Cuba and Coffee Imports

Real Trade

The decision to travel to Cuba in í97, initiated a move to coffee importing. If the world's reputedly best coffee came from Jamaica at that time, it figured that the coffee in Cuba might well be on a par. Moreover, with the Cuba Street connection and Havana name, everything pointed to a trip to the Caribbean.

Rose and Marsland made contact with Cuba Export, then flew to Havana where they landed during the tail end of a grim recession caused by Russia's economic withdrawal. Export officials were surprised by the style and manner of the 'boys' from New Zealand, but graciously agreed to a contract for a container of some of their finest green beans. Thus, Havana's youngest company, Coffee Imports, was officially launched in 1998.

Rose and Marslandís hunch was spot on; Cuba produces some of the world's finest coffee. The relationship grew along with the size of the contracts and the demand within New Zealand. Now 30 per cent of Coffee Import's sales are for straight Cuban.

Cuba Export has since taken Rose and Marsland to meet coffee farmers, sorters, factories, inspectors and tasters. In recognition of Cuban farmers and the importance of the coffee industry to Cuba's economy, Coffee Imports chose to pay Cuba Export a premium price for their beans; they responded with an exclusive, renewable contract for the New Zealand market. Coffee Imports also dropped its retail price in New Zealand to reflect the low international prices, cutting profits at both ends in the name of fair and equitable trade.

At present Coffee Imports buys three varieties of Cuban coffee - extra turquino lavada, turaquino lavada and altura organic. While Cuba has been using organic techniques for years, it has only recently been able to afford certification. Coffee Imports' first shipment of the certified organic arrived in November 2003.

Coffee Imports believes that as people's knowledge and appreciation of coffee grows, they want to travel further with the coffees they're drinking with good conscience. So, having explored green coffee sources from Bolivia, Cuba, Zambia, and Venezuela, plans are afoot to further explore green coffee sources and offer greater variety to New Zealand drinkers.

Meanwhile, having initially kept the Cuban coffee exclusive to Havana, Rose and Marsland are now stocking 20 other roasteries. The aim is to supply small roasters in each province, all with Fair-trade and REALTRADE coffee, so consumers can get it as it should be: fresh from the local roaster, like bread from local baker, with the satisfaction of knowing that the pleasure extends all the way back to the farmer.

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