgotten a verb or two) the coffee beans and I made our perilous way back down the mountain. I couldn’t help but think that both the coffee and I (now close friends) were a long way from our final destinations.”
As I sit back down at my desk in Vermont, I ponder this moment in time. I now have a better understanding of the micro-climates that create high quality coffees. I have seen how farmers can co-exist with the environment and how buyers like GMCR can establish long-term relationships and stability with coffee growers through contracts and Fair Trade premiums. It gives me a real appreciation for the company’s purpose:
“We create the ultimate coffee experience in every life we touch from tree to cup – transforming the way the world understands business”.