Date: Sat, 29 Sep 2007
Subject: [PAR-L] strong coffee/cafe femenino

I just watched an uplifting documentary titled Strong Coffee, about the Cafe Femenino coffee-growing collective. See

The movie describes how organic, shade-grown, fair trade coffee is grown, and traces the development of Cafe Femenino from its beginnings in Peru to the current network of collectives throughout South America and (soon) in Tanzania.

To be sold under the Cafe Femenino brand, coffee berries must grow on land owned by women. Women oversee the harvesting and processing and sales. The Organic Producers Trading Corporation has agreed not to blend Cafe Femenino coffee with any other coffee beans, and to pay a small premium for the coffee. As well, coffee roasters in the developed world agree to contribute 2 percent of their revenue from Cafe Femenino to local women's groups, often women's shelters.

Although (the film says) women are about 35 percent of the workers in regular coffee production, usually they have little or no say in how coffee is produced and how the revenue is spent. As a general rule, only men take the beans to market, make the sales, and return home with the proceeds. The problem is that men tend to stop at the canteen on the way home, and have a few drinks with their friends -- arriving home with only a fraction of the cash they received.

Another problem is that most coffee farmers have to borrow money from sales agents during the low season, to pay school tuition and supplies for their children. Then the sales agents charge up to 40 percent of their profits in interest. Cafe Femenino is affiliated with a non-profit microcredit agency that helps tide coffee farmers  over between seasons, without charging usurious interest rates.

Strong Coffee is a short (45 minutes), engaging documentary, filled with colourful images and South American music. The coffee itself is very tasty and comes in a variety of blends, depending on the local roaster. Shuswap Coffee Roasters provided free samples and special prices on bags of coffee at the screening I attended. Cafe Femeninio is only available in Canada, Costa Rico, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

See  for more information about this specialty coffee that is changing the lives of women in coffee-producing countries.

cheers, Penney

Penney Kome, author and journalist
Editor, Straight Goods,