After an incredible but very full day of talks and sessions at Let’s Talk Coffee® yesterday–which spanned from macro overviews of market trends and consumer preferences, to innovative microroasters in trendy neighborhoods, to specialty coffee markets in the middle east, India, and Russia, with cuppings and triangulation competitions in between–the hundreds of participants here at the Recinto Quirama were moving a little slow as they made their way to the auditorium for the start of day two. With 28 countries represented at this event, I’ll wager many folks were still suffering from some jet leg. And while we are in no way short of coffee–the delicious brews from all over the world keep flowing–what really gave us all energy this morning was a special visit from Mr. Sergio Fajardo, the Governor of the Colombian state of Antioquia.
Mr. Fajardo came to speak to us as members of the specialty coffee industry about Antioquia’s recent focus on investment in coffee and their plans to make the region a new, desired origin of specialty coffees. But he started by telling us about the recent history of the region and the inspiring steps it has taken over the past years to become the rising star that it is today: Antioquia la más educada (the most educated). Far from feeling like a stock speech from a politician, Mr. Fajardo’s story was both warm and human, and echoed quite incredibly the experience of many of us in the coffee industry that were listening. Medellín, the capital of Antioquia, has a history of corruption and violence that gained it a reputation worldwide. Now it is emerging as a destination city with vibrant art, music, fashion and architecture. How did this transformation occur? The foundation, said Mr. Fajardo, was establishing transparency and trust in the government.
He didn’t need to sell that concept to us. All of us who participate in Let’s Talk Coffee® are here today because we believe in the power of transparency and trust in relationships–whether they be business or political–to create impactful and sustainable change. Apart from transparency, said Mr. Fajardo, another key to the success of this region is investment. Recent investments in infrastructure and technology, like cable cars connecting poor neighborhoods to cities, or schools designed by leading architects, have been key in driving out the violence that has been a part of the region’s history for so long. And he plans to continue, with specialty coffee pilot projects throughout the region and the constructions of roads and cell phone towers to improve the livelihood of all of citizens in this area and connect them with the rest of the world.
And that’s what Relationship Coffee is about as well: constantly re-investing in the supply chain, through cooperative infrastructure, increased market access, productivity gains, livelihood projects, and capacity building across the board. This weekend, as we gather here at Let’s Talk Coffee®, we are investing in the healthy future of our businesses and communities. And so, leaving us feeling quite on the same page, Mr. Fajardo helped propel us into another energetic day at LTC 2012 in Colombia.
More to come as the event continues. We’ve got some awesome photos from yesterday’s festivities up on our facebook page, and there is a deluge of great insight on twitter: follow along at #LTC2012.