Passion Meets Profession by Steve Hawthorne
Franciscan Sisters highlight Steve Hawthorne, Stone Creek Director of Coffee Quality as Francis’ month guest blogger. We continue the story here.
Click here to read introduction.
Fast forward more than a decade and here I sit. I am the Director of Coffee Quality for Stone Creek. Among other things, one of my responsibilities is to oversee the first of four steps in creating our coffee:
What does it mean to GROW Responsibly? I think about this in two parts: the quality of the coffee and quality of life for the people that produce it.
First, is the quality of the coffee. I am a certified coffee taster. I have been specially trained to sample coffees and understand the mechanics of flavor and aroma that make up our tasting experience. I can take a small sample of coffee and determine whether it meets quality standards for our company…not a bad job!
Next, and more important to me, is the quality of life for the people that grow our coffees. Nearly all of the world’s coffee is grown between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Most of the countries producing coffee are developing nations and the people that work the land have historically been incredibly disadvantaged. A lack of money and education has put them at risk of being cheated out of a good price, malnourished from a lack of food, and mistreated by ill willed plantation owners. I have had the responsibility, and pleasure, to travel to these countries and sit face to face with the men and women that produce our coffee. I am able to work with them to understand what a fair price for the coffee is and how the money will be used to make their lives, or the lives of their employees, a little bit better. We talk about food security and education for their families. I look for ways that our company can support their efforts to provide a higher quality of life for themselves and their workers. I, in other words, treat them as I would like to be treated. I can only describe this work as amazing.
I spend my time here at home making sure that our coffee always tastes great and telling the story of our coffee growing partners to our staff and customers here in Milwaukee. I want the people consuming our coffee to know that we have taken great precautions to ensure that the people that helped to provide them that coffee were treated justly and fairly. I want them to know that it is important to know where your coffee (and all of your food for that matter!) comes from because so many hardworking people are helping to make these things possible. The next time you sit down with your morning cup, ask yourself…where did this come from? If you can’t answer…see if you can find out.
It’s been 13 years since my first shift at my local coffee shop. Many flights and a full passport later, I am now living my dream of applying my passion to my profession. While I am far from perfect, I can look myself in the mirror and say that I am doing my best to love others…one cup of coffee at a time.