Natalie, born in Austria, worked for an NGO for years and now imports her own coffee. I met her at a coffee tasting in Santa Marta, Colombia. Read here what she thinks about coffee and fair trade.
1. What is it that links you to coffee? Why do you work with coffee?
Four years ago I visited the Colombian coffee region for the first time and had the opportunity to meet the environmental organisation Serraniagua, which works with coffee farmers. There I was served coffee for the first time directly from the finca. That impressed me.
Coffee is produced there for the local market and offered in a local café. This is how my idea to bring this delicious coffee directly from the finca to Austria came about and so I started the project nulldiebohne. In 2019-2020 I was travelling in Colombia for several months to learn everything I could about coffee – from cultivation to the work process on the finca to roasting the beans. This made me a coffee enthusiast.
2. What did you do before you worked with Coffee?
After my studies of “International Development and Environmental Management” I worked for several years as a project manager for various projects on climate change, sustainable mobility and adult education for an NGO. The subject of food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture has been with me since my studies, which is why I have now taken a closer look at coffee.
3. What is the most important thing about coffee for you? What is „good coffee“ for you?
A cup of coffee contains many important steps that influence the quality of coffee. For me, sustainable, organic farming and a fair price for the coffee beans are particularly important.
In the last 30 years, many coffee farmers have given up growing coffee because of the low prices. Where there is no cultivation, there is no coffee.
At the same time, coffee farmers are also exposed to the consequences of climate change and have to adapt. By cultivating coffee in the shade in a sustainable manner, sustainable agriculture is being practised in the cycle of nature. This means that farmers are better adapted to climate change and benefit from the shade provided by the trees, which block extreme solar radiation, absorb heavy rainfall and shield against cold spells.
Of course, a clean working process on the finca and roasting are also particularly important for good coffee quality. And if you also know where the coffee comes from, it tastes even better.
4. How do you drink your coffee (preferably)?
Preferably filter coffee, without milk or sugar.
5. What do you think about fair trade?
Fair prices are the be-all and end-all for coffee farmers! The price of coffee is very variable – as it is traded on the stock exchange – and it is very low, especially in recent years. For many coffee farmers, growing coffee is no longer profitable, they try to survive by growing other agricultural products or move to the city.
The trend towards single origin and direct trade has reached the coffee business. Good on us! Because the more direct the trading relationship, the more reliably fair prices are that are paid for the coffee beans.
For me it goes even one step further. With the project nulldiebohne, the processing of coffee is also left in the country of origin. As much of the added value as possible remains in Colombia, jobs are created and the local economy is strengthened. Resources are no longer sourced only from the global South, but are also processed in the country of origin. Together with the local environmental organisation, we thus create a fair, direct and sustainable trading relationship with the coffee farmers in Colombia and enable sustainable development of the local community.
6. Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think that in the future it will be increasingly important to know where our food comes from. The third-wave-coffee movement is already doing a lot to promote coffee consumption and to raise awareness of what makes coffee good coffee. Above all, we need to give more thought to sustainable and future-oriented coffee cultivation. Conventional monocultures with many chemicals are leaching out the resources of our planet – and as we all know – there is no planet B.
 In shade cultivation, large shade-giving trees are also planted between the coffee trees, partly banana trees, but also other trees. Growing in the shade is considered the “supreme discipline”, but it is more time-consuming and costly, which is why most plantations worldwide have no shade trees.
 Single Origin is a coffee that comes from a single region, often even from a single farmer, sometimes even (as with wine) only from a specific hillside. In contrast, most coffees that are bought are so-called “blends”, which come from different farmers or even from different regions worldwide.
 Direct Trade means that the importer or roaster trades directly with the coffee farmers. For more information on direct trade check out the articel