MISSIONAL TRADE: BEYOND FAIR
We did not set out to roast missional trade coffee. In fact, we did not set out to roast coffee at all. Our love for fresh, good coffee led to roasting our own, and that has led to roasting for others who also enjoy a good cup. In the process, our search for high quality beans led to a surprising discovery: coffee beans can be purchased from farms and through channels we never knew existed: owners, growers, workers, and importers who share the goal of fulfilling the Great Commission.
HOW WE GOT HERE
A brief history of our love for coffee reveals that we are ordinary people who long ago happened to live near a roaster in Berkeley, CA where we discovered beans of various origins and roasts. Life took us to other locations, notably Israel where we again lived near a roaster and met with thick, sweet cardamom- flavored brews as well as the French press. Returning to the USA, we found grocery store beans too stale and mail-order coffee too pricey. We impulsively followed a lead to roast green beans in our stove-top popcorn popper. The machine burned out in a week and we bought a little Hot Top that roasted eight ounces at a time.
Meanwhile, the idea of commercial roasting was often suggested to us but never took hold until Jessie and family arrived in Hartsville, joined our church and moved his accounting business into the building where Mark has his office. Entrepeneurs, Mark and Jessie think in numbers, enjoy bouncing ideas around (often over a cup), and are passionate about God’s institutions of family and church.
An idea took hold: we could roast high-quality beans and provide a job or two as well as increase contact with our small, rural community. A shop was quickly built behind the offices to house a commercial roaster. Meanwhile the Abbotoys traveled to Nicaragua to visit coffee farms. Our friend Roberto, a Managuan resident who’d worked with Mark in Israel, escorted us north to the coffee region. Narrow roads led past small houses with chickens out front and goats grazing in the ditches. Vehicles of all descriptions, from donkey carts to golf carts, shared the route. Here a vision was born out of the contrast between our life at home and the lives of many Nicaraguans whose livelihood depends on the coffee market: a vision for missional trade.
We, the Christian coffee-drinking community, can exceed the goals of the Fair Trade market. We can choose to buy from growers like Diego Chavarria, a Nicaraguan farmer who views his business as a God- given means of helping the local church. Not only does he pay fair wages to his employees, he helps support local medical clinics and schools. His efforts reach beyond his own community: profits from his farm have helped plant 26 churches in the remote northern mountains. In Diego’s own words: “We have to think the way the Lord thinks. The main thing is, what am I doing here for the Kingdom of Heaven?”
New Geneva Coffee Roasters, along with you, the individual coffee consumer, have a compelling opportunity before us. As the family of God, we are equipped like no other community on earth to work toward a common goal. The dollars we already spend can easily do more than buy coffee. Missional trade is an idea whose time has come.