Four months ago, I walked into a new coffee bar/sandwich shop in downtown Wooster to hear the story of some local guys who started a business. I had no idea that this event would start my journey into the world of coffee.
Rob, one of the Reach Trade guys, sat down and explained the company to my friend and I while we sipped a delicious Vietnamese Iced Coffee. I can't say that I remember all of the information that Rob told us, but I do remember walking away knowing that I wanted to get more involved with this "for-profit business with a social mindset." As an economics and anthropology double major, I thought Reach Trade's commitment to giving clean water through their coffee business was a perfect real-world application of the two subjects that I had been studying so closely in school. I had a jumble of questions running through my mind about the logistics of giving clean water, the process of growing and roasting coffee, and the meaning of direct trade with coffee farmers.
My interest in the business led to further conversations and encounters with the Reach Trade guys. One weekend I had the chance to attend a coffee tasting at The Coffee Bar. Dan Skyped into the event from Peru along with Selena, an incredible woman who owns a coffee farm in Peru. Selena shared a little of her story while Dan translated her words from Spanish to English so we could all understand. Selena's story gave life to the coffee in my cup. This coffee had a history. This was Selena's coffee. Its flavors reflected the characteristics of her farm, her great dedication and her care for her crop. As I looked at my drink, I realized that I had never before stopped to think about the labor required to produce this popular drink.
I knew then that I wanted to spend my summer learning about Selena, coffee farms, coffee processing, coffee roasting and all the other steps required to produce a simple cup of coffee.
And now I'm counting down the days until I leave for Peru. In one week I'll be in Lima, and then shortly afterwards I'll be living on Selena's coffee farm where I'll learn more about the process of growing, picking and drying coffee. I'll have the opportunity to interview Selena and the other farmers with whom Reach Trade works. As I hear their stories and learn about the coffee industry, I'll share their stories and everything that I learn about coffee.
My journey in Peru is about to begin, but in reality, my journey with Reach Trade has already begun.