I mentioned a previous post about how Stephen Leighton founder of Has Bean Coffee has demonstrated how important building relationships with specialty coffee producers can be. Has Bean Coffee is well known for its specialty coffees which showcase a range of farms from across the globe – they are explored on the website, and in the video series In My Mug. The details about the farms and coffees on offer from India to Costa Rica make the transparency about where the particular coffees come from to the forefront of the business. In establishing so many relationships with coffee farms over the years Stephen has had the chance to meet and work with people passionate about coffee from across the globe. Coffeeography: The Coffee Producers showcases some of these producers highlighting issues for coffee producers in a number of countries, and illuminating the stories of some of the people behind the bags of coffee that end up in our coffee shops and homes.
This is a great ‘coffee table’ book. I ended up reading it cover to cover, but you could easily pick it up and just look at a couple of chapters, all of which are supported by great photographs of the people and places involved. The book covers producers in El Salvador, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Kenya and Nicaragua; for each country a short summary of the coffee production situation is provided before moving on to the human stories. Coffeeography is filled with stories of how coffee farms (and various processing operations etc) came to be, how they have developed, and how particularly people have been influential in helping these developments take place. Each producer has a short profile asking about their achievements, influences, challenges, where they would like most to grow coffee in the world, and so on, to give a few personal insights into the people behind the coffee. It’s unsurprising that the most commonly cited challenges were climate change, disease, the costs of production and lack of labour – these are well documented challenges for the coffee industry – but reading them in this format highlights how these challenges really do have a human impact, and how they need addressing to ensuring these families (and millions of others reliant on the coffee industry) can continue to foster sustainable livelihoods.
The author has clearly made a world of friends in coffee, and had many coffee adventures along the way. The book begins by Stephen saying how he has the best job in the world to travel the world exploring coffee farms to source the best coffee for his company, and his passion for coffee, the industry and the people in it, comes across very clearly. Through the stories of these coffee producers this book successfully showcases the human side of coffee production, with so many coffee and coffee industry books and publications focusing on the consumption end of the supply chain, this provides a welcome shift in focus to think more about where our coffee comes from, and more importantly who is behind it. I have bought coffee from Has Bean in the past, and always been interested in the details about the farm, but in reading these more detailed accounts, it brought many of the people and places I had seen on the website to life.