ZeROCAFFè / MANIFeSTO

ENGLISH VERSION  1.0 – 2020.10.01

THe RIGHT TO HAPPINeSS

Collective, shared, correct: we aspire to this form of happiness. What coffee gives us today is often individual, isolated, unfair because our cup results from an unfair production process that exploits the farmer, impoverished by our daily consumption of coffee. Coffee is, first of all, an agricultural product, but the price at which green coffee is sold today does not pay off. In most cases, not even the production costs and many plantations have already been converted into more profitable crops or abandoned to seek fortune elsewhere. It is no longer acceptable to enjoy the happiness that coffee gives us by knowing that we are carrying out an act of social injustice. Proposing new dynamics, we have the responsibility to solve this paradox. To undermine a deeply unfair system that makes only a part of the world happy, simultaneously exploiting another. We want to create an informed and aware community that removes all the disparities present in the coffee value chain, in which everyone is called to do their part. Here, then, is our “zero coffee,” the cornerstone idea, the red thread: to make known, change and finally make the life of all those who populate the long coffee chain more equitable—starting with the weakest link, the farmer. Because true happiness (including one’s own) is a right but above all a duty, a responsibility towards others, and can be achieved by reducing unhappiness in the world. Seeing means believing.

eVeRYBODY ON THe GROUND

 start again, as always, as is proper and routine, from the beginning. Coffee is an agricultural product, the fruit of the earth that deserves more respect and attention. It should only be produced through sustainable farming practices, without consuming virgin soil, deforestation for agricultural purposes, wasting water, or using pesticides. We have seen enough intensive crops, which erode the soil and annihilate biodiversity, to the indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers, harmful to human health and highly polluting for groundwater. The land should not be exploited beyond its natural capabilities and forced to produce “whatever it costs” with harmful practices to health and damaging to the ecosystem. Coffee lands should meet a hand that takes care of it in a natural way, capable of harvesting the best in respect of the environment and the seasons and well-being of all. True, it is a work tool and, as such, must ensure survival. Still, the economic sustainability of the small coffee producer cannot be pursued solely with intensive and indiscriminate production at the expense of the environment and health. Next to agricultural practices, the farmer has the right and duty to learn about the entire supply chain to produce a better, more profitable, truly sustainable raw material. The earth is one, its respect is not negotiable, and it is up to us to enable the farmer to consider it mother, not stepmother.

STOCKS OR LIFe

And what if a substantial part of the problem derives from considering coffee only a commodity and not an agricultural product? It is the second most traded in the world (the first – listen, listen – is oil) on two different commodity exchanges – New York for Arabica and London for Robusta – through the so-called ‘futures’, which do not regulate the “physical” buying and selling of green coffee. They control fixed prices at maturity in a game that is often only speculative and downwards towards producers, especially if they are small. There is no demand-offer meeting between commercial players, no actual market negotiations, no consideration of the supply chain, but only significant, sometimes huge financial funds that play on numbers. Of course, the system is almost impossible to unhinge. Still, there is a bottom-up solution: to agree directly, country by country, between the grower, exporter, importer, and roaster on a mandatory minimum selling price of green coffee for each production country that considering the cost of living, those of production and processing to leave a reasonable profit margin for family well-being and therefore be able to invest in your farm, perhaps even setting up a small roasting and coffee shop, also learning to manage it effectively and sustainable. This is no longer a robbery!

I STUDY, THEREFORE I AM

It is no longer the time for improvisations. So far, coffee has been treated with approximation and sufficiency by most players in the supply chain. Above all, the business was built on rampant ignorance. It is no longer acceptable for companies to do their jobs with absolute and sometimes disarming incompetence. Knowledge is the basis of every profession, and coffee is certainly no exception; training is mandatory for anyone wishing to undertake an activity. Indeed, a professional qualification is needed for this supply chain as well. From the seed to the cup, every step in the coffee is essential. Some are also quite complicated because they require knowledge of machinery, chemical and physical reactions. Cultivating and harvesting the crops, processing the beans before export. Roasting, blending, packaging the coffee. Grind, extract, serve an espresso. Taste, tell, share an experience. All the players in the supply chain, from the farmer to the barista, should undergo continuous training, deepen their skills and share them. The final consumer has the right to be informed and educated and the duty to choose ethically and consciously. Coffee is an extraordinarily complex drink, from the chemistry that composes it to the story it tells, truly capable of changing people’s lives. But only if you work seriously.

GeT YOUR HANDS DIRTY

“What’s the use of having clean hands and keeping them in your pockets?” someone very wise once said. Those who work in this industry (traders, roasters, bartenders, government institutions) have no more excuses: they have to go to the plantation, see with their eyes, listen with their ears, observe and learn. Only by doing this experience at firsthand in those far and poorly industrialized countries will it be possible to realize the actual “price” at which coffee is produced. Intensive monocultures owned by large capitals and managed by seasonal laborers; or small family-run plots, their only income source, often rented at a high price and impossible to repay. Only by getting to know the work of those who live on the plantation and getting our hands dirty will it be possible to appreciate the sacrifice. It is time to finally paying a fair price for the coffee and interrupting the profound injustice that has been taking place for too long. Besides increasing the necessary know-how, we need to travel responsibly, focusing on the training and on mutual cultural exchange, to discover the fundamental segment: the land where coffee is cultivated. The next step will be to spread everything to consumers to trigger a real cultural revolution so that unfair products are finally rejected until things have changed. Right, let’s use our hands.

MINIMUM QUALITY GUARANTeeD

No more bad coffees, no more flaws. In addition to being unfair, coffee is often of low quality: selected from green beans with defects, badly roasted, and usually even worse extracted. But “good” coffee is possible, without necessarily being a specialty coffee: select it carefully, avoiding macroscopic visual defects and unpleasant odors. Roast it applying the correct and most suitable parameters for that particular coffee type (duration of roasting, temperature, cooling times, storage). Extract it as espresso, filter, or mocha, following some basic rules such as water quality and temperature, the correct quantity of powder, and timing. There is no need to be an alchemist or wizard’s apprentice; do your job well, also avoiding health risks. Offering good coffee is a sign of respect. And you consumer? Do you accept what you are served without even realizing or questioning that strange smell of burnt cardboard, earth, or mold that comes from the cup? Yes, it’s bad coffee, and you don’t deserve to drink it! Coffee is not a standardized daily practice but a natural food to be tasted and purchased according to its different characteristics. By making conscious and aware choices, we can give birth to a new coffee market conception. We can do that by raising the bar of coffee’s quality according to its ethical and sensory attributes. We can do better.

FAMILIAR LeXICON

Watchwords: traceability and transparency. Let’s tell this beautiful story immediately everywhere: on every packet of coffee, in every café, bar, or restaurant, we indicate the origin, blend, flavor. Colors or fancy names are no longer enough to identify the coffees, not even the obscure and average “blend of roasted coffee” or the few ‘dots’ to indicate the degree of roasting. We need to provide clear indications on the agricultural product (origin, botanical species ) and how it was processed in roasting. Then, with confidence, we explain how the price of the cup or pack of coffee we buy is composed, what shares go to the farmer, the trader, the roaster, the bartender, or the shopkeeper. We want to spread happiness through this new awareness, new game rules, and concrete projects. Let’s empower this collective consciousness for a more beautiful, right, and fair world. The truth will set us free.

THe FUTURe BeLONGS TO US

The best way to predict the future is to create it. Our vision is based on equity, gender equality, inclusion, social justice, equal opportunities, respect for people and the environment. It is based on food security, access to education, social and health care, and adequate wages. We aim to conservation of the environment and its biodiversity. Although women are an active part of all the coffee value chain links, their contribution, especially in the countries of origin, is often invisible due to cultural, political, economic, social, psychological, patrimonial, and organizational barriers. Unfortunately, women still have little access to resources and limited participation in decision-making. At the same time, they bear a heavy burden of substitute welfare. Our task is “to remove the obstacles of an economic and social nature, which, by limiting the freedom and equality of citizens, prevent the full development of the human person …” (Article 3 of the Italian Constitution).

VeRSION 1.0 OF THE ZeRO CAFFè MANIFeSTO, WAS CReATeD WITH THe CONTRIBUTION OF:

Michela Accerenzi, Massimo Barnabà, Edy Bieker, Piero Italo Biagini, Samuele Bonacchi, Pino Fumarola, Maurizio Galliano, Denis Guzzo, Mauro Illiano, Ivan Marchitello, Sara Morrocchi, Anna Muzio, Fabrizio Polojaz, Francesca Surano, Giada Talpo.

WRITE TO US!  IF YOU HAVE IDEAS TO SHARE AND YOU WANT TO CONTRIBUTE TO FUTURE VERSIONS OF THE MANIFESTO! THANK YOU!

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Progetto originale del libro ZERO CAFFÉ: Edizioni Medicea Firenze a cura di Aurora Castellani con fotografie di Tatiana Borrelli.

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