One of the major advantages of my work du jour is that I come home smelling, no, reeking, of coffee. The roasting smoke infuses into my hair and my clothes. As freshly roasted and ground coffee is one of my favorite smells, I LOVE it, even though I’m pretty sure people on the train wonder why I bathe in coffee. I can even wipe a finger across my face and feel fine coffee granules coating my skin. Here’s hoping it’s good for the complexion!
This serves as apt a reminder as any that I’m not exactly in the fields, managing the canopies, monitoring the soil, dealing with the conditions of the less-or-un-developed parts of the world where coffee grows.
While I’m not involved in the agricultural aspect, per se, in the past four months and counting, I’ve evaluated green coffee from a smattering of wonderfully interesting places. Papua New Guineas, with their sharp, bright, citrus acid note are a top contender for my consistent favorites. Although Ethiopians, in no small part to their lore (arguably both the birthplace of humankind AND coffee?!?! Mind-splosion…), but also to the smooth, floral, winey characteristics also present in quality Kenyans.
I regularly taste coffees from all over the Central and South Americas, Asia (mainland and South Pacific), and in Africa ranging from the Ivory Coast to Ethiopia and Kenya. While many common coffee origins are no stranger to civil woes, today I tasted something rather unusual: Arabica from the Congo. Yes, the Congo is embarking on large-scale, commercial Arabica production. But is this a good thing?
It’s hard to comment intellectually or with originality on an area where I’ve never been, never known anyone from, and (with the exception of the massive civil wars and strife) know very little about. What I can say is this: isn’t it a good sign that a war-torn country starts to angle at least some of its resources to an agricultural cash crop? Isn’t is a step in the right direction that people, instead of being killed in droves, are tending said crops?
The tricky thing is that all is not roses (anywhere, but particularly IN THE CONGO for crying out loud–I hope that doesn’t sound woefully naive). Is it ethical for multi-national corporations to support industries where, in all likelihood, they are rampant with unjust, criminal activities? (Unfortunately, the coffee world seems to be swimming in this type of behavior so it’s not necessarily unique here.)
I feel the need to point out that my above rhetorical questions are 100% conjecture and–disclaimer–in no way represent the views of my employer. (Does that mean I can never get fired?) But they are questions worth asking and exploring. Although, again, my spare time is limited, I’m lazy, and there’s a movie on I’d like to get off my computer to enjoy.