Coffee Confessions

Coffee Confessions


Erika Jervis, Senior at Hanover College and Intern at Global Gifts in Nora, loves her coffee. In fact, she confesses that her love of coffee was the major factor in her choice to study its effects on various cultures. In her own words...

"While on a study trip to Belize, my Anthropology class observed the production of coffee, sugar, and chocolate on small-scale farms. In regards to coffee, we learned about the differences between Arabica and Robusta beans and what these mean to small farmers. The major difference between the two is that Arabica plants need shade to grow and Robusta plants grow well in full sun. Over the past 200 years, Northern Latin America has converted almost half of its shaded coffee plantations to produce full sun, Robusta plants. The reason is that Robusta plants produce higher yields than Arabica beans. However, the drawback of full sun grown plants is soil erosion and the need to use chemicals. Farmers have the option to use organic chemicals, but the process is costly and time-consuming. The use of the inorganic chemicals is unsustainable in the long term, shortens the life of the plant, and may create superbugs that become resistant to pesticides over a long period of time.

In contrast, Arabica bean plantations are environmentally friendly, but yield low numbers and do not fully develop until later in the season resulting in lower selling prices. In order to provide enough shade to support the growth of Arabica beans, farmers plant fruit trees with large leaves that protect the coffee plants from excessive winds and torrential rains, mulch the soil with leaf residue, and promote biodiversity. Additionally, the fruit trees provide additional income for the farmers if the coffee plants do not produce expected yields and serve as a food bank for the community. Although Arabica beans come at a higher economic risk than Robusta beans, farmers can be considered for fair trade certification, allowing them to sell their beans at a higher price.

Global Gifts carries 100% Arabica coffee from Equal Exchange, Level Ground, and Just Haiti. These companies support fair trade certified farmers from Colombia, Peru, Tanzania, Ethiopia, D.R. Congo, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Africa, Asia, and Haiti. When purchasing Arabica bean coffee, you will be supporting small farmers practicing environmentally safe planting methods despite the economic risk of low yields. Your purchase will encourage them to continue their practices rather than converting to chemical grown Robusta beans."


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