Parasitic Politics: The Invisible Coffee Estate

Importers cannot appreciate the massively difficult undervalued efforts by invisible coffee farmers. Roasting companies often use cheap machine harvested, mass produced, unripe coffee enhancing it with chemically flavored, corn filled mixed bitter beans branded as fancy variety ‘blends’.


When amateur roasters acquire specialized beans they often ruin them. Blending unique coffees from around the world together to create what they deem superior. Falsely assuming positive characteristics are accumulative through mere combination.


Compare to the wine industry. Imagine a bottling company taking an award winning heritage winery and mixing their best wine with a variety of different house wines from completely different global regions.


You would not take a bottle of Bordeaux, fill it with a cheap wine and brand it as a superior ‘blend’. Further, attesting it is an improvement to a full bottle of Bordeaux whilst charging more because you have ‘added to it’. This is what most consumers are getting in the specialty coffee market today.


As a fifth generation estate growing strictly high grown specialized micro-climate heritage coffee for over 135 years, we have sadly had professionals less than a decade in their industry lecture us on the superiority of blends never having tried truly high end beans.


We have had people unaware that coffee comes from a red fruit grape proudly correct us on what makes a quality coffee bean. Little to say there is unfortunately a lot of top down arrogance within our industry and a gravely incorrect attitude that baristas and roasters are where the heart of coffee culture resides.


This is a desperate reflection of how disconnected and unappreciative the coffee industry truly is to the people, cultures, history and places that it relies on to exist. It is no wonder that what is left of heritage coffee farming is dying at an alarming rate. The irony is that coffee in and of itself is so beautifully simple, and yet the industry turns it into such a chaos reflected in the blends it produces.  


Most coffee connoisseurs, the high end consumer market, have never tried nor heard of single sourced beans. Sadly blends and premixed brokerage beans are the best a self-proclaimed coffee lover has awareness of or access to. People who want quality coffee deserve better than mere fair trade or organic certifications.


The true value, effort and rarity of a specialized bean is lost on the abusive privileged over-saturated parasitic side of this industry. Heritage estates are hanging on by a financial thread surrounded by ruthless brokers. They roam communal mountains trying to catch farms in a moment of economical weakness.


For every $4-6 cup of coffee only a mere penny goes to the farm. Traditional coffee estates have long collapsed and only few remain leaving mass industrial operations to thrive. Still consumers are not aware that they could buy direct. Roasters, cafes and brokers make the profit majority butchering specialized beans by blending for better profit.


Self-appointed industry gatekeepers fashioned with trendy intellectual garb and egos. Wealthy cut throat brokers, career baristas, trendy roasters and graphically rugged ethically branded coffee companies have overly fetishized and saturated the cup. They make the simplicity of coffee unnecessarily complex.


In an industry that deals with the second most valuable legal commodity in the world lesser only to oil, it is no surprise the market is saturated with primarily ideological and economically oriented participants. It needs a full blown overhaul. Too many profiteers not enough appreciation, respect or credit where it is due, and it is overdue.


This could explain the snobbery and misguided sense of importance. If international free trade laws allowed farmers to roast and export their own beans, like wineries, most of these personalities would be immediately out of business. In turn coffee would be significantly less expensive, better quality and independent small farmers would cease to face extinction. In turn leaving the legitimately skilled roasters and baristas to rightfully claim and own their end of the market.


Generic and low effort brands are making impossible claims that somehow their method of roasting or blending beans is superior. Nearly anyone can buy a roaster making green beans brown. Or put roasted beans into an espresso machine. Very few could take on the risk, liability and backbreaking discipline to successfully grow, harvest, ferment and dry coffee.


Not to mention most roasters are buying all their beans from the exact same brokers and all are blending them together into a muddled, muted, melded mess of mediocre coffee.


You can turn good beans bad but not bad beans good. Either you maintain quality or you never had it to begin with, but never ever are you the one who creates it.


That credit belongs to the invisible farmer.


The truth is that it is time to be brutally honest with consumers. Independent coffee estates are disappearing and being replaced by massive automated machine operated corporate farms. The parasitic treatment of humble coffee farms by foreign brokers and all has gone on so long that it is resulting in the death of traditional, truly ethical, environmentally respectful quality coffee. There have been some efforts made over the years but they are unfortunately not enough and often superficially applied.


It is time for the coffee consumer to consciously decide if they want the quality of their cup to be determined by machine or man, by frother or farmer.


With 500 billion cups consumed per year, this is a bigger decision than one may anticipate. This tiny bean has been the center of world changing conversation for hundreds of years. Shaping cultures and places, coffee has inspired some of the greatest literary and political efforts in recorded history. This is by no means a small thing or influence.


So to all the self-proclaimed ‘coffee snobs’ a serious question is posed:


Will the industry that relies on farmers to exist recognize and compensate them fairly or should you, the consumer of high standards who loves and appreciates a good cup, start taking things into your own hands – starting with whom you purchase coffee from?


As the farming industry is without public witness, this transformation from independent farm to mass industry is fast moving. As one of the first farms to attempt to enter into the direct to consumer market online, we hope to pave a way for others to survive and hopefully thrive via adaptation and education.


The ultimate goal is for we the coffee farmers to find you, the coffee lovers. If we could accomplish that, we could change the industry and pave a way for a far brighter future for coffee estates just like ours, at The Generals Cup.

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