Stacey on his way to the Philippines

cayatano-2014.thumbIt's been a couple of years since Stacey trekked over to the Philippines to visit coffee farmers.  In the mean time, we've begun working with the Southern Partners Fair Trade Producers Cooperative to purchase their Coconut Oil.  We've kept pretty quiet about the coconut oil because we can barely keep it in stock.  Cebu was seriously affected by Earthquake and flooding last year so these coconut farmers and processors have been working very hard to rebuild.

The coconut oil is first cold pressed, meaning the whole coconut meat is pressed without being heated (this can destroy some of the nutritional value).  It smells and tastes delicious and has made its way into our kitchens for baking, frying and into our soap making and skincare!  Stacey is excited to meet up with the team in Cebu and will see the press in action.

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Colombia Trip Recap

hugo-patricia-jeep.thumbdonna-ttv.thumbPatricia Pearson, sales representative for our Ten Thousand Villages and Non-Profit / Fundraising accounts, just returned from Colombia, where she experienced many things for the first time—like riding on top of a jeep with Hugo, and picking coffee with Donna, a regional sales manager for Ten Thousand Villages USA.Read More »

Vanilla beans available!

vanilla-package.thumbWe are delighted to let you know that we now have Vanilla beans available on our webstore!

Each package has 10 grade A beans inside. The beans are grown by small-scale farmers in Uganda and cured in Uganda as well.

Purchase Vanilla Beans

If you've never used vanilla beans before, it's easy! Here are two methods:

A. Score a bean lengthwise with a knife and scoop out the tiny seeds (seeds = flavour) and add them to your recipes. Note: Seeds from one bean will provide flavour equal or greater than 1 teaspoon of high quality, double strength (two fold) extract.

B. Make your own extract - it's very easy!

1. Chop up 6-8 beans into a 250 ml glass jar
2. Fill the jar with vodka
3. Wait (at least) a few weeks, it's best to wait a few months
4. Strain off the bean fibers and you've got your very own vanilla extract
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How it's made - Cane Sugar!

how.to.cane.sugar.thumbThis delicious cane sugar is processed in El Jabon, Huila, Colombia. One of the farms in the community runs the press and our friend, Luis demonstrated the process. On Hugo & Reg's last trip, they took some footage so you can see how it's done.

Click on the image to the right to watch the video.

Letter from Assam

dheren-phukan.thumbassam-tribune.thumbDear Carol/Laurei,

Greeting at the onset. Last year I wrote you after reading an article in The Assam Tribune and got a reply from your side. And today i found the garden you visited is actually located just 30KMs away from my father’s residence here in Assam, India. And yes today I met this great guy called Dheren Phukan from Assam, India and his organic tea garden. He spoke a lot about you guys too.

What Dheran has achieved here amidst many odds is just not easy. His entire garden is so so so healthy and complete pesticide free. Even the others big players like McLeod Russel India Ltd who owns thousands of hectares of gardens are heavily dependent on chemical pesticides and other chemical fertilizers like Urea and what not.

I so much appreciate the efforts of level ground to promote healthy product in your country and a great encouragement for organic tea produces of Assam.

Do stay in touch.

Regards
Dibyajyoti Kaushik

Can Fair Trade work with the Big Companies?

hugo-adam-flex.thumbIn 2006, we embarked on a trade arrangement in Tanzania with a small company called Lima, specifically in support of their H.O.P.E project in Ileje, a small community tucked in the southwest corner of the Mbeya province near the Zambian border. At the time, we were purchasing 2 containers/year which was about all they could produce. The Fair Trade premium went to healthcare benefits for the women who sorted the coffee at the mill. Nice and tidy.

Fast forward 6 years. Corporate mergers resulted in Lima being sold to Dormans, a large coffee trader/roaster/retailer based in Nairobi. Dormans was then sold to Armajaro, a large commodities trading company based in the UK. So, a small fish was eaten by a large fish who in turn got swallowed by a much larger fish. Aha!, the joys of free-market capitalism!
Read More »

At Last! Level Ground Tea!

tenzing.laughing.thumbOver the past two years we have been working with the Small Tea Coop and five tea growers in Assam, India. From each of these small gardens comes a unique and delicious tea.

Tenzing is one of the tea growers we were privileged to stay with in Assam. He is an advocate of composting and grows tea organically in a small tea garden (3/4 of an acre). He works with his family to make our Black Tea. His dream is to build his tea garden to the point where he can use his 'royal earnings' to begin his 'wanderings' (travel to visit other countries). We look forward to the day we can return his hospitality in Canada!

The Fair Trade premium on tea is being dispersed to the labourers in each tea garden. In Tenzing's garden, the premium has been used to purchase piglets and goats for the labourers’ families.
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  • loose leaf tea
  • hand plucked
  • hand processed
  • small-scale gardens
  • no chemicals
  • 70g package (28 servings)

Update: Hugo and Rick in D.R. Congo

soprocopive.visit.thumbOur mission is to trade fairly and directly with small-scale farmers. Increasingly, we are finding new partnerships with producers who are extremely marginalized with little to no access to outside markets. Our Direct Fair Trade model is being further tested in the D.R. Congo which epitomizes small-scale, marginalized farmers.

To this point we've imported 3 containers of coffee from D.R. Congo. More is planned in the near future!

Hugo and Rick are adventuring through Africa this month with Phil Schluter. Phil is a key connection for Level Ground in Africa.
Read More »

Bird-friendly and shade-grown certification

yellow.earred.parrot.thumbWe recently received a query from a customer re: shade grown coffee that read like this:

"I like your coffee and I support your company's commitment to fair trade, but your coffee does not appear to carry the bird-friendly/shade grown certification. Is your company working toward such certification, or are your plantations simply unable to comply?"

Thanks for your question re: bird-friendly and shade grown certification.

Each certification which farmers carry costs money. The smaller scale a farmer is, the harder it is to bear such costs.
Read More »

Update: Hugo and Reg in Colombia

tania.mango.fruandes.thumbThis week Hugo and Reg are in Colombia. They've visited our cane sugar producing partners in El Jabon and the fruit processing facility operated by Fruandes in Bogotá.

Face to face they were able to confirm the new, higher prices we'll be paying farmers for their cane sugar and also detailed the use of Fair Trade premiums and organic differentials we pay. Firsthand, they were able to see the cane sugar being sifted and inspected quality and brix (sweetness) of the sugar.

Fresh mango were being received at Fruandes for cutting and drying. Fruandes' new facility looks fantastic and is being operating with great efficiency. 29 people are employed at Fruandes - 16 cutting and drying fruit, 6 packaging and 7 doing office/admin tasks.
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