Bananas & Coffee

While doing a story on coffee growers in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico the farmers educated me on how they produce the Arabica Bean Coffee.

David Velázquez shows off his banana trees that are helping with the shade for the coffee plants. [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, ISO 4000, ƒ/6.3, 1/2500, Focal Length = 24]

I learned that the arabica coffee does best with shade. The tree requires some but not too much direct sunlight; two hours a day seems ideal. The lacy leaves of the upper levels of the rain forest originally shaded the coffee tree.

Banana Tree [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, ISO 4000, ƒ/6.3, 1/800, Focal Length = 55]

When they prune the banana trees you can see the trunks, which to me look liked corrugated cardboard. Those channels help the water get to the leaves and bananas.

Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico is in a rain forrest. Salvador Urbina has significant rainfall most months, with a short dry season. 

David Velázquez loves to talk about how Just Coffee and Frontera de Cristo helped him to return home after working on golf courses in Metro Atlanta for years. [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, ISO 4000, ƒ/6.3, 1/1000, Focal Length = 62]

What can we learn from these coffee growers?

The production of coffee is a time and labor intensive process. From the moment of plantation of the first coffee seeds it can take three to four years before a newly planted coffee tree will began bearing fruits.

10 Steps from Seed to Cup
  • Planting
  • Harvesting the Cherries
  • Processing the Cherries
  • Drying the Beans
  • Milling the Beans
  • Exporting the Beans
  • Tasting the Coffee
  • Roasting the Coffee
  • Grinding the Coffee
  • Brewing the Coffee
Fair Trade

Fair trade was started in response to the dire struggles of Mexican coffee farmers following the collapse of world coffee prices in the late 1980s.

Fair Trade coffee is coffee that is certified as having been produced to fair tradestandards. Fair trade organizations create trading partnerships that are based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. … Fair trade practices prohibit child or forced labor.

Café Justo was the coffee cooperative I partnered with to help tell their story back in 2010. I had been producing videos just for a short time and this was a turning point for me. We focused on telling the story focusing on the crisis the farmers were suffering and the difference the cooperative made in their families and communities.

Listen to what I captured back in 2010:

Maybe you are like those coffee farmers who had to leave their farms to find work to feed their families. You see by just learning to come together and tell their story, the consumer didn’t pay more for coffee they changed where they bought their coffee. You can support these coffee growers by buying their coffee here at Just Coffee.

Just Coffee [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, ISO 4000, ƒ/6.3, 1/2500, Focal Length = 120]

While forming a cooperative and selling directly to the customer helped the coffee growers to prosper, it wasn’t the cooperative, the roaster or their willingness to come together that made them successful.

It was when they told their stories that customers rallied behind them. People are waking up to the basic unfairness of world trade and demanding a better deal for the people who do our dirty work. Are you getting a bargain or exploiting people when you always shop for price alone.

Are you telling your story? Remember what made a difference in the Fair Trade movement was the telling of the stories of people being exploited.

Once you have your customers don’t stop telling stories. Now tell a different story. How about how bananas help produce great tasting arabica coffee?