Not just coffee

I think if I were a woman I’d wear coffee as a perfume.
~ John Van Druten

A group of us went on a round-the-world tour on Wednesday night. Led by Bink and our noses, we journeyed through Papua New Guinea, Cuba, Ethiopia… it was wonderful. I’m talking about coffee cupping at Memphis Belle – if you’re in Wellington, don’t miss out on this very cool experience!

It was a pleasure to delve deeper into the world of coffee. We had 8 glasses of ground coffee placed before us, and I wondered what we were going to do. Coffee cupping was a new, foreign experience for me.

I could write more about how we circled the table, sniffing, tasting, commenting and marveling – but really, what captured me was less to do with what we were sniffing or seeing. I felt a fleeting sense of sadness at the thought of people in business suits who cheapen coffee by equating it with a cup of bitter blackness, the sole purpose of which is to wake us up to help us concentrate on our spreadsheets.

Because really, coffee is so much more than just brown beans/liquid stimulant. Coffee is a world phenomenon. As I tasted the coffee, registering the different notes – earthy, nutty, smoky, sweet – many thoughts came to mind.

We tasted coffee from different regions, farmed by different hands… and amazingly, when I really put my nose to the beans, I smelled alot more than just the generic pungent, robust smell of coffee. I swear I could smell peanut butter, peach sorbet, heck – one of the coffee glasses even smelt like roast chicken. I know, it’s bizarre!

What’s more, it smelled of energy. Farmers’ toil and pride. Fruits of the earth. Sunshine. Conversation. Beauty of the senses. It was so rich, so poignant.

We also had a discussion about fair trade coffee after that. They buy only fair trade green beans. What impressed me was the fact that I could see they weren’t doing this just to feel good about themselves, or to secure bragging rights about being Kind People. From what they said, it was obvious that they had invested much thought into the coffee industry, their values, ethics, passion, and how they could best help.

I think Nick, Bink and the rest of the Memphis Belle team are more than just coffee guys, or guys out to make a living. I was really impressed by their utter unmistakeable passion… passion about coffee, the different ways to brew and enjoy it (you should see their range of equipment, I’d never seen any of those gadgets before)! Passion about fair trade, more than just the ‘feel good’ factor of buying and selling ‘fair trade’ – but genuinely looking into the state of the world – the coffee market – the things that are wrong with it – and the way they can help put it right.

I think that’s really powerful.

Along the way, they shared their passion with us. I caught it. I think others in the room caught it too.

Good coffee = great. Following one’s passion = great. Not just complaining about the state of the world but doing something about it = great. Fair trade = great.

Memphis Belle – 38 Dixon Street, Wellington – Phone: 021 244 8852

Flight Coffee

You can also buy packaged fair trade coffee from Trade Aid

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2 responses to “Not just coffee

  1. Yay!!!! I’ve been to one of these nights and it was fantastic. I think you summed it up so well – the guys at Memphis are so super passionate about what they do that it’s infectious. I like that they encourage you to think more about coffee, the flavour profile, where it comes from – makes you appreciate it on a completely different level, kind of like wine and beer tasting. Great post, Mel!

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