Interview: Darrell Baskin on Visiting Origin
Author | groundwork coffee Date | August 05, 2020
We recently did a feature on the Oaxaca - La Cañada coffee farm and a visit earlier this year by our Chief Coffee Guy, Jeff Chean, and North Hollywood store lead, Darrell Baskin.
While Jeff has made dozens of trip to origin, this trip was especially significant for Darrell as it was not only his first trip to an origin community but his first trip outside of the US. Below Darrell shares some of his thoughts on the experience, how it's impacted his work in coffee and what he hopes all understand about the realities of coffee production.
This was your first trip to origin. How did it compare to your expectations?
This being my first time going literally anywhere outside of The United States, I attempted to suspend as many of my expectations as possible so that I could immerse myself in a genuine experience that wasn't skewed by unfounded bias. That being said, my first origin trip proved to be marvelously enriching. Seeing the conditions, the hardship, the struggle, and the self-sacrifice these communities endure to produce the beautiful coffees that brighten the lives of so many inspired a new compassion and empathy for coffee producers that I will guard with my life henceforth.
What was your favorite part of the trip? Least favorite?
The most powerful I had in Oaxaca was when we were engaged by the community in Eloxochitlan de Flores Magon. The coffee producers and their families welcomed us like long lost relatives with food, music, and celebration. The warmth I felt was no less than a spiritual experience. This was followed by maybe the most uncomfortable moment of the trip: an open forum. Tensions rose as producers passionately outlined their struggles to support their families while maintaining and improving upon productivity and quality amid unsatisfactory market price. The helplessness I felt not being immediately able, personally or professionally, to improve their position was, without a doubt, the thing I enjoy the least about my Trip to Oaxaca.
What is something you think people should know about coffee farming/farmers?
Coffee producers are not all thriving operations nestled into bustling communities. Many of them struggle in conditions that most of us would likely never step into, let alone endure on a daily basis, for our own livelihood. Countless lives depend on these coffees we, as consumers, often take for granted. When we truly understand and appreciate this, I believe we as professionals and enthusiasts are better equipped to treat these coffees with the respect they deserve.
Is there a particular coffee-producing region or country you'd like to visit? Where and why?
It would be a dream come true to visit, the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia. As an African American, I feel a special sense of pride for African coffees that is, unfortunately, divorced from an experiential understanding of Africa itself. A trip to Ethiopia would undoubtedly prove to be profound on many levels, both professional and personal.