Cup to Crop
For the past three weeks Crop to Cup has been working in Burundi to get to know the farmers of the Bukeye region, set up reinvestment projects, supervise the preparation for the harvest (about a week away now), and implement a number of initiatives with our coffee’s farmers. Last week we organized a fantastic event, called Cup to Crop.
At Crop to Cup we strive to connect consumers with the people who grew and process their coffee. Cup to Crop is our way of connecting farmers to the end product that they grow. The vast majority of farmers in Burundi, and especially those from the Bukeye region, have never tasted the coffee that they grow. Roasted coffee is expensive, as are the devices used to brew the coffee.
In an attempt to bridge this gap, we brought roasted Burundi Bukeye beans from our NY roaster for farmers to try. We then travelled around the Bukeye region to visit farmers on their farms, get to know their operations and challenges, and invite them and their families to taste their own coffee. This past Thursday we headed down to the Buhorwa Washing Station, just a few kilometers outside the town of Bukeye.
We jumped on motorcycles with our bags packed to the brim with a Hario Skerton burr grinder, Clever Coffee Dripper, Filtropa filters, 5 lbs. of coffee, 24 ceramic cups, and 5 large thermoses. With the help of Alfonse, the manager of the station de lavage (washing station) and Jacqueline (the most badass agronomist we have ever met) we were able to gather over 100 farmers from the Bukeye area. Thanks to the abundance of Eucalyptus trees we got a nice fire going to boil water, while the planteurs (farmers ) ground coffee in the hario.
The event attracted over 100 farmers, and scores more interested locals who watch coffee get pulped and washed year after year, but have never even seen roasted beans. Those who weren’t able to taste coffee got to at least feel and taste the roasted coffee beans we had.
After the tasting, the event turned into a space for farmers to express themselves. Some voiced grievances, such as the lack of premiums paid by others in the region, or their difficulties in accessing effective training and new coffee tree seedlings. While Crop to Cup pays a premium for our Burundian coffee, not all importers do so. Due to a quasi-nationalization of coffee farmer wages, what your neighbor gets is usually what you get as well (regardless of quality differences). Farmers receive a lump sum of money for their total amount of coffee cherries at the end of the season, followed by a premium paid to them once all their coffee has been sold. There are new privatized models that are trying to pay more Francs per kilo up front in lieu of an end-of-season premium. It is a model that is struggling to gain traction with farmers, whose complaints have even been picked up by national television. We feel that privatization of the coffee industry here is a good thing, it is just going to take a few years for the system to work out all the kinks and for farmers to understand a new system, a system that was run by the government for the past 70 or so years.
The Cup to Crop event was truly a success, not only in providing many farmers their first ever opportunity to taste their own coffee, but also in providing a platform for grievances to be shared and solutions to be found.
So what did the farmers have to say about their coffee? “Bitter!” Reminds me of the first time I tasted coffee. 🙂