Opinion/Editorial

‘Tis the Season

In Fair Trade, Louisville, Opinion/Editorial // on December 19th, 2011 // by // No comment

by Lindsay Robinson, store manager at HBC-Eastern Pkwy

For me, it is important that a gift be thoughtful, affordable, and of quality. I get my ‘holly jollys’ by watching a loved ones face when they open the carefully wrapped package and discover that ”just what they wanted” gift. I get my ‘merrys’ from hearing later on how much they are enjoying their gift. Most of all, it ‘jingles my bells’ to know I not only made a difference in my family or friends day, but I am making an impact on the world.

Every year, I give Heine Brothers’ Coffee as a gift to multiple family members and friends. As soon as they eagerly tear open the sparkly wrapping paper, the aroma of rich coffee permeates the air, mixing with the festive scents of the holidays. Then come the excited squeal and talk of the much anticipated brew in the morning. Accompanying the gift of freshly roasted goodness is usually a handmade mug from a local artist or a rich chocolate bar from a local chocolatier, both of which were also purchased at Heine Brothers’ Coffee.

Heine Brothers’ Coffee provides Fair Trade and Organic coffee that is locally roasted daily. Why is that important? I’m glad you asked…

According to the Heine Brothers’ website: “In reference to coffee, Fair Trade means that a minimum price per pound is set to insure farmers a decent income from producing coffee. If the coffee market in New York goes below that price, the farmers who grow Fair Trade coffee will be paid the higher Fair Trade price. If the market price rises above the Fair Trade Price, the farmers will get the higher price plus an additional premium of  20-60 cents per pound. This system protects farmers from the unstable commodities market.”

So, what’s that mean? It means coffee farmers can put shoes on their children’s feet and send them to school. It means those families can have a little food on the table. It means they may actually survive in the impoverished third world country in which they live. When giving the gift of Fair Trade products you are making more than one person happy, you are giving the gift of life.

Organic coffee is grown without the use of chemicals or other unnatural solutions for pest control. The age old adage, “You are what you eat”, rings true. Why put harmful chemicals in your body if you don’t have to? Organic coffee is traditionally ‘Shade Grown’ as well and all of Heine Brothers’ coffees are Shade Grown, Organic, and Fair Trade.

‘Shade Grown’ means the coffee is grown high up on a mountainside in the shade of taller trees. The taller trees prevent erosion, provide homes for birds and wildlife, and protect the coffee trees from intense sun and high winds, producing a more quality bean. The farmers are able to use the crops from these other trees, such as coconuts and bananas, as a source of extra income as well as use the wood from the trees for fires.

Heine Brothers’ Coffee is locally owned and operated as well as locally roasted and delivered every day. You are contributing to local commerce and making a difference in Louisville when buying locally. In my opinion, this is the highest quality and freshest coffee one could get. I love the Holiday Blend that is only out for a limited time. It is rich and full bodied blend with hints of chocolate comprised of coffees from Africa, Central America, and Indonesia. It makes me want to curl up in a blanket next to a fire on a cold winter day and listen to old holidays tunes. If that doesn’t tantalize your taste buds, there are 7 other house blends and a multitude of single origin coffees to choose from. In addition to the ¾ pound bags, the single pot bags of coffee make a tasteful and aromatic stocking stuffer. Heine Brothers’ Coffee also sells press pots, grinders, storage canisters , Ekobrew cups for Keurig coffee makers, and a variety of other coffee supplies.

So, you see, you can give the gift of ‘Good Tidings and Joy’ and ‘Good Will Towards Man’ as well as receive it. Fair Trade and Organic coffee is the perfect, affordable gift that you can feel confident about.

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Barista’s Vacation

In Opinion/Editorial // on August 23rd, 2011 // by // One comment

by Kate Barry, HBC Flower Artist & Barista Extraordinaire

When I was a fresh-faced barista, my manager at the time advised me to pick up some shifts at other stores if I was in need of more hours.
“It’s like vacation,” She said.

As the weather got warmer, I took this advice that following summer and picked up as many shifts at other stores that I could get my Sharpie stained hands on. With each shift that I picked up, I no longer felt new to the company, rather I began to feel a part of the company. Since I have been with the company for a few years now, I have become quite accustomed to the way other stores operate. I enjoy the coziness of Shelbyville’s close quarters, The Loop’s friendly neighborhood vibe, Frankfort Avenue’s serene buzz from the laptops, and even Gardiner Lane’s hustle and bustle. All thanks to picking up shifts at other stores, or my barista vacation.

A barista’s vacation can occur at any time of the year; whether it’s during the summer months when people are going on trips or during the school year when a manager accidentally scheduled that person during a class leaving a barista double-booked. These little escapades into other stores aren’t just a summertime deal. In fact you could see your favorite barista in the morning at Chenoweth Lane and later that day they could be giving you a pick-me-up refill at Longest Avenue.

This summer, my barista vacations have occurred less than previous years but I have managed to squeeze in a few here and there. Recently, I picked up an opening shift at Schnitzleburg, our recent addition. My fellow barista and I were going about our opening shift duties when the nice lady who delivers our pastries in the morning entered like any other day. Arms filled with delicious goodies, she makes her way to the bar before she notices me counting the money in the drawer. I give her a smile and a wave. She has recognized me. She shakes her head, disapprovingly.

“That aint right.” She says. I laugh, mostly to relieve any awkward tension that could possibly occur.

“I’m taking a vacation from my store,” I assure her with a tone that I have not abandoned my post at Chenoweth Lane. She continues to shake her head, mutters something about how confusing it is to keep track of everyone and heads out the door. I had to laugh to myself. Is it that important that baristas stay at their respected stores?

After having an almost identical encounter with the same lady at the Shelbyville location a week later, I couldn’t stop thinking about the matter. I couldn’t come up with a solid answer as to why frequent customers are thrown off balance when they see their favorite coffee-slingers in a different location. Perhaps it triggers that same section of the brain from childhood when teachers are seen out in public. Or maybe it’s a feeling of potential empty nest syndrome in which the customer realizes that their favorite latte artist will, in fact, one day move on to bigger things. Maybe it’s just plain confusing and the feeling of “hey, wait a minute, don’t I know you from somewhere” is too much to handle. Another less grandiose theory I have is, maybe the customer just isn’t expecting to see their favorite barista in another place. All ideas are possible as are many more.

I’d like to offer some words of advice to the confused regular customer who might not be ready to see someone from Eastern Parkway working at WestportVillage. First of all, order the same thing you always get. Don’t worry, that barista may not remember where the lids are exactly but they know what you like. You can trust them. Secondly, relax. They’re not going anywhere. In fact they were probably doing a favor for another barista or needed a few more bucks. Thirdly, this experience will tighten your bond with your favorite barista and who knows perhaps they’ll leave even more room for cream. And lastly, it is perfectly okay to state the obvious and that you didn’t expect to see your favorite barista in a different setting. Perhaps the feeling will be mutual with your barista and you can share a laugh about it. So the next time you see that familiar face who makes that dry cappuccino just the way you like it, don’t worry they are not going anywhere. They’re just on a barista’s vacation.

 

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Fair-Trade Futures Conference 2010

In Opinion/Editorial // on December 3rd, 2010 // by // No comment

In a consumerism-driven culture where traceability and accountability are customarily neglected in conversation, the Fair Trade Future Conference came as a breath of fresh air.

The conference attracted an assembly of more than 750 advocates, business owners, producers, students, and consumers. In the flurry of soaps, olive oils, chocolate, textiles and crafts, coffee was the most disputed case during the three-day conference.

Several Heine Brothers’ cooperatives spoke at plenary sessions, Peace Coffee and Cooperative Coffees.   The two big words they emphasized were Transparency and Traceability — referring to the relationship between consumer and producer.

In a breakout session dedicated to “total transparency,” Bill Harris of Cooperative Coffees and Lee Wallace of Peace Coffees presented their innovative approaches to connecting the coffee farmer and the consumer. Harris’ solution, Fairtradeproof.org, is a tool for tracing coffee back to the farm.  On the Fair Trade Proof web site, Cooperative Coffees posts contracts detailing the prices and conditions of transactions, simply by selecting the lot number.

Peace Coffees have a similar approach with MapMyBeans.com, literally an interactive tool for “mapping beans” through GoogleMaps.  After tracing beans to the source, the web site gives profiles of the farm and the workers.

“This is a good way to hold ourselves accountable,” Wallace said.

It is no secret; there is great corruption in the world of coffee trade. As one coffee producer noted, many producers do not have access to education and are unaware of the dynamic of the coffee prices, so intermediaries often take advantage.

I spoke with coffee producers from Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua, and I listened to how Fair Trade impacted their lives. One producer, Rigoberto Contrero Diaz, represented a coffee farm in Chiapas, Mexico with 800 workers. He said before Fair Trade certification, he was unable to market the coffee.

“Our problem was, we didn’t know how,” Diaz said. “We just knew how to produce it.”

Because of this, as is the case with many coffee producers, middlemen or “coyotes” got involved and took advantage. In Diaz’s case, it was a Swiss agronomist who knew little about the culture or the dignity of the workers.

“He saw us as inexperienced in how we did our business, and instead of supporting our cooperatives, they wanted to shut us down,” Diaz said. “He did not know the life of the producer, he was just trying to make a profit.”

In 1999, Diaz’s farm became a Fair Trade cooperative and is still supplying coffee beans to coffee shops abroad, including Kentucky.

Although life is improving for coffee producers, Diaz said. “there is still a long way to go.”

In response, these online posting initiatives are the beginning of solutions for building integrity in every transaction.

“In five to ten years, you will be able to trace back to the farm, that is a reality,” Harris said. “Companies just have to opt for it.”

Rudi Dalvai of CTM Altromercato and former World Fair Trade Organization President spoke about Fair Trade’s impact on communities and the role of relationships. Dalvai compared Fair Trade to a carton of milk in a grocery with a string attached to a cow in the pasture.

“Fair Trade is more than a buying process, it’s also a story,” Dalvai said.  “For complete traceability in textiles, you need to consider the farm, the thread, the dyeing, the weaving and then the product.”

Additionally, Dalvai emphasized the importance of transparency.

“We need to be honest to the consumer,” Dalvai said. “In Fair Trade, not everything is perfect, we have to be open to discussion and criticism.”

Throughout the conference, brainstorm sessions and panel discussions deliberated ways to improve Fair Trade through the marketing and certification processes.  Although their voices may not have been present, the farmers were at the core of every discussion.

Blanca Rosa Molina, a producer from Nicaragua said Fair Trade gave her small-scale farm more visibility and power. Additionally, she said Fair Trade “fulfilled its promises in respecting dignity.” To this, Rosa Molina closed on one point.

“Don’t buy from us because we’re poor, buy from us because we have good, high-quality coffee,” Rosa Molina said.

Like any human creation, Fair Trade is imperfect, but the conference in Boston proved there is ingenuity and innovation underway to improve what has already left a tremendous impact on the lives of producers abroad.  That’s something to breathe easier about.

Cassie Herrington is currently a student at the University of Kentucky and opinions editor for The Kentucky Kernel. You can find her behind the bar serving your favorite drinks at Heine Brothers’ when home from school.

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The Idiosyncrasies of Summer

In Opinion/Editorial // on September 1st, 2010 // by // No comment

As the late August sun performs a few last finishing moves on the tired trees, it is important to take a look back at the dying season and the peculiarities that I exhibit during summer.

First, apparently people like iced coffee.

I always take my coffee hot. Iced coffee sounds to me like a logical fallacy, equivalent to a large man nicknamed ‘Tiny’ or ‘friendly’ fire.  I want no involvement with friendly fire, just the same, I want no involvement with iced coffee.

Now: to be honest, it’s not you, it’s me.

I have admittedly quirky/imbecilic sensibilities to many things. I think cucumbers should be banned by the FDA, I feel like it is cheating if someone helps me with a crossword puzzle, and I don’t believe in iced coffee.

This is not a slight to those who enjoy the drink. I wish I could enjoy cucumbers, people seem to relish (pun intended) the freshness of taste and the cool relief it brings to their palate. I wish I could share a crossword, it seems like a sweet bonding thing to do. And I can see the sense and benefit in enjoying a delicious iced coffee on a hot summer day. When I think about it, however, the stubbornness of a 1950’s dad grows in my soul, and I blindly rage, “ICED coffee? But, it’s coffee! Icing should never enter the equation! Might as well have a boy wear a pink shirt! Might as well buy a car NOT made in America!”

Oh 50’s dad. How did you find a home in my heart?

Fortunately, I have allies. I name them Equatorial Culture and Science.  Big hitters.

Throughout most of the world that lives under the oppressive heat of the equator, hot drinks rather than cold ones are customary. From the yerba in northern South America, the coffee ceremonies in Ethiopia, the hot mint tea in Algeria/Morocco, The green tea of southern China, and what ever they drink in Asia Minor the people of the hottest part of the world prefer hot beverages. I learned why this was earlier in the year.

Enter Science.

Apparently, drinking hot liquids in a warmer climate raises your internal body temperature. Having a body temperature closer to the outside environment means being more comfortable and making everything better for everyone. Ever.

Peter: 2   Iced Coffee: 0

My distrust of iced coffee is not the only quirk highlighted by the spotlight of the summer sun. Namely, I refuse to wear shorts.  I mention this because with my position in the company as your friendly neighborhood maintenance man/Action hero, I’ve had to do a great amount of work outside this year. Pants have done little to garner respect.

On one of the hottest days of the summer, I remember the heat index climbing to 111, we were setting up the Heine Bros booth for the Forecastle festival in the shadeless great lawn of Waterfront Park. The main topic of conversation between our Director of Operations and the others present revolved around what kind of moron wears pants in a season like this. I can’t say that my reliance on denim is furthering my career.

I have been described as a masochist. But I prefer to think of it as charitable. I look weird in shorts. I’m doing everyone else a favor. You are welcome, everyone.

Peter: -1  Shorts: 0

Along those same lines, this summer seemed to mark a number of awkward choices I made for myself:

  1. This summer brought back the belief that my disastrous hair could have some character if I grew it out.
  2. 50’s dad brought down the landmark decision to always tuck in button down shirts. This was shortly after his decree that I should wear more button down shirts.
  3. I allowed myself to believe that my apartment still felt “fine” without A/C for WAY too long.

Apart from looking better with a tucked in shirt, these decisions and my silly habits seem to speak of a designed plan for me to have the most uncomfortable summer on record. And in this, I believed I succeeded.

Peter’s Dignity: N/A   Summer: 1

I can’t wait until autumn.

P.S. Please still drink our iced coffee. I like my job, and we like your business.

Peter Clark has been with Heine Brothers’ Coffee for 4 years, first as a barista, and now as our Equipment and Facilities Manager. With 7 shops open 363+ days a year, our equipment needs a lot of love to keep the coffee brewing and frozen capp, well, frozen.

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