Café Mam is an excellent coffee brand that demonstrates, at its core, deep respect for its coffee growers. The indigenous communities from which the coffee is sourced are not aesthetically exploited to generate an image of authenticity; rather, the co-op structure and the rigorous screening process that the brand is subject to under organizations such as the Small Producers’ Symbol really make sure that the communities are in control of the supply chain and that they are the key beneficiaries of the coffee production process. I hope to see more coffee brands like Café Mam across the aisles of grocery shops.
Café Mam uses a natural Kraft paper that is lined with a compostable liner. Kraft paper is made from a chemical conversion process that turns wood into wood pulp; the kraft process is a self-sustaining one that almost fully recovers and reuses the chemicals involved in the process. Natural Kraft paper also does not involve bleaching. The packaging can be put in the house compost or sent to the municipal composting facility upon removal of the tin tie.
The farmers practice “terracing, composting, and regenerative pruning.” Terracing refers to a type of landscaping that involves cutting a sloped plane into successively receding platforms (like steps). The benefit of this practice is the reduction in the amount and velocity of water moving across the soil surface, which reduces soil erosion. To be certified as organic, the farmers must also plant leguminous shade trees, which add nutrients to the soil, and establish a seedling nursery. They also use natural remedies for plant diseases and pests; for example, the website states that they introduce beneficial insects to control a beetle species called la broca, one of the most damaging coffee pests.
They also grow coffee trees in the shade instead of under the sun. This method preserves the jungle canopy, which protects the biodiversity of the forests and thereby preserve the homes of migratory bird populations. The alternative method of growing trees under the sun (and spraying them aerially) destroy the forests.
As described on their website, Café Mam coffee is grown by native Maya farmers in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, an area that has historically been characterized by its indigenous population’s struggle for dignity and recognition. The growers are primarily of “the Mam, Tzetzal, and Mochó peoples” (hence the name), and are “organized according to egalitarian democratic ideals that emphasize hard work, [a] responsibility to the cooperative, and high standards”. The cooperatives’ sustainable approach to agriculture not only help conserve and rebuild the beautiful ecosystems of their land but also help ensure a higher quality of life for their members and their families. Some of the goals that purchasing from Café Mam could help achieve are “self-sufficiency and political independence”, “sustainable development of rural communities”, and “child welfare, including education & nutrition”, all of which are incredibly important in environmentally and politically empowering indigenous communities.
The Zapatista Movement: The Fight for Indigenous Rights in Mexico - Australian Institute of International Affairs
Oregon Tilth: Organic Certification & Sustainable Agriculture
Kraft Paper - an overview_ (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/kraft-paper)