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Angel Website of the Month

Higher Grounds Trading Co.

Higher Grounds

Higher Grounds Trading Co. is a company fueled by its social mission and driven by a passion for sourcing the highest quality coffees from around the world.

Our mission is to provide you with premium, gourmet handcrafted coffees while supporting our coffee-producing partners who are leaders in sustainable development and environmental preservation.

Through this website, regular delegations to fair trade coffee growing communities, and the donation of our time, money, and coffee to grassroots initiatives in our communities, Higher Grounds aims to create connections between those of us who enjoy a daily dose of fair trade and organic coffee and the amazing people who harvest the green beans.

Through regular communication, yearly visits, and collaboration with human rights and development organizations, Higher Grounds is proud to offer our customers a first-rate coffee and the opportunity to create social change.

When you purchase Higher Grounds coffees you are:

Supporting A Fair Trade
By adhering to the standards of the Fair Trade Labeling Organization and working with fair trade cooperatives we are promising a dignified wage, bringing the benefits of fair trade to the communities that need it most.

Saving Biodiversity and Bird Habitats
Conventional coffee farming methods involve clearing forests in order to mature the coffee cherries more rapidly in direct sunlight. Higher Ground's partnering cooperatives grow their organic coffee under a canopy of shade, preventing loss to this priceless habitat.

Promoting Organic Agriculture
Conventional coffee is primarily grown using massive doses of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides - devastating the soil and groundwater and creating an economic strain on the small-scale farmer. Higher Grounds is proud to be working with cooperatives that are certified organic or are in transition to becoming certified (meaning they are practicing organic farming techniques and are awaiting certification).

Supporting the Formation of Indigenous Rights and Dignity
Five hundred and ten years after being conquered and colonized by the Spanish, the Mayan people, as well as indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, continue to struggle against oppression and poverty most recently imposed upon them by the forces of corporate globalization. Higher Grounds is working with cooperatives that have received international recognition for their inspiring, undying dedication in the struggle to create a just, equitable, and fair world for all people.

Fostering Corporate Social Responsibility
Most conventional coffee companies are worried about one bottom line: profit. In the coffee business, this is a very dangerous and, in our perspective, unethical practice to follow. By focusing solely on increasing profits, companies are not considering the devastating social and environmental impacts of buying coffee below the cost of production. At Higher Grounds we are dedicated to considering the livelihood of the coffee farmers we work with when making all business decisions. Recycling, composting, and purchasing post consumer recycled paper for office supplies are all "business as usual" at Higher Grounds!

Columbia

Coffee first landed on the shores of Colombia in the late 17th century. Today the country produces 12% of all coffee grown in the world – second only to Brazil as the world’s top coffee producing country. In 1927, the country formed the Colombian Coffee Federation, forming an alliance among coffee growers to help commercialize their product. Today the Federation is over 500,000 growers strong and is charged with commercializing nearly all of the coffee grown in Colombia. While this has helped support the small-scale farmers that make up the vast majority of coffee growers in the country, it has led to mediocre, non-descript Colombian coffee flooding supermarket shelves throughout the United States.

Through the Federation, coffee from various growing groups is processed and blended together, largely eliminating the unique flavorful lots of coffee found when sourcing from one particular group. Colombian coffee is categorized by grade - Supremo, Extra, and Excelso – rather than origin and as a result much of the time it is difficult to determine where, how and in what climate the coffee was grown.

A Quality Cup
Luckily, with the good fortune and direction of our importing cooperative – Cooperative Coffees – we are pleased to offer a true single-origin Colombian organic and fair trade coffee – direct from the farmers of Fondo Paez in the department of Cauca. Our Colombian Fondo Paez Medium Roast is full-bodied with delicate notes of caramel ending in a smooth finish.

Fondo Paez
Positioned in the Cordillera Central and composed of Colombia’s largest indigenous group – the Nasa (“the people” in their native language) – the Paez people are in the unfortunate position of being caught in the middle of an on-going civil war. Taking a stance of non-violence, the farmers of Fondo Paez remain neutral as the now half century- long civil war continues throughout their land.

The struggle for indigenous rights and peace guide the farmers of Fondo Paez as they work to retain their ancestral farming practices with the help of Fundacion Colombia Nuestra. In addition to cultivating coffee the farmers are educating their community in seed collecting, native bean and corn cultivation and other methods of providing a healthy diet for their families.

Ethiopia

The cradle of humanity and the birthplace of Arabica coffee, Ethiopia offers the coffee drinker a bouquet of quality organic coffees from the nation's diverse regions, soils, climates, and cultures.

A visit to the countryside of Ethiopia leaves one with little doubt about the importance of coffee income to family livelihoods and the Ethiopian government's GDP. Fifteen million households depend on coffee for income. There are more than 1.2 million coffee farmers in the country with 95% of the coffee produced by small-scale farmers.

Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU)
Through our importing cooperative, Cooperative Coffees, Higher Grounds buys fair trade coffee directly from Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU). OCFCU is an skilled organization charged with the responsibility of processing support, marketing, and commercializing coffee for 74 cooperatives comprising of 68,691 members and 343,455 family members. In 2004, OCFCU produced 81,596 tons of coffee (30,415 of which is organic). Entering into its seventh year of direct export, OCFCU is the first entity to have been granted the right to bypass the Ethiopian coffee auction in order to sell directly to foreign buyers. They currently have 48 pulperies, 15 hulleries, and 63 warehouses within the farming communities. OCFCU works exclusively in Oromia Regional State, which accounts for 65% of the country's total coffee producing land.

Mexico

Amidst the struggle for indigenous rights and preservation of their diverse cultures in the Mayan Highlands of Chiapas, you will find the finest Mexican coffees.

Coffee first achieved prominence in the beginning of the 18th century when formal plantations were established in Chiapas to supply a modest internal market. By the middle of the 19th century, German and Italian farmers settled in Chiapas along the Pacific Coast plateau. Creating large plantations (“haciendas”) devoted to the production of coffee, they depended on the indentured servitude of the Mayan whose families had traditionally lived in the highlands. The Mayan people realized that coffee also grew well in their communities and left the oppressive plantations to form their own grower-owned and -operated cooperatives.

Today, coffee accounts for 2/3 of all organic acreage in Mexico. Fifty percent of all organic coffee in the country is produced by indigenous farming groups: Mixtec, Cuicatec, Chatin, Chinantec, Zapotec, Tlapanec, Tojolabal, Chontal, Totonac, Amusgo, Maya, Tepehua, Tzotzil, Nahua, Otomi, and Tzelta. Ninety percent of all coffee growers in Mexico are small-scale farmers with less than 12 acres of land.

A Quality Cup

Now, after years of selecting the best seeds and carefully cultivating the crop, coffee from the Mayan Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico are some of the fullest-flavored, smooth coffees the world has to offer. Surrounded by dramatic mountains and lush valleys, connected by long waterfalls, the coffee varieties of Caturra, Mundo Novo, and Typica flourish to produce a wonderful medium-bodied, bright coffee with slight nutty and chocolate notes. Higher Grounds Trading Co. is proud to be working with three amazing co-ops to bring the regions finest fair trade, organic and shade grown coffees direct to you.

For Information on Black Gold, a film about the Coffee Trade, please click below:

Black Gold Movie

To purchase Higher Grounds Trading Co. coffee and to learn more about the farmers, please click here.

Past Angel Website of the Month

Global Exchange Fairtrade Online Store

To view all past Angel Websites of the month, please click here.


 

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