I'm sitting here in my hotel room in Kampala, Uganda and I can't quite come to terms with the fact that I'm actually here. The sound of croaking frogs covers up any noise from the city down the hill from us. We went about 30 mins. outside of the city to an orphanage/school called "Watoto" today and it was an utterly overwhelming place to see. As I was riding out there I kept thinking about how this was a coffee country. I saw signs everywhere bragging about it, too. All the sights and sounds and stories today prompted something in me that has been brewing for awhile...and may very well be sacrilege to some.
People are more important than coffee.
My thoughts riding out to Watoto were about this being coffee country, my thoughts on the way back were on the 700+ orphans that I just saw with my overly American eyes. None of them mentioned coffee. The adults in charge mentioned it in passing, asking if we'd gotten to enjoy any of their native beverages. It sparked a thought, and this isn't a "Bono-ish" thought about changing the world, or erasing poverty, or fair trade, or shade grown, or anything else. My thought is still underdeveloped, and will probably be poorly stated, but it's a work in process so forgive me.
As baristas we don't serve coffee, we serve people. Coffee is the product, and we should strive to be the absolute best at what we do, but at the end of the day it's STILL a product. It's not the final step in the process from field to shop. It's not even field to cup. It's field to stomach.(not a romantic idea, but true nevertheless).
I've been poorly treated more times than I can mention in coffee shops that serve great coffee. Even in my hometown. No more. I can't change Uganda or the plight of the people here, but I can treat people in my city well. How many times have I seen the beverage honored over the person? Here it's a commodity. I could learn a few things from that attitude.