Did you know, that there are more than 70 countries in coffee production worldwide? When considering this, it becomes apparent that the list of national origins which Fika has offered coffee from is still quite short. Therefore, whenever a coffee comes in from an origin which we are yet to have included in our offerings, it is a noteworthy occasion.
At Fika we rarely limit ourselves to only our known coffee world. But we do try to keep some favorite origins consistently in our coffee repertoire. Places like Guatemala, Mexico, Ethiopia and Burundi always seem to make their way into our yearly offerings. For one, we like the coffee from these places. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we have developed some strong relationships and loyalty to the farms and coffee companies we have been working with along the way.
Still, there are other countries that sit just outside our awareness, that every so often pop into our purview as if to entice us to expand our scope. The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of these countries which just expanded our coffee scope. And oh are we thankful for that! Not only is the coffee great (more to come on that later), but the cause behind and within the coffee is aligned with our own values.
Geo-politically, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a complex place, which I am ill-equipped to speak much to here. But I can say that there is no shortage of serious social issues which need addressing. That is why we are very pleased to align ourselves with Mighty Peace Coffee, the importing company that is bringing us the coffee called Umoja. Umoja means solidarity in Swahili.
The Umoja project is a cooperative of 11,600 members, "mostly small farmers, men and women for whom coffee is a vital and often the sole source of income and stability." The members are producing Kivu Arabica specialty coffees, grown on volcanic soil, at an altitude of over 1,480 meters between Lake Kivu and the Mitumba mountain range.
As Mighty Peace puts it, "In the 10 years Umoja farmers have been growing specialty coffee, the sale of Umoja has helped to improve the living conditions of our members, provide schooling, housing, jobs and reducing coffee smuggling on Lake Kivu, while promoting women’s and pygmy rights." Umoja, or Solidarity, seems to be an appropriate name.
Mighty Peace Coffee goes above and beyond fair trade standards, declaring their standards to be "peace trade". Peace trade practices include; cooperative farming, local ownership, and a forward narrative. Read more about the peace trade standards on their website.
Practically speaking though, the peace trade seems to emphasize an immediate increase in selling price for producers. For example, "Mighty Peace Coffee purchased your Umoja at $6/kg or $2.73/lb. The fair trade organic minimum is $1.70/lb. The price we pay (Mighty Peace Coffee) includes a built-in $0.75/lb bonus that producers get once we’ve finalized the purchase. Ensuring that stakeholders in the Democratic Republic of Congo are compensated fairly is essential for the long-term sustainability of the country’s growing coffee industry."
Participating in economic systems which support the well being of all participants is something which Fika strives for in our relationships to the coffee producing world. Of course, the well being of coffee producers is also directly tied to the well being of the land which grows the coffee. And for that reason we are happy to know about the high environmental standards which the Umoja cooperative is engaging with, and which Mighty Peace promotes. We are happy to pay more for coffee which is providing opportunity for sustainable economic and environmental models. This is especially so, when the coffee tastes good. And this one is good.
The Umoja coffee produces a tantalizing cup. The more I drink it the more it grows on me. The flavors I pick up range from peach, pralines and cream, to fudge and dark chocolate undertones. The cup is bright, but bodied enough to mute the brightness down from the highs of the usual African specialty coffee.
We have been brewing the Umoja as a batch brew in our shop, as a pour over at home, or through an aeropress in a pinch, and it always tastes clean and flavorful. It also makes up a portion of our Espresso 61 blend, which is tasting really smooth these days, undoubtedly in part due to the inclusion of the Umoja.
All this being said, we hope you all get to try a cup of this coffee. Not only is it a coffee which is a force of good for the world, it is also a great tasting cup. The Democratic Republic of Congo is now an origin on our map. We hope to continue working with Mighty Peace Coffee as well as the Congolese people in the near and distant future.