Georges Howell, that’s what!
The specialty coffee scene today is known for, and defined by the über-cool way in which it sets and defines trends that rage against everything we’ve previously taken for granted.
Paying MORE than 50c for a cup of Joe for example, -WHAT?!! And then making the monumental effort to actually travel all the way over to wherever those farmers are doing all their back-breaking labour to actually he-he-help them to produce better quality coffee so that we can pay them a HIGHER price for their beans??? Words like absurd, bizarre, crazy, mad, inconceivable –disastrous even, begin to bubble up from some deep inner ego-driven primordial core…
At least that’s the response that the fat cats of Big Coffee had when they heard what one man has been doing in the coffee world. And that’s why we love him! His name is George Howell- man about town rocking the coffee scene in the name of justice, economic sustainability and of course, quality coffee.
At a time when America was still waking up from decades of chugging down dirty chicory-flavoured water sold under the guise of coffee, George Howell was paving the way for what we’ve come to know and love as the specialty coffee industry. Growing up in one of those New Jersey towns where one is always dimly aware of the looming towers of New York City on the horizon, George knew that things could always be better (if you’ve been to New Jersey you’ll understand). George, for example, was one of the first to see the potential in coffee, understanding that the concept of “terroir” —that ineffable combination of region, climate, and craftsmanship that give a wine its unique qualities- could also be applied to coffee! This led to a breakthrough in the way coffee is not just cultivated, but also traded, since farmers naturally need to be paid more for the extra work and money they invest in growing higher quality beans.
By cutting out the commodity exchange where farmers have been getting a tragically bad deal for centuries, coffee began to shape models of economic sustainability under the United Nations and the International Coffee Organization during the late 1990’s. This led our man George to found of the precedent-setting Cup Of Excellence program with the Specialty Coffee Association of America in 1999. This established the world’s first international estate coffee competition and international internet auction that mightily contributed to breaking the commodity/price cycle for craftsman farmers in the specialty coffee industry. Sustainability at it’s finest, that is.
Get the full biography here and find out where you can order some of George’s beans (yes, he’s still roasting!!)
(Images courtesy of: George Howell Coffee)