It’s (Not) Always Good to Cooperate

Today, we visited the Dota coffee plantation, which serves as a part of a cooperative of over 900 other farmers/coffee plantations in the area. In other words, as opposed to being one centrally owned and operated entity like a plantation like Doka is, Dota is a part of a cooperative of other entities that all make decisions together. While this decentralized business model does have some advantages over the standard coffee plantation business model, it also comes with many disadvantages. One of the main advantages of a cooperative is that it functions like a democracy; this means that in order to move forward with any new projects or decisions, all members of the cooperative must approve of it. This serves as an advantage because it allows the local businesses to determine how their practices will not only meet the needs of their consumers, but of the members of surrounding communities as well. The existence of something like Santa Maria de Doto paves the way for the economic and social development of nearby community members. However, the main disadvantage that functioning as a cooperative comes with is that it is difficult to pass decisions when everyone has to agree. This can serve as a serious issue during situations where there is a lot of pressure coming from consumers for a member of the cooperative to change its business practices, as they will be unable to do so until the changes are approved by all of the other members of the cooperative, too. For example, today, we learned about an example of pressure from consumers for Dota to incorporate more sustainable practices. Around 50 years ago, countries from the US, Japan, and Germany protested that if Dota did not come up with secondary uses for all of its waste, they would stop purchasing coffee from the Dota plantation. 

Café Privilegios is an important asset to the community, as considering the interests of both other business entities as well as local community members allows for the economic and social flourishing of the area. As the interests of all of the members of the cooperative are factored into each decision, each member is able to secure better services, benefits, and materials, which in turn creates job growth in the area. This then promotes trade and consumption, which creates economic–and thus social–growth for the surrounding community. 

On the tour today, we learned about the different methods that are used to prepare the actual coffee from the beans. Coffee can be processed as either washed (meaning that everything is removed, except the bean), honey (meaning that everything is removed, except for the bean and the sticky-sweet layer), or natural (meaning that nothing is removed, and the bean is put under the sun). In addition, we learned about the 3 different levels at which the beans can be roasted. Light roast is the most acidic with the most caffeine, followed by medium roast, and, finally, dark roast. Lastly, we learned about a few different methods of brewing coffee, including the drip method, the immersion method, and the pressure method. My favorite method to  learn about was the drip method, as I enjoyed learning about the different phases of it.

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