How Coffee Can Be Better
As readers of this page know, I occasionally ask writers from various backgrounds to contribute their thoughts. This week’s essay comes from Edward (Edie) Mukiibi president of the global Slow Food movement. Edie lives and works in Uganda where he and his family run an agroecological farm. An agronomist, food and agriculture educator and social entrepreneur, Mukiibi also continues to serve as president of Slow Food Uganda.
What brings people together more than a good cup of coffee? When a steaming morning brew infuses its way into our daily routine, we become part of a collective ritual involving billions of other people. Whether in the form of an Italian espresso, a filter coffee, a Turkish coffee or an Ethiopian ceremonial brew, coffee is second only to water as the world’s most consumed drink (and few enjoy the former unless they brew it with the latter).
My family has been intercropping coffee for generations, and many of my childhood memories concern its cultivation and consumption.
The varieties of coffee that my grandfather cultivated are dying out and being replaced by new industrial varieties whose higher yields come at the cost of their environmental impact
In the Ugandan community I grew up in, it was common practice to offer coffee as a welcoming for arriving visitors or returning travelers, or to infuse local distillate and roasted coffee beans from local Robusta or Nyasaland Arabica varieties. But for most people coffee is a prepackaged commodity that sits on the shelves of large retailers, or a beverage ordered in the outlets of large international chains.
When we purchase coffee from our supermarkets, we complete the last of a long series of economic transactions, beginning with the cultivation of the crop. Coffee, like other agricultural products, is a commodity, which is traded on the stock market whose value is determined by financial speculations resulting from future contracts.
Coffee consistently ranks among the world’s most traded commodities and is the sole source of income for more than 25…