We’ve made a commitment to sell in our blends only coffee from farms and farmers we know and visit. Because availability, weather, political and economical factors often change, we have to update our blends to maintain the same flavor profiles while using different coffees. This happens several times per year.
We have recently changed one component of our 8th Avenue, 4th Avenue, Broadway, and Mercer Street blends to an Ethiopian coffee called “Ardi.” Ardi refers to coffee processed in a special way and produced in a village called Kalenso, east of Hagare Maryam in Southwestern Ethiopia.
Aklilu Kasse is a third generation farmer and producer. He is the producer of Ardi coffee. That means he collects and processes the coffee to the point of being ready for export. He doesn’t grow the coffee. The coffees for Ardi are collected from small farmers around Kalenso at purchasing stations. They are paid cash upon delivery at a rate of approximately $1.75 / lb.
But it’s really not as simple as saying they are paid a flat rate in U.S. dollars per pound. First of all, they are actually paid 16 Birr per kilogram of cherries, and a kilogram of coffee cherries results in roughly one sixth of that amount in green exportable coffee. On top of that, the exchange rate of Ethiopian Birr to $ changes often.
The “farms” range in size from a few trees to a few acres. Saying the farmer receives a certain price per pound is misleading because what they actually get is a certain amount of money for the year based on what their farm yielded.
Coffee doesn’t put food on the table for most farmers. They live primarily through subsistence farming. But coffee often is the only crop that generates revenue, making it possible for them to buy school supplies, medical services, and clothing.
These payments for coffee are made to the farmers at a rate set by the Ethiopian government. In order for them to have more, Aklilu has developed a system for them under which they are not required to labor extra to deliver only ripe, highest-quality fruit. They can pick whatever they want from their trees. Then Aklilu pays farmers to sort the coffee. This allows for less labor during the growing season and more steady income during the harvesting and processing season. In addition, the lower quality coffees which have been sorted out are consumed and sold again within the local community, allowing farmers to often be paid three times for the same coffee: they sell their coffee to Aklilu, then they’re paid to sort it, then they’re paid again for the non-exportable coffee.
Ardi is organically and sustainably grown in clean and safe working environments. Education is available to all children of Ardi farmer coffee. Ardi is one of three ingredients in the Think Blend at the locations mentioned above. Currently, the other components for those coffees come from Brasil and El Salvador. Look for specific information at each store for each of its farms.