November 12, 2007

A Review of the Movie "Strong Coffee: The Story of Cafe Feminino"

By Megan Marsh
Bread for the World activist
Colorado Springs

Non-coffee drinkers don't understand that there is a stark difference between a commercial brand like Folgers and something better. I've been accused of being a coffee snob several times for refusing to drink the break room sludge at work. My friend Andrea swears that coffee tastes better when you see the Fair Trade label on it.

Ah, we are vindicated! There is a difference!

Strong Coffee - the story of Cafe Femenino, a documentary shown at the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival on Nov. 3, documents the lives of women coffee farmers in Peru that make the choice to band together and separate their coffee from other beans being farmed in the area, and as a result have seen many positive changes in their communities, such as a decrease in violence and abuse towards women, more girls having the opportunity to be educated, and the general quality of life being improved in their communities.

From the tree to the cup, Cafe Femenino beans are kept separate from other coffee beans and the standards for quality are extremely high. They showed in the film what a "good" bean looks like, described its texture and smell, and compared it to beans that don't pass the stringent quality tests and get passed on to buyers who perhaps don't care as much about the quality (read: your multinational corporation, or as I like to call it - truck stop coffee).

As a result, the women farmers are able to earn $.02/lb. over the fair trade price. Everyone involved follows a model established by founders. Distributors are encouraged to roast the beans separately, keep the Cafe Femenino logo, and give a portion of the profits from the coffee to womens centers in their local communities. The beans are organic which means the farmers will not be exposed to harmful pesticides and the environment is also protected.

The communities that are associated with Cafe Femenino have found that when it is the woman who manages the money, it is better spent to take care of the family needs. Women will feed, clothe and educate their families with the money from the coffee, which is not always the case with the men. Therefore, Cafe Femenino is helping lift families out of poverty.

BuyWell International, a local distributor of Cafe Femenino was on site.

So there you have it that tastes better and makes you feel better. There is a difference.

Thank you to Carlos Navarro for giving us the heads up on the event (see earlier blog post entitled Coffee and Gender Equity), and thank you to the nice ladies at the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival for sneaking me in without a ticket (I didn't realize that you had to buy a ticket for the whole day instead of individual films.)