A 3,000-mile journey to the heart of Colombia’s coffee culture

untitledChérmelle D. Edwards, a self-described “Coffeetographer,” is a globe-trotting caffeinated ball of energy who has navigated around the country detailing the “complex and diverse world of coffee as a culture.” Edwards launched her Web zine that focuses on the intersection of culture and coffee a few years ago, and it has since grown to encompass news, style, art and film. In Sight interviewed her:

Central to Edwards’s mission is getting up close and personal with a cross section of people, who she believes are the essential ingredient toward fueling coffee culture. And she has gone about it in the most familiar and approachable way possible: inviting strangers to share their story over a cup of Joe.

Earlier this month, Edwards was invited by the organization Cafe de Colombia to explore the culture of coffee drinkers beyond the concrete and steel canyons of New York and travel to meet the farmers of Colombia. Sooner after, Edwards began posting vibrant vignettes of the landscape, harvesters and food that make up the rich tapestry of Colombian life to her Instagram account. [. . .]

In Sight: What initially took you to Colombia?

Chermelle Edwards: Colombia has long been a travel goal. However, I received an invitation to travel there by Café De Colombia, an organization that represents 100 percent Colombian coffee through the Colombia Coffee Growers Federation. Café de Colombia launched a digital campaign called the Bean Bang Theory detailing research on the habits and preferences of coffee drinkers. To that end they organized a trip to Colombia to cover the research firsthand, including visiting farmsteads, research facilities and coffee cooperatives and points of interest.

In Sight: What has fascinated you so much about coffee as a subject, and how do you perceive “coffee culture”?

Edwards: Coffee is so much more than what it is on the surface. At the base level, yes, it’s a cherry, a fruit grown under variable conditions taking up to two years to produce a ripe coffee cherry tree which can then be picked, processed and eventually roasted. And yet it’s so much more than that. It is a universal connector of humanity. I’ve always seen it this way; it has the kind of social DNA that can obliterate cultural boundaries, that can bring people together over communal moments in time, and because of that it becomes a fundamental force that can change someone’s life. Coffee is such a powerful, universal stimulant — physically, emotionally and visually — for unimaginative connections.

[. . .] In Sight: How does Colombia’s coffee culture differ from America’s in your impression?

Edwards: From the short impression that I saw, Colombia’s coffee culture is hinged on 100 percent Colombian coffee. From what I experienced and the stories I heard Colombians have a lot of pride in the coffee that is from their native regions, and many can tell you which region they like and why. From riding in the car with a cabbie in the city, to walking on the street in Candelaria, to talking to locals in el campo, their rituals are specific, but coffee is pivotal and sacred. There is a reverence for coffee and I believe that comes from nearly half of its workforce being in the trade. Whereas in America, where consumer culture is big, our connection to coffee comes from function and for an experience; the latter becoming more dominant by new and enthusiast consumers.  Since coffee isn’t a product we grow at our origin, I feel there is not so much a reverence for it but a romanticizing of the bean itself, which is beautiful, too. We value it highly and it’s become a social celebrity in our lives. And that is different than how Colombians view it. In the specialty coffee culture there’s a lot of knowledge and applied skill that is more evident in the States, and I think Colombia will grow to have the same as it’s now only beginning to develop a wider expression in communicating specialty coffee in coffee shops and its present-day culture, while it retains more quality coffees for its personal consumption. [. . .]

For full interview, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-sight/wp/2015/03/24/a-3000-mile-journey-to-the-heart-of-colombias-coffee-culture/

A 3,000-mile journey to the heart of Colombia’s coffee culture

Chérmelle D. Edwards, a self-described “Coffeetographer,” is a globe-trotting caffeinated ball of energy who has navigated around the country detailing the “complex and diverse world of coffee as a culture.” Edwards launched her Web zine that focuses on the intersection of culture and coffee a few years ago, and it has since grown to encompass news, style, art and film. In Sight interviewed her

Central to Edwards’s mission is getting up close and personal with a cross section of people, who she believes are the essential ingredient toward fueling coffee culture. And she has gone about it in the most familiar and approachable way possible: inviting strangers to share their story over a cup of Joe.

Earlier this month, Edwards was invited by the organization Cafe de Colombia to explore the culture of coffee drinkers beyond the concrete and steel canyons of New York and travel to meet the farmers of Colombia. Sooner after, Edwards began posting vibrant vignettes of the landscape, harvesters and food that make up the rich tapestry of Colombian life to her Instagram account. [. . .]

In Sight: What initially took you to Colombia?

Chermelle Edwards: Colombia has long been a travel goal. However, I received an invitation to travel there by Café De Colombia, an organization that represents 100 percent Colombian coffee through the Colombia Coffee Growers Federation. Café de Colombia launched a digital campaign called the Bean Bang Theory detailing research on the habits and preferences of coffee drinkers. To that end they organized a trip to Colombia to cover the research firsthand, including visiting farmsteads, research facilities and coffee cooperatives and points of interest.

In Sight: What has fascinated you so much about coffee as a subject, and how do you perceive “coffee culture”?

Edwards: Coffee is so much more than what it is on the surface. At the base level, yes, it’s a cherry, a fruit grown under variable conditions taking up to two years to produce a ripe coffee cherry tree which can then be picked, processed and eventually roasted. And yet it’s so much more than that. It is a universal connector of humanity. I’ve always seen it this way; it has the kind of social DNA that can obliterate cultural boundaries, that can bring people together over communal moments in time, and because of that it becomes a fundamental force that can change someone’s life. Coffee is such a powerful, universal stimulant — physically, emotionally and visually — for unimaginative connections.

[. . .] In Sight: How does Colombia’s coffee culture differ from America’s in your impression?

Edwards: From the short impression that I saw, Colombia’s coffee culture is hinged on 100 percent Colombian coffee. From what I experienced and the stories I heard Colombians have a lot of pride in the coffee that is from their native regions, and many can tell you which region they like and why. From riding in the car with a cabbie in the city, to walking on the street in Candelaria, to talking to locals in el campo, their rituals are specific, but coffee is pivotal and sacred. There is a reverence for coffee and I believe that comes from nearly half of its workforce being in the trade. Whereas in America, where consumer culture is big, our connection to coffee comes from function and for an experience; the latter becoming more dominant by new and enthusiast consumers.  Since coffee isn’t a product we grow at our origin, I feel there is not so much a reverence for it but a romanticizing of the bean itself, which is beautiful, too. We value it highly and it’s become a social celebrity in our lives. And that is different than how Colombians view it. In the specialty coffee culture there’s a lot of knowledge and applied skill that is more evident in the States, and I think Colombia will grow to have the same as it’s now only beginning to develop a wider expression in communicating specialty coffee in coffee shops and its present-day culture, while it retains more quality coffees for its personal consumption. [. . .]

For full interview, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-sight/wp/2015/03/24/a-3000-mile-journey-to-the-heart-of-colombias-coffee-culture/

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