Producer Profile: Duromina Coop
In the relatively recent explosion of Third Wave coffee, there have been a number of Cinderella stories in the coffee industry. Farms that produced coffee that was too different or unpredictable were ignored by large buyers and forced, until recently, to sell their coffee at unfair prices for little profit. Many of these same farms are now the darlings of the Specialty Coffee world, and we are proud to be able to offer coffee from one of the farms that has rightly earned their place among them:
To summarize the creation and success of the Duromina Cooperative as just another coffee Cinderella story doesn't truly illustrate how the industry has changed, and just how powerful our need for quality coffee has become. In this version, the farmers of the local cooperative are indeed the eponymous heroine of the story, but the fairy godmother is an American non-profit organization that realized the global need to connect first-world consumers more directly with third-world producers.
It wasn't too long ago that the farmers here were having trouble selling their coffee. Even when they could get it to the nearest market, by crossing a local river that flooded too often during harvest, they were likely to end up selling the coffee for less than it deserved. The farmers, like Haleuya Habagaro (pictured above), knew that they had good coffee, and they knew if they wanted it to sell for the price it deserved they would have to find help. The farmers decided to organize into a cooperative and called it Duromina, which roughly translates into "make us rich". They approached a company called TechnoServe, an American-based non-profit organization, that allowed them via a loan to purchase and build a washing station (a rarity in Ethiopia), and they soon attracted the attention of American buyers like Stumptown and Sweet Maria's.
Not only did TechnoServe give them a loan, but they assisted with the management of their finances and ensured the fair distribution of profits among the farmers. With their profits in the past few years, and some help from the government, the farmers were able to repair the roads leading to their farm and build a bridge over the river that used to take them to market (or keep them from getting there). Their coffee has such a reputation now, however, that it comes straight to the U.S. to be distributed to specialty shops around the nation, and they are well on their way to realizing the goal of Duromina to "make it rich."
So if you ever start to feel guilty about how much money you spend on specialty coffee, just know that your dedication to quality is contributing to a global movement whereby small and impoverished farms in some of the poorer places in the world are finally seeing the recognition and success they have always deserved. You might even say you are the Prince Charming of this Cinderella coffee story...but that might be giving yourself a little too much credit. Don't be so vain, Prince Charming.
If you are interested in seeing a little more, NPR did a piece about the Duromina Coop back in 2013. Check it out here.