International Idealism in the Times Biz Section

Did you catch Michaele Weissman’s piece on the front page of the Times Business section yesterday, about an idealistic Chicago coffee company that is paying double ordinary prices to Nicaraguan growers, willingly, to get connoisseur beans for discriminating drinkers here? They call it “relationship coffee” because it involves a buyer spending months on the road to cultivate higher standards among growers.

After socializing, 35 coffee growers and their families crowded into an outbuilding to hear Mr. Watts. Speaking in somewhat tortured Spanish, he began his presentation by praising the growers of Las Brumas and offering to underwrite several capital improvements. …Mr. Watts then addressed the purpose of the meeting. He told the farmers that from now on he would pay $1.60 a pound for AA coffee that earned a cupping score of 84 to 87 (on a scale of 100); $1.85 a pound for AAA coffees that earned scores of 88-93; and an unheard-of $3 a pound for extraordinary coffee that scored 94 and above. Furthermore, Mr. Watts said, these rates would never decline, they would only increase.

This was a lovely and surprising piece of reporting. I hope the Times completes the international circle and sends Ms. Weissman to deepest darkest Chicago next, to explain who is paying $20 a pound for these beans and making Intelligentsia Coffee a profitable company.