Businesses aren't supposed to talk about religion, are they? Well, I'm going to break that rule and talk about something I know all too well...
Bad Church Coffee
I'll say right up front: I grew up in the church, claimed the Christian faith as my own as an adolescent, and have been struggling to make sense of what that actually means in practice ever since. In fact, I struggled mightily enough to go and get an advanced seminary degree and get ordained as a minister. And while I'm not currently active in any formal church ministry roles, it is true that I've brought my ministerial ethics and mindset to how I conduct myself as a businessperson.
And I know from years of experience that coffee at church is
- Ubiquitous; and
- Often terrible
I've had a Jewish friend of mine tell me the same is often true in synagogues. So, people of the book: What is wrong with this picture?
Here's a quick theological formulation about coffee:
- Coffee is grown, processed, and roasted by human beings
- Coffee is produced by the good earth (understood as a gift that we did not create)
- In the Christian tradition, God cares about humans caring for one another and for humans taking care of the earth
Therefore, coffee at church is something that people of faith can and perhaps should consider sourcing and serving in a more faith-informed manner than is common.
1. Source Specialty Coffee
"Specialty Coffee" isn't meaningless marketing speak. It's an internationally agreed-upon set of quality standards across the supply chain that mark out the highest quality tiers of coffee grown anywhere in the world.
And producers that can meet these growing and processing standards get paid far more than commodity-grade coffees that are governed by non-human market forces that too often harm coffee-growing families and communities. These producers are also very often practicing sustainable agriculture in their coffee production, making good on the call to care for the land that produces this wondrous drink so many of us love.
So buying higher-grade Specialty Coffee not only gets you coffee that objectively tastes better than cheap, crappy coffee - it also provides coffee growing families and communities with more income for a better standard of living. You're helping people live better lives in areas that are very often poor.
Hint: We only source Specialty Coffee.
2. Source From Roasters With Direct Relationships
If your faith community sources their coffee from a small roaster that works directly with coffee producers, your community has a more direct relationship to the source of your coffee. And that can open up some interesting opportunities for all involved.
When we've traveled to our direct relationship partner in Nicaragua, Gold Mountain Coffee Growers, we've always been encouraged to bring extra clothing that we're willing to give away. Or help fund social projects like computer classes for girls from rural mountain communities, to give them a chance at a better life with some 21st century skills. Faith communities with a relationship to their coffee producers can help in these ways.
Cultural Exchange and/or Work Trips
Again, to use or connection with Gold Mountain Coffee Growers in Nicaragua, the rural communities up in the mountains that grow awesome coffee that we Americans enjoy are always facing challenges on many fronts: Roads are rough and often in need of upkeep and repair. Electricity is not a given for everyone. Indoor plumbing is scarce. Houses containing large families are often in sore need of improvements or repairs.
Faith communities in the US with means and skilled members can assemble teams for trips to the communities where their coffee is grown, and lend a hand in improving living conditions in those communities. They'll also get to see some gorgeous landscapes and meet wonderful people while doing good work.
(Finca Idealista - Matagalpa, Nicaragua)
Hint: Over 50% of our coffee is sourced through direct relationships with producers.
So there you have it: 2 steps toward making coffee in your community of faith better, on multiple fronts. Better coffee, better livelihoods for your coffee-growing neighbors around the globe.