When we first started talking about this idea...
...the idea of building a business around coffee that’s better for the drinker, the planet, and the people who responsibly shepherd it from seed to cup, we were very aware of the fact that it was an aspirational pursuit. Perhaps even overly idealistic.
There are plenty of problems within the world of coffee. Problems that, from an outside perspective, can seem depressingly insurmountable. Problems that can make even the most fervent coffee optimists question whether or not their actions can truly make a difference.
An uncomfortable truth of the industry is that there will always be the You-Know-Who’s, who exalt profit above all else, commoditizing the coffee trade in a cold march towards the next quarterly earnings report. But, in spite of this, very real change is happening. We’re happy to report that the drum beat for a sustainable coffee future is louder than ever, and it’s only growing stronger.
And March’s featured roaster is one helluva drummer.
Presenting, from Sacramento, California, Pachamama Coffee Cooperative.
The "100" Emoji
Pachamama Coffee Cooperative is 100% owned by farmers.
Over 240,000 of them, as a matter of fact. Pachamama came to be when co-founder Thaleon Tremain, who worked on a coffee farm in Bolivia during his time at the Peace Corps, started to ask questions. Big questions. Questions like:
- Why do the people that work the hardest in the coffee supply chain make the least?
- Why do the highest profits go to those who take the least amount of risk?
- How can this be better?
Big questions don't always have the convenient, concrete answers that we're looking for when we type something into Google, but they do have the power to spur action. What became clear is that these questions were worth asking. The Pachamama Coffee Cooperative was born.
Pachamama's mission is "To sell organic coffee in the most direct way possible and, in doing so, improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and their families."
As the first global cooperative in North America owned by farmers outside the country, the organization simply cannot exist without a structurally sound supply chain that rewards the very people who make its existence possible. Contrary to more traditional, top-heavy models where profits stay with the retailers, Pachamama's model favors the farmer. In 2020, Pachamama farmers - who are based in Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Ethiopia - received over 11x the revenue per pound of raw coffee compared to the commodity market.
This model allows farmers to invest in their farms, workers, and communities. And because of the Cooperative's ability to access broader markets to sell coffee, farmers are better able to forecast from season to season what they need to produce.
What's in a name?
A more fitting name, there could not be. Pachamama is an Incan mythological goddess and, in essence, the depiction of Earth. It’s she who gave birth to Water, Earth, Sun and Moon and is looked to by indigenous Andean cultures as the omnipotent figure that created and supports life.
Pachamama cocktail party fodder:
- The literal translation of the word is “World Mother”. Incans also refer to her as Mother Earth, La Pachamama, and Mama Pacha.
- Many cultures perform a daily ritual of spilling out a small amount of chicha (a fermented traditional drink) on the floor to nourish Pachamama, and then drink the rest. Pour one out for the planet.
- On the eve of August 1st, in a tradition that seems to combine modern-day Western observances of Christmas and Groundhog Day, families cook all night to prepare a feast for Pachamama. Before eating, the host digs a hole in the ground to see whether or not the soil will be good for the harvest that year. Guests then wait to eat until Pachamama is presented with her feast.
The Andean peoples who praise Pachamama are keenly aware of her desire for balance. Of humanity and nature, of good and evil, of celebration and reverence.
It's this simple philosophy that drives the Pachamama Coffee Cooperative. When the wellbeing of the lives of the people who grow, process, roast, and drink the coffee are put first, we've no other choice than to work with, not take from, the planet.
Just how Mama Pacha likes it.