The Inspiring Women of ASPROCAFE Ingruma

Women’s voices are a growing force within our supply chain, and we’re proud to honor them with our seasonal Women in Coffee series. Organic Crescendo comes to you from Colombia, where coffee farming is deeply rooted in the culture. ASPROCAFE
Ingruma is one of the leading farmer co-ops in organic production, and we’d like to spotlight four dynamic women who are not only coffee farmers, but are also professionals employed by the co-op in influential positions. Their work demonstrates their commitment to mother earth and to empowering farmers.

Rocio Motato Suarez, General Manager
Rocio (top right) is a grassroots activist, on the ground working with farmers. She is one of the architects of el Dia del Campo, an annual event that brings together coffee farmers in their communities for training, education and community building.

Luz Marina Garcia Ruiz, Social Program Coordinator
Luz Marina  (left) manages the social
programs that are funded by Fair Trade premiums. She is an active supporter of the organic movement and organizes countless farmer trainings. Her work also includes managing the co-op’s women’s program, food security program and a project to serve school lunches.

Yaneth Taborda Morales, Coffee Cupper
Yaneth manages the Coffee Collection Center, where the co-op buys the coffee from its farmer members. As manager, she talks to farmers
about their coffee’s quality and sorts and grades their coffee right before their eyes. She is also teaching other farmers to cup and analyze coffee.

Angelica Arroyave Cordoba, Quality Ambassador and Primary Coffee Cupper 
Angelica (far right) is a skilled cupper and is engaged in coffee quality both within and beyond her co-op. She competed in Colombia’s National Cupping Competition in 2015, and won! She went on to finish ninth in the world. Angelica is on a professional path to become a Q Grader Instructor. She apprenticed with Equal Exchange Quality Manager Beth Ann Caspersen in January this year in Piura, Peru.

We’re proud to work with these amazing women through our trade partnership with ASPROCAFE Ingruma. Try Organic Colombian Crescendo, a seasonal light-medium roast with notes of cocoa, raisin and fig!

2016 Year in Review

Last year, we celebrated the 30th birthday of Equal Exchange — and so much more! In this video, Equal Exchange worker-owners share just a few of the moments that made 2016 great. Thank you for your support, and please join us in creating big change in 2017!

 

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! You know what that means: sweets for your sweetheart. Celebrate the day by making these easy, delicious chocolate covered strawberries. The best part? We make them with organic, fairly traded chocolate! Show your love for that special someone with a thoughtful alternative to conventional chocolate.

Watch the video above for step-by-step instructions, or follow the recipe below.

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

What you need:
Strawberries
2 bars of Equal Exchange chocolate (any variety, but we used Organic Very Dark 71%)

What to do:
1. Wash your strawberries without removing the stems.
2. Chop your chocolate.
3. Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer over medium heat.
4. Place your chocolate in a heatproof medium sized bowl and place that over the saucepan.
5. Allow the chocolate to soften and stir until melted.
6. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat. Dip strawberries in the chocolate, then lift and twist slightly to allow excess chocolate to fall back into the bowl.
7. Place the strawberries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and allow the chocolate to set for 30 minutes.
8. Serve or refrigerate, then share with your sweetheart.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Equal Exchange Speech At Nuns On The Bus Rally

In July, the “Nuns on the Bus” let loose again, starting in Wisconsin in mid-July, and hitting towns and cities—and congressional offices—in the northeast, on the way to both the Republican and Democratic conventions to challenge public officials and candidates to “Mend the Gaps” in Wealth and Income Inequality.

Network Lobby, the year-round home of the Nuns, is a long-time customer of Equal Exchange, and we proudly donated the coffee, tea and chocolate for the trip.

Peter Buck, from Equal Exchange, spoke at their July 23rd rally in Boston. See a video of his speech from the rally.

 

Photos from the Rally

Signing on to Mend the Gaps
In 24 cities, the Nuns held rallies and workshops, and attendees signed on to Mend the Gaps in Income and Wealth.

Some of the attendees at the Boston rally, July 23rd, at Boston College High School.

The speakers from the Boston Rally with Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS.

 

 

 

Get Kids And Parents Excited To Fundraise With Equal Exchange

The school year has just begun, your fundraising kickoff is coming up, and all the logistics are figured out. Now it’s time to start building some excitement! Putting up posters in the hallways, sending out emails to parents, and offering samples at Back to School Night are great places to start. But there is more that needs to be done to make sure that kids are excited to start selling and parents are excited to start buying!

Let’s start with the kids! How can you get your students excited to raise money over the fall season?

  1. Incentives! Incentives are the best way to get kids excited to fundraise. We suggest low-cost, fun experiences that let the class celebrate as a group and take a break from their normal routine. Some memorable and popular ideas we suggest are pizza parties, movie showings or dress-up or dress-down days. To keep up momentum, keep track of your progress throughout the fundraiser with charts in the hallway where each homeroom can mark their progress for all to see. For fun, unique incentive ideas check out a great list compiled by Believe Kids!
  2. Engaging lesson plans. Get kids excited to sell fairly traded foods by using our lesson plans. By connecting the fundraiser to what they are learning in class, it will take on greater meaning for them. Help draw the connection between small-scale farming communities and the things they see in the fundraising catalog with our videos, presentations and more. They can also take what they learned and use them as talking points when discussing the fundraiser with potential buyers!

And now to the parents. As we all know, parents are busy people, and sometimes important things (even your catalog fundraiser!) can get lost in the shuffle. Here’s how to keep parents engaged and ready to support your cause. 

  1. Show them how an Equal Exchange fundraiser is different. This isn’t your usual popcorn, artificial candy or cheap knickknacks! Be clear about what you’re offering: organic, fairly traded and truly delicious coffee, tea, chocolate and more — things they’ll be excited to try and share with friends and family.
  2. Emphasize the goal of your fundraiser. When parents know that their money is going toward a specific project, trip or resource, their participation in the fundraiser becomes more meaningful. Remind folks what you are working toward with every fundraising announcement. And don’t forget to follow up! When the fundraiser is over, make an announcement through social media, email or a letter to thank parents for participating and show them how the money was used and how much you raised. This will lay the groundwork for a great fundraiser the next year, too!

Interested in more ideas, or want to share your own? Email fundraising@equalexchange.coop or join our Facebook page for Equal Exchange Fundraising Coordinators! Good luck this fall!

Dark Chocolate Coconut Brownie

tray of dark chocolate coconut brownies next to a can of baking cocoa
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Dark Chocolate Coconut Brownie

Course Dessert
Keyword Brownies, Chocolate

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place coconut oil into the microwave for 1 minute until melted. Add melted coconut oil with vegetable oil, vanilla, and eggs. Stir well.
  3. In another bowl, mix sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, flour, and chocolate pieces. Stir together until fully blended.
  4. Combine all ingredients and stir thoroughly.
  5. Grease an 8×8 baking pan and pour batter evenly inside pan. Sprinkle with shredded coconut.
  6. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

How to Make Iced Tea Concentrate

One of our favorite things about summertime is iced tea! It’s surprisingly easy to make by the glass or by the pitcher, and there are almost endless flavor combinations and creative recipes to try. One of the easiest ways to make a lot of iced tea at once is to brew a strong iced tea concentrate, which you then mix with water and ice as needed. Watch the video below to see how it’s done!

Iced Tea Concentrate

  • Boil 8 cups water and pour into a heatproof glass pitcher.
  • Add 15 tea bags of your choice (with strings, tags and staples removed) and let steep for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the tea bags and let cool to room temperature.
  • Transfer to sealable containers and refrigerate.
  • When you’re ready to drink, add 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water and ice in a glass or pitcher.

Simple Syrup

Sweeten your tea without the sugar crystals lingering at the bottom of your glass! Simply combine 1 part sugar with 1 part hot water just off the boil and mix well. Add to your glass or pitcher of tea to taste.

Solidarity In The Coffee Leaf Rust Crisis

It’s bad enough that small coffee farmers get peanuts for their beans, and face natural and human disasters like unusual hurricanes or gang violence. The latest crisis to burden them is a fungus called coffee leaf rust, which causes blemishes on a coffee plants’ leaves, damaging the health and productivity of the plant, and in the worst cases killing it.

Over the past several years, coffee rust has reduced harvests in Central and South America by as much as 80%, destroying the livelihood of many small farmers who frequently lack the resources to control the damage.

There is general agreement among coffee experts that the spread of coffee rust is sped up by changing weather patterns: storms of greater intensity, unusually heavy rainfall, waves of intense heat, or prolonged dry spells.

Older and weaker trees are more likely to contract the fungus, and one solution is to remove the affected trees and plant new ones. However, many small farmers, already suffering from a drop in income, cannot survive the four years it takes a tree to produce its first saleable harvest. Shorter term natural solutions, involving soil enrichments, are also expensive.

Solidarity

Both Catholic Relief Services and Equal Exchange are deeply involved in collaborating with farmers to fight this plague and develop farmer resilience. And our farmer partners and international activists have agreed, to quote the report of the recent Coffee Rust Summit, that “long-term purchase commitments and viable pricing structure” are necessary from trading partners in order to combat this crisis.

Equal Exchange

As a fair trade buyer, Equal Exchange’s commitment is to the “viable pricing structure”. In 2015, this commitment included paying coffee farming communities a total of about $7 million over the market price for nearly 7.9 million pounds of coffee.

Our “long-term purchase commitments” also include broader collaboration with our trading partners, aimed at mitigating natural disasters—whether coffee rust, or hurricanes—and supporting economic progress. Such projects have included rebuilding a flooded road in El Salvador with funds from our church customers, facilitating farmer-to-farmer seminars on soil productivity in Central America, and training in coffee quality in the Congo, empowering farmer cooperatives to know the value of their coffee.

Over the last year, Equal Exchange has made special efforts in the fight against coffee leaf rust for several coffee farming communities in Mexico, El Salvador, and Peru. These co-ops have received more than $250,000 in investment through the Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative, including over $100,000 from Equal Exchange. The investments have been used to replant more than a million coffee trees in the last year, and improve training, technology and productivity.

Catholic Relief Services

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. Since 2003, CRS has conducted 20 projects in coffee communities, in 14 countries, committing over $47 million and involving over 50,000 smallholder families.

Along with its development projects, CRS is committed to combating the effects of climate change, specifically as it relates to the coffee leaf rust crisis. Typical of the communities CRS works with is Nuevo Eden in the department of San Marcos in Guatemala.

The CRS Coffee Program

In addition, CRS is launching the CRS Coffee Program, “situated at the intersection of coffee and development” where a cash crop can enhance the prosperity of a farming village.

The Program envisions a world of prosperous smallholding coffee farmers; empowered coffee farmworkers; and coffee-lands where farming improves the environment, mitigates the impacts of climate change and delivers clean water to communities downstream.

The Program is a three-year, $4.5 million initiative which will place full-time expert staff in Central and East Africa, Central and South America and the United States, who will coordinate CRS’ coffee projects in those regions.

Join Us

Please join us in bringing progress and prosperity out of the crises of climate change and disease. Visit Equal Exchange and CRS Fair Trade to find out how.

How To Choose The Best Coffee Maker For Your Office

Coffee is the secret ingredient of many productive workplaces, and having it available at the office is a perk for everyone. But if you’re just getting started with a coffee setup, it can be hard to know what type of brewer is right for your office. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options out there! Here, we’ll break down the most common types of brewers so you can figure out what’s right for the size and general habits of your office.

1. Single Serve Brewer

One of the most popular options for small offices is the single serve brewer. Many people like them for the convenience of being able to brew just one cup of coffee at a time with minimal effort. There’s no waiting around for a full pot of coffee to brew, no leftover coffee wasted, and no one gets stuck with the hours-old last cup. If you have a lot of different coffee preferences in your office, the variety allowed by these machines is ideal — so fans of everything from decaf to dark roast can have what they want. Single serve machines are also designed to be user-friendly, both in their setup and day-to-day use. Convenience is key with these brewers!

The cons? Some folks feel that single serve machines sacrifice coffee quality, and others would rather not use disposable cups that these machines require. (We recommend a reusable filter as one alternative to single use cups!) If that sounds like your officemates, take a look at some other convenient or more customizable brewers.

2. Commercial Brewer

Commercial-style brewers are ideal for larger offices that need to provide more people with their coffee fix at one time. Does everyone come into work at once and need to fill their mug to start the day? Better to have a full airpot or carafe ready to go, with 12 to 32 servings of coffee per container. Another popular type of commercial brewer gives you a range of customizable single-cup brewing options, and all you have to do is add whole coffee beans to the machine.

Before you jump in, consider that most commercial brewers will require a hookup to a water source, plus professional installation and maintenance. Commercial brewers are built to withstand daily use and producing a large volume of coffee consistently, and as such are usually more expensive than home or smaller capacity brewers. While this will cost you more up front, it could save you the cost of replacing a less durable machine multiple times. If you have a busy, larger office, this could be a good investment.

3. Manual Brewer

Is coffee quality and customization paramount for you and your coworkers? Are you concerned about disposable single serve cups but only want one cup at a time? Manual brew methods may be the way to go. Manual brewers, like the Clever, Melitta, Chemex and French press, are best for single or small group servings. These methods take a little more time and effort but allow for maximum customization and individual preferences. You’ll need a place to boil water and a kettle, plus the brewing equipment itself — possibly multiples if folks will want to be brewing at the same time. Overall, this is the most complicated method for in-office brewing, but with a little practice, everyone will be able to make an outstanding cup of coffee to their liking whenever they want it.

4. Traditional Coffee Maker

When it comes to combining convenience with coffee quality, many offices opt for a more traditional-style coffeemaker in which you easily add coffee grounds and water to brew anywhere from 2 to 14 cups of coffee. The complexity and quality of these machines vary, so you’ll want to consider your budget and the needs of the people in your office when you’re shopping around. How much coffee will you need at one time? Six cups? Ten? How often will you be brewing? Many lower-cost coffee pots are designed for home use and may not withstand the demands of caffeine-hungry office workers, which could lead to breakage and ultimately spending more on a replacement. If you think your coffee maker will see a lot of traffic, opt for more of an investment piece that can withstand heavy use or has a good warranty. If you and your officemates only drink a coffee pot’s worth once per day, a typical home brewer could work for you. We recommend this selection of top-rated coffee brewers approved by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Whatever brewer you choose, make sure to shop carefully for the right kind of coffee — like organic, fairly traded coffee from small farmer co-ops. After all, that’s the most important part!

(And if you’re buying whole bean, don’t forget a coffee grinder!)

How To Pack & Distribute Student Orders

Welcome to the last step of your school fundraiser! You’ve placed your master order, received your products and now: it’s time to pack and distribute orders to students. This may sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! Why not make it fun? Reserve a space, invite volunteers and bring your packing party supplies. Watch this short video to see how to efficiently set up your packing space, pack your orders in an organized way and get it all done while having fun. You’ll be glad you did!