In 2005, Michel went on a Max Havelaar ‘fair trade’ trip, and the experience led him to make profound changes in the way he would, in future, buy and sell coffee.
As I remember, it was one of the first trips where we were able to go much further into the world of coffee. We only spent 4 nights there, but we shared the life of the inhabitants of two quite dissimilar villages so closely. The first one, although they cultivated coffee, had not at that point opted for fair trade commerce: I slept under a canvas roof supported by planks instead of walls, in the home of poor people who only seemed to live for work.
The contrast with the second village, supported by Max Havelaar, was striking: here, the houses had gardens where plants, other than coffee, were growing. The people had animals and truly seemed happier. This clear difference opened my eyes to the advantages of a fair trade economy, and the importance, to small producers of being fairly remunerated. The more I travelled after that, the more I noticed these differences and the influence, on the standard of living of coffee growers, of the huge fluctuations in the price of coffee. You just cannot view business in the same way after that, and you can no longer sell coffee in the same way.
Of course, fair trade has a way to go still: it is often criticised, but those who criticise are often those who do nothing.
Costa Rican coffee from Café Liégeois : At the current time, there is no Costa Rican coffee from Café Liégeois, but we have high hopes for the future.