We introduced CoffeeCSA to our eNewsletter readers last issue in a brief article with the promise to do a follow-up once we had received our order and tasted it. After conducting extensive research- several enjoyable cups of incredible mochas, lattes and espressos- the time has come to do the actual writing!
Why CoffeeCSA Makes so Much Sense, on so Many Levels
CoffeeCSA is a new venture, launched in early April this year and has seen significant exposure in the press, with The New York Times, Huffington Post and RSF Social Finance all writing about them. Early response has been very positive as well. CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture, has gained attention in the past few years with it’s fresh, locally produced food model that directly connects the consumer with the farmer that grew their food. There are many benefits to this model, as the eater gets to meet and usually get to know the producer; supply chains are non-existant with the consumer picking up their food directly from the grower; the grower can respond to consumer requests for different varieties rapidly; and the grower/farmer/producer gets paid up front and in full, not after everyone else has taken their profit.
This is all well and good, you say, but what exactly does this have to do with coffee? Lots.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any coffee growers in the United States, as coffee is strictly a tropical crop. That means that there aren’t any local growers to most of the world’s population, and coffee is a food that will always be shipped in. This is where CoffeeCSA shines as it is 100% grower owned, 100% of the profits go to the farmers, the coffee has all of the great labels- fair-trade, shade grown, organic, hand roasted, single origin, etc. etc. Pachamama is the parent organization with about 140,000 farmers making up it’s ownership worldwide, so it is in good hands.
The grower-owned model is beneficial for all involved, as it provides a higher quality, sustainable, traceable cup of coffee for the drinker and much
more profits for the grower who is more able to remain in business providing that incredibly delicious cup of coffee we crave. Commercial commodity coffee growers make about $1.64 per pound of coffee and fair trade growers make around $2.18 per pound. CoffeeCSA growers get about $4.60 per pound from the sale of their own coffee, plus up to $3.60 per pound that comes from the cooperative profits. That’s double what fair trade certified growers get right from the start, with a significant amount more in profit sharing possible. All of this happens at a price that is usually quite a bit less than what you’d pay for similar quality coffee- around $9.99 per pound plus shipping.
The mechanics are similar to any other CSA. You go to CoffeeCSA.org, create your free membership, select how you want your coffee, buy it and wait for it to arrive at your door. The coffee is fresh roasted in Davis, CA and shipped soon after roasting so it is much fresher than that you are used to seeing in stores, even high-end ones that depend on traditional distribution channels after roasting. Some coffee is anywhere from a week to 10 days old before it even hits the shelves!
We ordered on a Thursday and received the coffee the next Monday by UPS where we live in Arizona. Upon opening the bag, I was surprised at how fresh and intense the aroma of the whole beans was. The primal scent of coffee was immediately there, closely followed by a rich earthy smell, then ending with chocolate. Now this was a great start!
The next morning was the first tasting. This is a medium roast, so there isn’t much oil on the outside of the bean. After grinding for the espresso machine, I caught a strong floral scent in addition to the others from the day before. The charge tamped a bit easier than other coffees, and the flow of crema was very full from the portafilter. Poking my nose into the cup after the double shot was done was educational, as it was much more intense, fresh, clean and lively than what I’m used to smelling. I’m thinking that these qualities are due to the single, hand grown origin, hand roasting and overall freshness of the beans. It really seemed that there was a huge amount of care, attention and love that I was inhaling the aroma of!
After steaming the milk, the first sip was delightful. I had selected this variety grown by Belhermina Aguilar in Santa Teresa, Peru for its’ description- “This single-origin coffee is sweet & smooth with strong chocolate notes.” The description was dead accurate, with the addition of being delicious! The flavors of the bean melded well with the sweetness of the raw cane sugar and richness of the fresh milk.
We enjoy drinking coffee for its’ flavor, not as a necessity of the caffeine, so this is a real treat to find such a top quality coffee at this price that
does so much good for everyone. The downside is that we now have much higher expectations when we go out for coffee, as we have rapidly become used to the superior flavors and aromas that hand-grown, harvested, selected and roasted coffee gives.
We will definitely be continuing with CoffeeCSA!