Consuming chocolate, tea and coffee responsibly

Here is an article written by my wife, Lyn:

Chocolate, Tea and Coffee—Yum!

This year my holiday gift list includes chocolate from Madagascar, tea from Kenya, and coffee from Panama, products purchased here in the US that support agriculture in developing countries.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya I learned many things—a new language, a different culture and an appreciation of the struggle farmers go through to get a fair price for their produce. So when I can buy delicious food gifts that help farmers in developing countries, I seize the opportunity.

The chocolate—some of the best in the world—is from Madagascar, the island off the east coast of Africa; 85 percent of the wild and plant life in this unique environment exists no where else in the world. Madecasse is an award winning company started by three returned Madagascar Peace Corps Volunteers ( Wine Spectator, The New York Times and Bloomberg Business Week have praised the chocolate. Tim McCollum, one of the founders, explains how his company is helping the farmers and the delicate environment of the island. “Cocoa is shade-grown under a canopy of indigenous hardwood trees. By giving farmers a good price for their cocoa, Madecasse provides an incentive for them to continue growing the crop instead of cutting down the trees for rice farming, which has happened in many parts of the country.” Whole Foods Market in Manhasset and Jericho carries Madecasse chocolate.

I buy the coffee from Georgio’s Coffee Roasters in Farmingdale ( Georgio’s was the first sustainable coffee house on Long Island. Nearly 100 percent of what they offer, by the pound or the cup, is fair trade–fairly traded, Rainforest Alliance certified and shade grown. They buy directly from farmers, through cooperatives and from brokers who pay a fair share to the grower.

The owners, Georgio and Lydia Testani, roast their own coffee and at their shop you can select beans from places such as Ethiopia, Puerto Rico, Colombia (Lydia’s homeland) and Panama.

And if you are in the mood for conversation, just get Georgio talking about fair trade and sustainability. Why sell sustainable coffee? “Because it’s the right thing to do,” he says. “If you can drink a great cup of coffee and feed somebody at the same time, it’s the right thing.”

The tea is a very special story for me. Last year friends from Brooklyn brought us a gift of African black tea from a company called Ajiri that they had purchased at a local farmers market. As we read the brochure that came with the beautiful little package, we discovered that not only was the tea from Africa, it was from the area of Kenya where we had lived and now support a school ( and from the same factory where our Kenyan friends bring their tea to be processed and graded. Ajiri was created by three women from Pennsylvania who had traveled to Kenya and recognized the need for sustainable economic opportunities. The company was started with the social mission of creating employment for the people of western Kenya. One-hundred percent of the profits support education for local orphans.

Ajiri has won awards for both packaging and taste from the World Tea Expo and was a gold medal winner at the Fancy Food Show. A list of shops where the tea can be purchased is on the Ajiri web site:

I hope that the recipients of my gifts will eat, drink and be merry this season, knowing that what they are enjoying is benefiting many other people.


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