God in a Cup - Most interesting Panama part for me...

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God in a Cup - Most interesting Panama part for me...

Postby Mark Prince on Tue May 27, 2008 5:51 pm

Recently I finished my full read of Michaele Weissman's book (I skimmed the book earlier this year, gave it a full read over the past few weeks) and today I interviewed her for the podcast, and in the interview I told her something that was on my mind.

The most interesting part of all the Panama discussion in the book for me at least wasn't all the coverage of Esmeralda and the BoP (and there's a lot of coverage of these things) but instead Maria Ruis (sp?) and her work with the Ngobi indigenous Indians of Panama. I learned a lot about origin just from this part of the book. I found it entirely fascinating that Maria could identify ways (including using modern technologies like digital cameras) to help the Ngobi understand the importance of picking ripe cherries, when traditional methods of communication (that is, talking to someone about things) were not working. Maria's gotta be an anthropologist at heart.

I also found it fascinating that Maria's efforts helped the Ngobi, newly minted land owners thanks to govt reforms and land grants, start on the path of getting organic certifications. The Ngobi are naturally "organic" in their coffee growing methods, but being as they have no written language and communicate on a more visual way instead of descriptive way, again things like digital cameras with time stamps, visually documenting efforts to produce organically become possible.

Very fascinating stuff, and just one of many reasons why this book is a hit in my... uh, books.

Mark
Mark Prince
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Re: God in a Cup - Most interesting Panama part for me...

Postby sweetmarias on Mon Jun 09, 2008 11:06 am

We have Ruiz 's crazy, crazy Guyami Indian Robusta, the only coffee i have ever heard of that takes a canoe transfers to a skiff, transfers to a ship, then transfers to a public bus (!) to get to the Ruiz mill for processing. And it's a robusta you can drink straight as french press. I am not bragging- it's still robusta, but part of a neat program too. We cupped Ngobe coffees there quite a few years back, as part of a special training session on their behalf with BOP judges. The best that could be said about the coffees at the time is they tasted like a vegetable garden; cabbage, onion, earth ...

If Maria Ruiz is not agriculture minister of Panama some day, she will be President. she's one smart cookie and a good cupper too.
let's cup through this ... together.
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Re: God in a Cup - Most interesting Panama part for me...

Postby Tim Dominick on Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:43 pm

Mark- I agree that was a compelling story. Beth and I really enjoyed that part of the book, Beth especially with her background as an OG inspector combined with a sister who studies Quechua in addition to being a Phd candidate in women's studies with a dissertation on trade equality in the works. Lets say Maria will likely hear from them as this has been a past topic of discussion at the dinner table. How do you inspect in a language very few people can speak or translate? Sounds like she has an answer!~
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Re: God in a Cup - Most interesting Panama part for me...

Postby Mark Prince on Mon Jun 09, 2008 6:34 pm

One thing I took away from the book is that communication channels and misqueues often run deeper than not just being able to speak Spanish (or Punjab, or Arabic, or Portuguese, or etc etc). Sometimes there's major cultural shifts that seem almost alien to the westernized mind; and other times like the Ngobi, there's entirely different methods of communication - visualizations and movements convey more than the spoken word.

And still in other cultures, things are less based on linear time than they are on, say the "now". And in still other cultures, things are structured on the maternal side of the family ego, etc etc.

It gets me wondering... are there any trained anthropologists working directly in the coffee field? People who can at the very least analyse and report to buyers like the Geoffs and Duanes and Alecos and Peters and Georges and David Griswolds of the world on better ways to communicate and prosper with these folks?

Mark
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