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Brewing a Strong Partnership

June 4, 2004

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    The partnership between Mercy Corps and CBI is helping to improve the lives of Nicaraguan coffee farming families. Photo: Mercy Corps Photo:

For coffee drinkers across North America, Coffee Bean International’s dark, rich blends promise a delicious, eye-opening start to their days. To many impoverished families throughout Central and South America, those cups of coffee mean better living wages and brighter futures.

Coffee Bean International (CBI) has been promoting environmentally friendly farming practices and paying above-market rates to coffee growers for over twenty years. The company was the first specialty coffee roaster in North America to have its facility certified organic, and has been at the forefront of advocacy for coffee farming families throughout its history.

CBI wants to do even more.

The company is committed to making the world a better, safer place and has partnered with Mercy Corps to improve the lives of families in Nicaragua’s coffee lands. The two Portland, Oregon-based organizations began working together in early 2003.

“We were looking for a greater way to contribute back to the Nicaraguan communities that grew our coffee,” said Anne Solseng, CBI’s Vice-President for National Accounts. “We wanted to do more.”

Families living in coffee farming communities around the world often suffer from poor living conditions that compromise their health and educational opportunities.

“There are real concerns about water supply, sanitation and housing in many coffee growing areas,” Solseng said. “We decided to partner with Mercy Corps because of its experience with the Aldea Global project in Nicaragua.”

Mercy Corps’ Aldea Global (Spanish for “Global Village”) program has been working in Nicaragua’s mountainous Jinotega region since 1992. The Mercy Corps-CBI partnership is currently focused on building latrines and providing sanitation education to Jinotegan communities.

The Aldea Global project is largely financed through sales of coffee grown in Jinotega. This coffee, which is purchased, roasted and distributed by CBI, is called “Café Aldea.” It has been universally praised by coffee connoisseurs and critics, and has won numerous awards, including placing among the top ten coffees in Nicaragua’s 2002 and 2003 Cup of Excellence® competitions.

CBI contributes $2.00 from every pound of Café Aldea they purchase to the Aldea Global Project. From July 2003 to March 2004, CBI bought over 2,700 pounds of Café Aldea, and the coffee is currently being sold by nearly 100 retailers across North America.

CBI’s generous, charitable spirit is catching on: several of its retailers are now donating a portion of their sales to Mercy Corps as well.

While focused on its current collaboration with Mercy Corps, CBI anticipates ways it can contribute to relief and development efforts in the future.

“We’re looking forward to continued partnerships with Mercy Corps,” Solseng said. “There’s a lot to be done in the areas where we buy coffee, and we’re really considering expansion into developing countries.”

The Pacific Northwest is well known for coffee. Two Portland-based organizations, Mercy Corps and CBI, are working together to brew a blend of generosity and hope for coffee farming families in Nicaragua.