It Takes a Community to Make the Perfect Cup

Cooperatives are a unique way to organize a business. They are set up in a way where the people with the power in the company are actually the suppliers rather than the buyers. For Coopedota, this means the coffee farmers are who make decisions in the contract and how they want their beans to be brewed. Coopedota is just a middle man for roasting, packaging, and distributing the coffee. There are both benefits/advantages to this kind of system as well as disadvantages. Many times, their success derives from the initial set of rules and the amount of communication between the farmers and the company.

An advantage for having a cooperative established mainly comes from the families who joined and are a part of the cooperative. Many small farms do not have the funds to mill, roast, and package their product, so by having a cooperative take their beans, it allows them to have an equal, set amount of power. The cooperatives gives these families access and connections within the coffee industry they do not have the power or ability to make while still gaining the profit and revenue they need. In addition, the families receive money in a salary kind of way so they are set throughout the year at a certain rate. They are also insured a specific amount by the end of the year as long as they maintain the quality they promised and follow the guidelines set by Coopedota that the farms signed when they joined. Another advantage is it helps decrease competion between families in retailers. In the instance for Coopedota, the 900 families that are a part of the cooperative could be producing their own coffee and selling it themselves or to larger companies like Café Britt. Coopedota also provides the families more money for the beans. The families also have 3 chances to provide their best beans or microlots to be sold for a higher price. These beans are used to make the gourmet coffee sold by Coopedota since all the beans are thoroughly checked for the proper ripeness. There is also the advantage of education. Coopedota has places where farmers can gain materials to properly start a farm as well as provides classes to learn the best ways to prepare the farms, classes for baristas, and other helpful classes.

Unfortunately, with advantages, there are also disadvantages. A disadvantage of being a part of the cooperative could also be money. While joining ensures a salary for beans given to the cooperative, at the same time, to join, they need to pay a “member’s fee” that the company holds onto until the family decides to leave. For smaller farms, that fee might be hard to gain right away, but they cannot use their coffee to make this profit since there is no one they can sell to. Also, for larger families, they feel as though they are treated unfairly. Many feel those with more land give more to the company and should be compensated for it, however, this is not how it works. No matter what the families contribute, they all receive the same pay for the beans, have to follow the same rules, and are treated the same. This can cause conflict between families and the cooperative and may make some families leave. Some families may also feel a disadvantage following someone else’s rules when making coffee. To be a part of the cooperative, guidelines are set for every family to follow so there is some consistency with the product. There might be a challenge to follow the guidelines due to external circumstances or family preferences. Coopedota prides itself on being ecofriendly and trying to lower carbon emissions. If there is a bad crop or pests, the cooperative does not like the use of pesticides so there is a chance they will not take the beans.

Santa Maria de Dota is a community that is established based on the production of coffee. With an altitude of higher than 1900 meters, a cool climate, and dry season with a lot of sun Tarrazú is the perfect place to produce and extract maximum sweetness from the beans. Coffee accounts for 90% of the economy in Santa Maria de Dota. In the area, 900 families rely on the cooperative to sell their beans to and gain a profit. Without this cooperative, those families would have to go and find another buyer to buy their beans since it would be expensive for them to produce coffee themselves. Some of the larger families may not have difficulties entering those market because they are able to produce a decent amount of coffee, but for some smaller farms, it is harder to make the transition. The community also would not have their central connection. A majority of the community is involved in the cooperative or go to meet in the café. This business in an integral part of the community and without it, there may not be a sense of cohesion between families. In addition, there would be an increased amount of competition between the families because rather than having a cohesive among the families and being linked with one cooperation, they will be competing against each other in the market.

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