Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Fairtrade Fortnight - an announcement

Well it's Fairtrade fortnight once again - the two weeks each year when we are asked the most pointed questions about the "ethical credentials" of Hill & Valley Coffee. We usually give a long answer that refuses to over-simplify the question in the manner that a purchase of Fairtrade coffee might do. (Debbie calls it my "rant" and usually tries to hide!)

But we are not Marks & Spencer, thankfully.

We source our coffees based on the following criteria :

1. Excellence in the cup. Particularly when compared to other coffees from the same region, we go for coffees that reflect the traditional virtues of a particular growing region. New growing regions are always treated with some scepticism - particularly when we can't find the right Kenya AA that year!

2. Where possible we source from single estates / farms or from co-operatives, but always from organisations that rely on excellence to achieve a sustainable premium price. We abhor artificially manufactured pricing that ignores issues of quality. In all cases we try to find out the most we can about the growers and how they work and satisfy ourselves that basic human and workers' rights are defended.

3. We do not buy "first world coffee" from USA / Hawaii, Puerto Rico or Australia. We do however pay very good prices for the right coffees from developing countries - way above fairtrade prices.

4. We act in a non-patronising manner to support "good causes" in coffee producing countries and do not confuse these aims with our uncompromising approach to sourcing. It is our belief that we can find causes more needy than that of the so-called impoverished grower. He has his land and his crop after all....

So in 2001, we gave some help to a catholic charity that built a refuge for street orphans in Bogota Colombia.

In 2002, our daughter Lisa worked in secondary school in Uganda and sales of Uganda coffee helped fund a new fiction lending library for her pupils.

In 2004 and 2005 we supported Angeninge, a theatre group in Tanzania that taught Aids / HIV awareness to illiterate rural people through community drama.

In 2006, we have settled on a "house charity" which will benefit from our support for at least the next four years, and we hope that we can enlist support from those of you out there who buy Hill & Valley Coffee.

It is our "Get orphans through school" project set in Iganga, Uganda.

There are 95 HIV / Aids Orphans who are currently in secondary school and are depending on us to pay their next set of school fees. And we want to get 20 more on the scheme next year!

A detailed announcement will follow in the next few days, but for now here are some of the wonderful young people whose lives are already being changed through this scheme.

I agree on high quality products being a far better way to generate sustainably higher incomes for developing world farmers - and I would far rather pay £3 for non-Fairtrade quality coffee than potentially less for supposedly fairer-trade coffee that tastes like Nescafe, plus I'm sure the farmers woudl too when I stop buying their product long term becuase it isn't any good.

It's like organic farming: would I prefer an organic out of season pepper from a Dutch hot house (or worse an air freighted organic Kenyan mange tout) or less intensively produced but non-organic varities of broccoli, peas etc grown for taste and farmed with more care?

Anyway, interesting blog, even better coffee...I'm off for a cup of Tico Suave :)
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