A cup of coffee is one of life’s greatest pleasures. That should be a quote from a famous person but it’s just an observation from me!  Sit down, with a coffee and read/watch what’s on offer today and then drink another one while you’re writing your own flash fiction piece!



Coffee commodity briefing

And if you’ve still got coffee left, take a sip and read my flash fiction for today…

DIY FairTrade.  (Warning, this is a risky business… Don’t try this at home!)

I want to tell you a story. I’d like to tell you it was fiction. It isn’t. It’s fact. One of those stranger than fiction sort of things. It involves coffee and Cuba and an attempt at do it yourself Fairtrade. I’ve been to Cuba twice. I fell in love with the land and particularly with the coffee. Cubita coffee to be exact. I find Turquino (grown higher up the mountains I believe) to be a bit too bitter for my taste. I know that coffee is all about taste and that we all have different tastebuds and different choices of ‘favourite’ but I have to tell you that for me NOTHING matches the taste of Cubita coffee.

Problem. Because of the pesky trade embargo with Cuba it’s not possible (or at least not easy) to get hold of Cubita Coffee in the UK. There are some exporters (Ireland and Canada) but the price is about 3-5 times what it costs buying it in downtown Havana (where, believe me, the last time I was there in 2006 there was precious little else to buy in the shops). And I don’t like paying that kind of premium. Well, since this is flash fiction slash fact (with a bit of rhyme thrown in for easy measure) I should get on with the story.

Here we are in a nice coffee shop (I mean a shop that sells coffee in bags not a branch of Starbucks) and I spend all my available money on 20 kilos of Cubita Coffee. That’s 20 large packs. I’ve planned ahead. I brought lots of things to Cuba that they can’t get: paracetemol, books, pens, musical instrument parts and some things they find useful like clothes and shoes and I aimed to leave them there and fill my bags with coffee. For me that’s a kind of Fairtrade. Give them things they need, buy things I want. All went well… until…

When they call your name out over the tannoy at Jose Marti airport you know things aren’t going that well.  We were led downstairs to a customs room. Oh, oh.  The customs officials pointed at our bag (the one we’d put inside another bag and filled with Cubita) and asked us  to open it. They didn’t seem to want to touch it.  They thought it was a bomb.

This is when speaking Spanish  would come in handy. I don’t speak Spanish. Neither of us do. Certainly not enough to say, ‘it’s not a bomb it’s just coffee.’

As we approached to open the bag and I tried to explain, they at least relaxed enough to appreciate I was not about to blow us all up. No, it’s not illegal goods (at least I didn’t think there was an export limit on coffee… I had read all the guidebooks and it said nothing about limits on coffee) it’s not stolen treasures, it’s just coffee.’ We smiled. I smiled. George was going sort of pale and sweaty. I think he could see himself banged up for the rest of his life in jail in Havana. Not quite the honeymoon he’d intended.

As we revealed the large solid blocky mass to be 20 kilos of Cubita the officials were clearly perplexed.

‘We like coffee,’ we said.

‘Mucho gusto coffee,’ they replied.

I wanted to fill them in on the fact that I found it iniquitous that it should be impossible for me, in the UK, to get hold of their finest export product, just because of los Americanos cretinos (that sign is in the Museo de la Revolucion) but I didn’t have the Spanish.

Anyway, bemused and amazed that they were that anyone should want to take so much Cubita home from their holidays, we all smiled, zipped up the bags and went back to the departures lounge.

I don’t recommend you try this at home. I especially don’t recommend it as a good thing for a man with an undiagnosed heart condition (sorry George!) but I do suggest that if the world traded a bit more fairly we wouldn’t have to take such matters into our own hands and become undercover DIY fairtraders. Or coffee smugglers.  I know that there is now some FairTrade connection with Cuba –largely orange juice I think and I just hope that one day this will extend to both sugar (Cuba’s main exporting product) and Coffee. Forget Starbucks folks. For me, being able to drink Cubita coffee every day till I died would be a dream come true.  I’ve even seriously considered what it might take to become a coffee exporter for real, just to get my fix. So if there’s any entrepreneurs or angels out there… let’s take FairTrade into our own hands and think outside the embargo.

Cally Phillips 

If you want to read more about FairTrade Fiction you can buy FairTrade Fiction Volume 1 as an ebook for Kindle or Epub or as a paperback just click the appropriate highlight. (The ebook is at the specially reduced price of 99p for the Festival and the paperback is cost price at £2.99) Can’t say fairer than that. 


3 thoughts on “COFFEE

  1. A great thing you are doing here Cally. Here is a story (as per your facebook comment request!) about fairtrade. These are the words that came along.


    He peers into the mirror, noticing dark patches, two days growth. He digs out sleep from the corners of his eyes; turns, walks away. Leaving dull eyes reflecting.
    The sun is setting, blood red. A mother stands dried eyed at a mound. Dry crumbs are plucked by the wind. She shifts a baby in her arms and reaches out for her husband’s hand, but he lies next to their son.
    Inside four walls he spoons dark brown granules into a mug. The kettle hisses, boiling water turns the granules dirty black. He squints at the sun, pouring through the windows, picks up the paper and walks off into the shadows of the lounge. He picks his way through the supplements to the sport pages.
    Bare foot a young boy dribbles a stone, he splashes through an open drain and runs pass her. He brings a smile to her face. She remembers the farm, her husband playing with their son. She remembers picking and packing the beans. She remembers his face before and after market, the small pile of notes. ‘There would be more money in the city’. He wasn’t wrong, but not here.
    He shakes out his paper and glances at a photo of a father. He skims the article, wife, child, dead. He catches the advert out of the corner of his eye. Electrically multi-adjustable heated front seats. Prices too low, farm abandoned, community lost. Finance packages available, £169.99 a month. A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard.
    He sips his coffee, alone. He thinks about the car. He’s not talked to anyone all weekend. He thinks about his 5am start tomorrow. He thinks again about the car.
    She wishes they had not left. He wishes they had not abandoned hope. Family, friends, smiles, laughter, gone. She, he, lie alone under corrugated sheets.
    A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard. A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard. A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard. A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard. A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard. A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard. A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard. A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard. A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard. A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard. A fairer price. Luxury comes as standard.

    Whilst a lot is improving for the producers since I first became aware of fairtrade (2003) I feel there is still a long way to go. It is time to realise what ‘we’ are destroying due to our disconnection in the west with what we eat and drink and our sense of community. Fairtrade is one way, which is working, I hope it continues to grow and improve producers life’s and in turn improve our own.

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