The ticket is booked. Somehow there’s available credit on the American Express and I don’t care that I’ll be eating cereal for dinner the next several months to pay it back. If you get a chance to go on a trip like this, you say “yes”… then figure it out.
What started out as a spark of kindness by my son is now dropping me right in the middle of the home of Juan Valdez and his mule. It’s possible that Juan is now retired, after working his butt off in the 60s, 70s and 80s, hand picking beans and showing up at the back doors of housewives all across America with cans of Colombian coffee, perfectly timed to relieve the stress of preparing the coffee for the ladies luncheon. What would our moms have done without him? Colombia sits as the 3rd largest coffee producing country on the globe behind Brazil and Vietnam. I’m sure they could do better if they slowed down a little on the cocaine production. Who has time for coffee when you’re producing 80% of the world’s cocaine supplies? I laugh, but I give mad respect to those working their tails off cultivating coffee to make a legal living.
So how, you might ask, did I end up ticket in hand? Pretty cool story, actually. My son has been way into learning about coffee. Back in the late fall he was looking at the giant world map, marked with coffee origins of the coffees that I use in our blends, and asked what it was like for the kids who lived in these places. I told him about how the kids live a lot differently than he does. They don’t have 16 sweatshirts and talk about the latest game they played on Wii. They don’t go skiing for fun in the winter, and sneak episodes of “Ben Ten” on the TV when Mom and Dad aren’t watching. A lot of these kids work in the family business of coffee, don’t necessarily have shoes, may or may not have the privilege of going to school, and sometimes find themselves hungry when the cash is low and harvest is still weeks away. He pondered and said to me “I want to do something nice for a kid there”, with “there” being anywhere that coffee is grown.
I picked up the phone and called my coffee importer, and have to admit I felt a little bit like I was going to be bugging him with this little request. I told him that my son wanted to do something for a kid “there”, and asked if he had any ideas. Almost as though this was the exact phone call he’d been waiting for all day, he told me not only could he do something nice for one kid, but he could do something nice for a whole community of kids if he wanted to. He explained that the kids in the town of Monserrate, Colombia are soccer obsessed, but play in their multi colored tee shirts, and would be out of their skin with joy if they had real soccer jerseys. I hung up the phone, proposed this idea to my soccer-obsessed child, and it was game on without a blink.
Oooookaaay…so now my kid, who I thought might be getting a book or a pair of shoes for one kid in Colombia, is about to outfit the whole soccer team in uniforms. How the heck is this going to go down? Never underestimate the power of a kid, his school teacher, or the simple desire to just make something happen. My son talked to his teacher about his idea, because clearly he’d need some help, and she jumped on about as fast as I suck down an espresso. Before we knew it, we had the entire 3rd grade on board.
We made a learning experience out of it by bringing each of the classes to my store for a coffee field trip (See Raise Your Hand Please). Then, each of the kids in the classrooms created a potential coffee label, and the kids voted for their favorite 3. We sold enough coffee online to buy the kids in Monserrate 30 soccer jerseys, and that was that!
So back to the ticket? I called my importer again in May and said…”ok, the kids did it! I have the jerseys, hand-written letters, and a signed soccer ball here. What’s the best way to get this to Monserrate?”
He quickly replied “Well, the best way to get it all there is for you to join us as a guest cupping judge during the August harvest, and deliver the kids’ gift in person”.
The thought of this opportunity…seeing the special community of Monserrate, getting to know the people who harvest this amazing coffee that I buy, playing a game of soccer with the kids (and getting whooped), and just experiencing the unknown….Like I said, you say “yes” and just figure it out.