Yesterday I made the 2 hour trip to Doi Chaang, which is one of the top mountains in Thailand to grow coffee on. I was met at a local coffee shop by a woman named Doon, hopped in her pickup truck, and we drove about an hour or so to meet a farmer at the local “city” (well, town). Once at the city of May Suai, we hopped in a tiny 4-wheel drive truck and made our way up the extremely steep and windy roads to the farms on top of the mountain. We arrived at the man’s small “coffee supply shack,” loaded up all of our necessary supplies on our backs, and we began the trek through the jungle to begin our day harvesting coffee.
We spent about 3-4 hours learning about the process, separating the good coffee cherries from the bad, the green cherries from the red ones, and then made our way back to the “coffee supply shack” to enjoy a delicious (and spicy) homemade meal prepared on palm branches by the farmer’s mother. Following this, we were taken to
the processing area where we learned about the rest of the process. Here, the cherries are soaked in water for 24 hours, the good cherries are further separated from the bad, the actual coffee bean is separated from the cherry, and the beans are dried naturally in the sun. It was a blast to be able to actually be a part of the process and learn about how everything is done from the plant to processing. Let me tell you...it is hard work. I now understand why there is such a movement to increase farmer’s wages. This has completely inspired me to create a business that views farmers as equals, not a means to an end.
In this day and age, there is such a large separation between the producer and consumer. We are so caught up in the busyness of our lives that we do not even know where our morning coffee comes from. I am guilt of this too. To be quite honest, I didn’t even know that coffee is a fruit and comes from a red cherry until a few weeks ago. In the past, I have been easily swayed to purchase a product because of the “USDA Organic” or “Fair Trade” labels, but after my visit yesterday I question how “fair” a Fair Trade product actually is and if it is consistently organically produced. Is it actually fair or organic, or is it just a label aimed to make consumers feel good about their purchase?
Yesterday definitely made an impact on me in many ways. Being able to work side-by-side with farmers is something that I will never forget. It has helped me to look “beyond the label” and to begin to understand the process that I need to take to help support others abroad. Continue to check back on the process and enjoy the photos!