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.

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Comment by Brian Bergman on June 5, 2008 at 8:06pm
Agree with all of your comments, but my thoughts ultimately aren't just turned back onto the farmers and people here...they're also turned forward to the people that will be sipping coffee from the cup. One of the ways that I can show respect for the work that growers/roasters/pickers/etc do is to "pay forward" that respect to the customer. An incomplete thought, but a thought nevertheless.

Oh, and to answer your question Ryan....I was in Kampala for 7 days to play music. Quite an experience to play music to a sea of Ugandans/Kenyans/Sudanese/etc. in a field in the middle of Kampala.
Comment by Jason Dominy on May 30, 2008 at 6:59pm
Ryan, I had no idea you had that experience. I wish I had known that in MN. I surely would have expected you to expound on your experience there. Very cool thoughts guys. It's about keeping it real, and remembering what it's all about at the end of the day.
Comment by Ryan Knapp on May 30, 2008 at 6:33pm
Your on to something. A beautiful cup of coffee isn't beautiful without starting with real human beings that are so much more beautiful. We can't separate the people from the cup. Thanks for your post as it needs to be a daily reminder to us in the industry that we can never disconnect the farmers and their communities from the beverage.

How long are you in Uganda for, and what are you doing there? I spend about 4 months in Uganda studying abroad just outside of Kampala. It's those memories from my time in Uganda that extend a larger picture and real focus of what is really going on when we are at the shop.
Comment by Jason Dominy on May 28, 2008 at 1:50pm
My wife and I have been looking at adopting a couple of kids from an orphanage near where you are now. It's actually in Buundo, outside Jinja. Your thoughts are cool, and know being there will change your life. It better. We do owe them everything, and give them next to nothing. Welcome to the conversation of how we can give them more. Cheers to the journey. Prayers to you and yours in your travels there.

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