In August we celebrated our 10th anniversary with Fairtrade meaning that for the past 10 years we've been committed to sourcing and roasting solely Fairtrade organic coffee, no exceptions.
Over the 10 years our close relationship with our certifiers, Fairtrade ANZ, has enabled us to form a strong bond with many of the coffee farmers in Papua New Guinea and our love for their land, people - and food! - keeps us going back to see them year after year. This year, however, we were lucky enough to host Mitchell Ricky on our shores, instead of landing on his.
Mitchell (on right) is a third generation coffee farmer and member from the Highland Organic Agricultural Cooperative (HOAC) based in the Okapa region of Papua New Guinea. As well as growing coffee, Mitchell studied a Bachelor of Commerce in the University of Technology in Lae and is now working for Coffee Connections (HOAC's exporter) in their coffee logistics and export team.
His cooperative, HOAC, were first certified by Fairtrade way back in 2005 so at 28 years old Mitchell represents the next generation of coffee farmers benefiting from the long term impacts of Fairtrade in the community. His attention to detail and earnestness meant he stood out on our trips his cooperative as one to watch.
Mitchell speaks to the crowd at AUT
After Mitchell touched down in Auckland our team met him at AUT's Auckland City campus just minutes before he stood in front of a crowd of about 30 people and delivered a speech about coffee farming, what struggles they face and how Fairtrade is helping alleviate some of the pressure (having never left Papua New Guinea prior to this trip!). Needless to say we were impressed with his confidence!
Thank you to everyone who took time out of their lunch our to join the presentation and discussion - we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Later that day we prepped to host Mitchell, alongside photographer Josh Griggs and Will Valverde of Fairtrade NZ, for our own event 'Stories of Papua New Guinea'; an informal gathering with delicious PNG inspired food (thank you, Forest) and plenty of banter about how much Mitchell's home means to us - and, to hear first hand, how much it means to him.
We took over Postal Service Café in Grey Lynn and crammed in a full house. Among many topics Mitchell recounted how much the Fairtrade Premiums (a dollar value paid over and above the Fairtrade price which goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use – as they see fit - to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions) mean to his community.
It really hit home for a lot of us when he mentioned how accessible water is here. 'Here you have 5 taps in one house, at home we have 5 houses to one tap'. — Mitchell Ricky
He went on to talk about the struggles HOAC are already facing due to the changing climate. The unpredictability of harvest times is wreaking havoc and forcing families to decide whether they harvest their cash crop (produced for its commercial value rather than for use by the grower) or harvest the food they grow in their gardens to feed their families.
Mitchell once again blew us away with how confidently he spoke in front of a crowd, nearing almost 100 this time. Most of us wouldn't be able to get up and speak in front of a crowd that big of our friends let alone in a foreign place.
On Friday, later that week, Mitchell spent most of the day with us in our Roastery in Grey Lynn. We walked him through our whole process, from the arrival of the green beans, to how we store and roast them, to packing and how we deliver to our customers across the country. Mitchell had a go controlling the roaster and bagged a few bags of beans for us, which he kindly signed for a few lucky customers!
Mitchell's face after roasting the beans of his own cooperative on our 25kg Probat Roaster.
We're confident that Mitchell will take the knowledge he gained here back to Papua New Guinea and share it with his cooperative; all too often the growers have little awareness on what happens to those green beans after they say goodbye to them at their farm gate, or local processing mill.
Mitchell's visit wasn't all work however - we did manage to escape for his first flat white at Postal Service, took him to see the views from atop Mt Eden and celebrated his 29th birthday with him too!
Working alongside Fairtrade all these years has allowed us to have many incredible experiences and this meeting was one of those special moments that encourage us to keep doing what we do. If you'd like to know more about the impact your choice to buy Fairtrade has in Papua New Guinea - we highly recommend taking a few minutes to watch the video below.