Environmental blogger and Dunedin coffee liqueur crafter, Arjun Haszard recently returned from a trip to North Sumatra, organised by the New Zealand Speciality Coffee Association. While he describes the trip as excellent and hugely informative, many warning bells were ringing during his visit.
Arjun explains in a three part series, starting at the end.
Medan. It’s the kind of hustling developing city one would expect when a country’s population is 250 million and the currency is 10,000 Rupiah : $1.00NZ. The smog, the noise, the thousands of people rushing around grubby streets whilst another thousand simply sit and watch.
It’s a river of chaos, and it’s bliss when you just ride it. Medan is the largest city on the Island of Sumatra, Indonesia and the capital city of coffee on the island. It’s where we, the 8 coffee fanatics of the New Zealand Roasters Guild would spend the first day of our six day trip on the island, visiting exporters and drinking too much coffee and then visiting plantations and processing areas around North Sumatra and the Aceh region.
In this first post of three I was planning to tell a story of the processes involved in getting coffee from the cherry of a small tree to what you drink in the morning (and perhaps in the evening as part of a certain liqueur). I had written down statistics and tales to share but I feel, upon planning out these three posts, a sense of urgency to share the final post first: one about the challenges facing coffee, and in fact all of us. One where coffee, in its delicate climate is considered a canary in the coal mine that is the world. And having visited the heart of that coal mine, it is with a heavy heart I must report: the canary is dead.
The Canary is Dead
I’d read articles about a crisis in the coffee industry before I’d visited origin. A crisis in the form of massive price rises as a result of diminishing coffee yields from an increasingly warmer climate. I’d read about the rampant presence of a plant killing disease called coffee rust.
But having been able to enjoy a cup of coffee at the same price as always, it never sunk in. In fact, even after visiting the farms and seeing the dead canary right before my eyes it didn’t sink in. The individual pieces only connected when I got back home and as my mind slowly caught up on itself I realised: all the pieces matter.
For the full story of Arjun’s visit to North Sumatra, click here