Organic Coffee Farm In Guatemala Strives For Sustainability

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It takes an enormous amount of water to run a successful coffee farm. But one organic farm in Guatemala is using substantially less to grow its crops.

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Demand for organic products high

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BACOLOD CITY, MAY 31 (PIA) – Robert Gasparillo of the Negros Island Organic Certification Services (NICERT) based in Bacolod City said certified-organic products enjoy brisk sales in Metro Manila and in the USA, Europe, Canada and Japan because they are healthy and chemical-free.

Gasparillo told participants of the 1st Regional Techno Gabay Summit and TechnoMart at Amigo Plaza Hall in Iloilo City, recently that the ‘Organik Na Negros Market’ in Bacolod alone could not supply the high demand for organic-certified poultry eggs and chicken meat.

He said when consumers buy products that are certified organic, they get more value for their money and are protected against fake organic products. Producers also benefit from organic certification because they could already sell their products at premium prices here and abroad, added.

Organic product certification was presented as a tool in the commercialization of science-and-technology-based products during the TechnoMart that was attended by Magsasaka-Siyentista (farmer-scientists), members of colleges and universities, and representatives of the Farmers’ Information and Technology Services (FITS) Centers in Western Visayas.

To date, NICERT has certified the products of 20 individuals, smallholder groups, and firms from Negros, Iloilo and Cebu. These products include fertilizers, vegetables, herbs, root crops, fruits, grains, coffee, sugarcane, meat and poultry, aquaculture and processed foods. *(JCM/CAD/PIA6/OPA/FITs)

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Green Tea is a Great Health Drink

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Green tea is one of the best health drinks around. In fact, the Chinese have used this for more than 4,000 years which is why we should drink it as well and experience its benefits.

The benefits of drinking green tea include regulating your blood sugar, preventing certain cancers, fighting plaque, lowering your cholesterol and slowing down the aging process.

But what makes green tea so special is the fact that it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate also known as EGCG. 

This is a powerful anti-oxidant that does two things. First it inhibits the growth of cancer cells and second, it kills cancer cells without harming any healthy tissue. It also lowers your cholesterol by inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots which causes someone to have either a heart attack or stroke.

Green tea is able to fight tooth decay because it inhibits the major bacteria called Streptococcus mutans from forming in between the teeth. At the same time, drinking this regularly also helps prevent gum disease.

Some people might ask, don’t other types of tea have the same benefits as green tea? They do but what sets green tea apart is how it is processed. The other products are not steamed so the EGCG compound which was explained earlier is not oxidized.

So what are you waiting for? Go down to the supermarket and buy a box of green tea and starting drinking it so you are able to experience its many healthy benefits. If the taste is bland after you pour it into your cup, add some flavoring by adding sugar, honey or even a lemon wedge.

You might be wondering, when is the best time to drink green tea? Since it contains caffeine, you should only drink this first thing in the morning and at different times during the day. You must never drink caffeine when you are hungry because this will just increase your appetite or at night because it will make it hard for you to get a good night’s sleep.

Since it will take some time to finish a box of green tea, proper storage is important. To do that, make sure this is kept in an airtight container once you open it and away from light. You can also put it in the refrigerator at a temperature between 38 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

People who are allergic to caffeine should not drink green tea. If you are pregnant, drink this in moderation. If you happen to have some left over green tea from the day before, throw it away and just make a new one because it is best to drink when it is fresh from the kettle.

Green tea just like coffee contains caffeine. This might lead you to the conclusion that this makes this drink just as bad as coffee but in reality, it isn’t because the caffeine content in green tea is fifty percent less than coffee.

There is no doubt that a health drink like green tea can do a lot for you. If you have never tried it before, it is never too late to start to boil a water of water and putting in a tea bag. You can drink it separately or do with the English do and serve this with a few biscuits.

Is Coffee a Health Drink?

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Coffee lovers, the people who love coffee would be surprised to hear that their most beloved drink can also be considered as a health drink nowadays.

Before, coffee was not considered as a health drink because of its high caffeine content. But now, more and more studies show that coffee—in moderation—can be considered as a health drink because of the number of benefits one can enjoy from drinking it.

In most workplace settings, a normal person can consume at least four cups of steaming brewed coffee in a day.  This is to keep him or her  alert and awake in the next hours. In most countries, coffee is considered as a staple drink.  In fact, all over the world, people have their specialty coffee from beans that only grow in certain parts of the globe.

The coffee revolution

Nowadays, a lot of people are getting more and more apprehensive about what they are actually buying and how it is grown or made especially their coffees. One of the most noticeable trends in coffee now is organic coffee. This type of coffee is very much similar to regularly grown coffee, the only difference is the method by which the farmer grew the coffee. The process does not include pesticide, chemicals, and other substances.  This kind of coffee is untouched by the ravaging effects of chemicals used to kill pests.  That’s why some people believe it has therapeutic properties.

Today, coffee—whether its organic or not—is considered by many people as a health drink because it is believed to contain more antioxidants in one typical serving compared to that of other beverages.  In fact, more and more dieticians agree that coffee can be a good alternative for commercial health drinks because it can bring benefits that can be good for a person’s overall health.  Here’s a list of what coffee—as a health drink—can do for the coffee lovers out there.

1. Excellent source of anti-oxidant.   A cup of coffee is believed to be loaded with tannin and antioxidants that are beneficial in keeping diseases away and can help achieve a healthier skin. Certain properties of coffee are believed to help control the cell damage which leads to the development of certain diseases.

2. Good for the cardiovascular system.  Experts agree that coffee contain properties that are good for the heart and its arteries. It also helps improve the circulation of blood within the person’s heart.

3.  An alternative headache and asthma reliever.   People who consume enough amount of caffeine are known to reduce risks of possible asthma attacks because the caffeine is believed to be a good pain buster.

4. Promotes healthy liver.   Aside from reducing the risk of several serious cardiovascular illnesses, coffee is believed to bring about healthy benefits to the liver especially those who have cirrhosis and gallstones.

5. Controls sugar levels among diabetics. Coffee is known to be a good source of  “chlorogenic acid”.  Chlorogenic acid is proven to reduce large amounts of glucose concentrations in the blood.

6. It can boost to athleticism.  As a health drink, drinking coffee can be a good way to boost one’s athleticism because of its high caffeine content.  Experts agree that caffeine can enhance the athletic endurance and performance of an athlete.

The daily cup becoming an expensive habit

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There’s a jolt hitting coffee drinkers, and it isn’t just the caffeine.

The price of coffee beans is at a historic high, as droughts and heavy rain in the world’s leading coffee-producing regions limit supply, while a growing taste for coffee over tea in Asia fuels demand.

Restaurants and cafes have raised their prices, tacking on anywhere from 5 to 20 cents a cup in recent weeks. The escalating price of the popular Arabica bean has affected almost all coffees, from Maxwell House to organic blends.

“I’ve been here for five years, and this is the most significant increase,’’ said Dave Maffucci, a barista for a Peet’s Coffee and Tea in Wellesley, one of five locations the chain has in Massachusetts. Two weeks ago the price of a large cup of joe went up 20 cents to $2.25, a 10 percent jump.

So far, few business owners have reported a decline in sales or a customer backlash. Coffee drinkers, it seems, are a loyal — or addicted — bunch.

“Even during the Great Depression, coffee sales didn’t drop,’’ said Meghan Hubbs, co-owner at Equal Exchange, a West Bridgewater fair-trade roaster and importer that supplies beans to 70 cafes and restaurants in the state and owns cafes in Boston and Seattle.

Last week, at its own cafe in Boston, the price of an eight-ounce cup of coffee went up 10 cents, to $1.60, and 25 cents for a small latte, to $2.50, as the price of milk has also soared.

“In the long run, a specialty coffee drink is not going to be the thing people are going to take a hard look at,’’ Hubbs added.

The price hike is the result of more than just floods and droughts in coffee-growing areas. Also contributing is a weak US dollar, rising prices for fuel and fertilizer, and speculation in the coffee bean market.

And as emerging markets like Asia develop a java jones, global demand skyrockets. Starbucks, for example, plans to open 1,500 stores in China by 2015.

Last week the price of Arabica bean per pound surged to $2.88 on the C market, the global commodity futures market that sets prices for green Arabica beans, compared to $1.38 a year ago.

Coffee experts say the increase indicates that the beverage has become more valuable.

“We’ve gotten used to a really cheap cup of coffee. It’s not really an accurate reflection of someone’s labor,’’ said Daniele Giovannucci, cofounder of the Committee on Sustainability Assessment, a consortium that measures the impact of agricultural practices across the globe. “This price level is a way of finally valuing what is an extraordinary crop.’’

A decade ago, “you could never sell a cup of coffee for more than a dollar,’’ said Giovannucci. “Now we have $4 lattes. People are surprised by the evolution of what consumers are willing to pay.’’

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Fair Trade: What Price for Good Coffee?

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Ever since Jesuit monks brought coffee to Guatemala three centuries ago, raising the beans has been a losing business for small farmers. Conditions are miserable — try lugging 100 lb. of fertilizer up a mountain — and even though coffee is the world’s second most valuable traded commodity, after oil, the money it brings in is measly. “It’s not enough to live on,” says Luis Antonio, who has grown coffee near Quetzaltenango, in Guatemala’s western highlands, for three decades but gets deeper in debt each year. “What we earn isn’t enough to buy food for our children.”

Antonio and the world’s 25 million other small coffee growers don’t have a lot of career alternatives. So you’d think they would be enthusiastic about Fair Trade — a global campaign that for 25 years has sought to bring struggling Third World farmers, including Antonio, out of poverty by paying them higher-than-market prices for everything from coffee to quinoa. Along the way, it has recruited retail giants like Starbucks, which is the globe’s largest purchaser of Fair Trade — certified coffee.

But the future of the Fair Trade — coffee movement is in question, as some backers raise concerns about whether it has reached the limit of how much it can help. In a private-industry survey last year of 179 Fair Trade coffee farmers in Central America and Mexico, a copy of which TIME obtained, more than half said their families have still been going hungry for several months a year. “When I got the results, I was shocked,” says Rick Peyser, director of social advocacy for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Vermont, the Fair Trade company that commissioned the survey. “I was ready to quit.” Massachusetts Fair Trade firm Equal Exchange spokesman Rodney North admits, “There is a potential disconnect between what the buyer thinks Fair Trade is accomplishing and the situation on the ground,” from Latin America to Asia.

Fair Trade pays $1.55 per lb. for Antonio’s organic coffee, almost 10% more than the market price. But Antonio is left with only 50¢ per lb. after paying Fair Trade cooperative fees, government taxes and farming expenses. By year’s end, he says, from the few thousand pounds he grows, he’ll pocket about $1,000 — around half the meager minimum wage in Guatemala — or $2.75 a day, not enough for Starbucks’ cheapest latte. The same holds true for other Guatemalan growers, like Mateo Reynoso, also from Quetzaltenango. Without Fair Trade, he says, “we wouldn’t be growing coffee anymore.” But even Fair Trade prices “haven’t kept up” with the costs small farmers face, he adds.

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Organic Coffee Farming Understood

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Researchers studying an organic coffee farm in Mexico may have stumbled on a clue explaining how organic and integrated farming techniques work so well—and keep pests under control naturally.

On the coffee farm, the key players that keep the ecosystem thriving are a few ant species, coffee pests, and beetles. Their interactions and interdependence on each other are essential to the health of the farm in subtle ways that can be—and have been—easily overlooked.

Intricate relationships
Read the study summary for the full explanation, but it essentially works like this:

Ants live in about three percent of shade trees on the farm, but only in clusters of trees, and not scattered about randomly. Ants have a cozy, symbiotic relationship with the ‘green coffee scale,’ a coffee pest that is a real problem in some areas. But the lady beetle feeds on the scale.

Ants fend off the beetles because the ants like scales for their honeydew secretion. That’s the exchange: honeydew for the ants, protection for the scale. A delicate balance ensues:

The beetles also seem to influence the ants’ distribution patterns by preying on the scale, on which the ants depend for honeydew. The researchers explored the relationship using theoretical modeling and found that if ants take over the whole plantation, the beetle goes extinct because adult beetles can’t get enough to eat. If the ants disappear from the farm, the beetles go extinct because the larvae starve. But if ants are confined to clusters, due to the influences of both beetles and parasitic flies, the beetles thrive and keep the scale insects under control.

A large point of the study is to prove, as the summary says, “it’s increasingly clear that the ‘naïve’ view of nature working in harmony closely matches the scientific facts.”

Instead of trying to pinpoint the problem and finding a “magic-bullet” solution, the way many in modern agriculture do, said one of the researchers, “Our approach is to understand systems that are working well, where there are no problems. By doing that, we can define systems that are more resilient and resistant to pest outbreaks.”

The researchers are now looking at the interactions of other insects that affect coffee plants. With coffee already threatened by climate change-loving beetles, now seems like a great time to understand integrated farm management and to learn how these beetles work their magic.

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