I might be one of those people who may be looked upon as a dreamer, luckily for me and to all those others — John Lennon reminds me with his words:
You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one
How does this relate to coffee? Let me tell you my little story.
At the beginning of 2018 I was privileged enough to take a break from society and make a trip over to Tanzania, Dar es Salaam. It wasn’t the first time that I visited. A little over ten years ago I was introduced to this beautiful culture when I went over for a family visit. Just 17 years old at the time I was completely stunned and amazed of the diversity that this country brought to me. I was introduced to the uniqueness of Tanzania with its pureness and all the beauty that our earth beholds. Through the eyes of my family, whom were calling Tanzania their home, I was introduced to the local community.
Okay, fast forward.
April 2018 I had the wonderful opportunity to join my cousin on his adventure, living in Dar es Salaam by himself. As one of the brightest and charismatic people I knew, he already spoke fluent Swahili at the time and connected with everyone that we met throughout our stay. Absolutely unique and incredibly inspiring. In complete awe I left this country to forever leave it’s mark in my consciousness.
I am that type of person who reflects, contemplates, works upon his vision to hopefully become a better person throughout the experience of my life. Once being a Marine I have nowadays turned myself to a Humanist. A vision far more appealing to me, with its aim for total inclusion. Especially, through trips as these I am being reminded of my fortunate position in our beloved world. I have come to realise that wherever I may find my path I have always been welcomed with the utter most humbleness and hospitality. Due to these reasons, I have developed a strong urge to give back by bettering myself and hopefully one day contribute my personal strengths to creating a better world. I feel obliged this way and truly hope that I can create a positive ripple.
Coffee has shown me a way to do so.
I have always loved the smell of fresh coffee. I actually remember my first cup of coffee. I must have been around 10 years old, quite young now looking back at it. And a real ‘Dutch’ one, from Douwe Egberts, a strong bitter taste of dark roast robusta. It was on a beach during the summer in front of a small shack and with the morning rise and the sun slowly giving its warmth, my body filled itself with the black gold. Instantly, I felt some sort of comfort and energy rising. It must have been that caffeine rush, which propelled me to strive for more. Thinking back of it, I’m not quite sure if it was the most responsible idea to give a kid my age a brew so strong. Either way, it has brought me here. Not too bad after all.
Gratitude has shown me the way
From that first moment of sipping coffee to experiencing firsthand the progress and hardship has been an absolute humbling experience. Enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee has always been a heartwarming and social experience to me, there is really no better way than to enjoy this with your loved ones, dear friends, colleagues or first dates in cozy cafes around the world. But since my journey to Tanzania I have also been made aware that there’s much more behind that cup of coffee. It’s kind of crazy how that works. At least to me. Coffee has always been just coffee, of course I knew that there were distinctions in quality but I never really took notice of the fact that coffee is actually so much more than that.
Coffee is a Cultural Experience!
For coffee to grow, especially Coffae Arabica the more luxurious and characteristic variety, farmers have to go to through an intense process to eventually harvest it under the exact right conditions. With effects of climate change on the rise, farmers actually face more challenges than ever just for us to enjoy our beloved cup of coffee. It wasn’t until my travels to Tanzania that I came to the realisation that all this hardship goes into my cup of coffee and I shamefully never really gave too much thought to it either. At least, not till that point.
Going back to the Netherlands I couldn’t think of much else than to share this story with everyone I encountered, trying to understand if I was the only one being clueless or that we are all somewhat unconscious about our coffee habits. With not much surprise, I was made painfully aware that the story behind our coffee was not really one that was actively being shared. At least, not by the majority of the people. Although an epic rise of awareness is being made within the cacao industry, coffee is still somewhat unexplored.
But, here I learned that there’s actually a face behind our cup of coffee. And that face is culturally influenced, meaning that it can be face from Myanmar to Peru. A face that is usually affected by hardship, trying to make ends meet. Not just for themselves, but for their family and usually their surroundings. Through my travels I came to learn that life isn’t actually that ease when one is relying on coffee as the major or usually only source of income. And to all sadness, they are usually the ones being used the most. Through this journey I came to difficult understanding that there major societal problems occurring within the coffee industry, especially around its production which is mostly done in emerging countries that involve unfavourable labor practices with low wages, long hours, no benefits, and child labor.
And this, I cannot support.
Because, maybe I am that dreamer. But moreover, I am also that Marine turned Humanist. Because I strongly believe that we should strive for a world of inclusion. I believe that there should be equality amongst us human beings, where every one should have the opportunity to educate themselves and their children so that they themselves can contribute and we together strive on making this world a better and even more beautiful place. A place where everyone can prosper.
It will be the least that I will strive for.