Thursday, July 12, 2012
Crooked Tree Coffeehouse in Dallas works to bring coffee growers and consumers closer together
Specialty shops like Crooked Tree have bridged the gap between Dallas and coffee plantations around the world.
What ever happened to predictability? The milkman, the paperboy, evening TV? The Uptown home on Routh Street, now occupied by Crooked Tree Coffeehouse, has watched them all come and go over the past century or so.
What hasn’t gone out of style since those days is the human need to feel close to what is being bought while having as few meddling middle-men in between consumers and producers as possible. Unfortunately, the growers of the second most-traded commodity in the world are often short-changed.
“Coffee farmers are some of the poorest people in the world,” Crooked Tree store manager, Tavner Threatt said. “Traditionally, the coffee trade has always abused them. There’s always middle-men that end up taking the few dollars that coffee actually makes before it gets to the farmers.”
Consumers are willing to pay a social premium to ensure that they are purchasing responsibly grown and responsibly traded coffee. They will also pay a premium for coffee beans that are grown with as few degrees of separation between them and the grower, giving them a sense of familiarity with the origins of a daily-drank beverage. These are some of the reasons that Fair Trade standards and labeling laws came about, but Crooked Tree has gone so far as to drop the label in an effort to bring growers closer to consumers.
“With Fair Trade you have to get certification which means you have to be part of a co-op to get that certification. You’re not really motivated to make your coffee superior; you’re just motivated to make it fit the bar because it’s going to be blended with other coffees from this co-op.”
Cutting the co-op has allowed Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters, Crooked Tree’s provider, to pay their growers more while incentivizing the cultivation of better beans. Co-ops aren’t all bad, however; they allow plantations with tracts as small as half an acre to become profitable and OCCR certainly still relies on them. Whatever the business model, the end result should taste great and it’s the practices that uphold the growers that will give consumers the best products. It’s an extension of the “good cheese comes from happy cows” economic principle.
Chad Wallace, an American with an agricultural degree from Texas A&M, moved to the Dominican Republic to start his own fully organic coffee plantation called Spirit Mountain. The results have been top notch.
“This guy started with every little bit of his business being intentional. From the actual methods he uses to farm, to the altitudes that he farms at, to the varietals [subspecies of the coffee plant] that he uses, the processes that he uses. So he is able to create an intentional, high-quality cup of coffee which is a special thing, I think”
Across the world in Ethiopia’s Yirgacheffe region, with a population of about 21,000 people, a conglomerate of coffee species has given the area a reputation among coffee connoisseurs. The brew is described as a “mystical beast that creates this wonderful tea-like cup of coffee…It’s absurdly smooth, very pleasantly floral and it’s mysterious because in Ethiopia we don’t even know what the varietals are. In Ethiopia the coffee trees run wild so farmers will own a plot of land and they’ll have wild coffee trees that they pick from. So Yirgacheffe is a special place that’s centered around this coffee culture.”
Specialty shops like Crooked Tree have bridged the gap between Dallas and coffee plantations around the world. Until coffee arabica begins sprouting up in the plains of North Texas, coffee can’t get any more local than this. Transforming coffee from a cash crop to a global good has made every cup at Crooked Tree sweeter. While our coffee growers may not be as familiar as was once the paper[-]boy, they deserve the same amount of thanks for what they do.
Pegasus News Content partner - Entree Dallas
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