Monday, February 23, 2009

The Coffee Man

Adrian Gonzalez, employee of Just Coffee in Aqua Prieta, Mexico.

This past week I had the unique opportunity of visiting this one of a kind coffee companies called Just Coffee in Aqua Prieta, Mexico. According to the Just Coffee website, "The idea behind Just Coffee is to address one of the root causes of labor migration from Mexico to the USA." Instead of the several middle men in most coffee companies, the growers are from Chiapas, Mexico where it is then brought to Agua Prieta to be roasted and airtight sealed in a bag. This provides fair profit for the growers. The coffee is then brought legally across the border to Douglas, Arizona where it is send out by UPS trucks and distributed to several churches and stores throughout Tucson, Arizona. 

While I was visiting, I met a man by the name of Adrian Gonzalez, who was the only member of the company who was able to communicate in English to me, and I felt it was important to tell his story and how he got started with Just Coffee.

Gonzalez has been working with Just Coffee, a free trade coffee company, for the past six years, and said his favorite part about his job is the fact that, "I get free coffee every morning."

From 2000-2001, Gonzalez moved to Phoenix, Arizona where he worked at a golf course, but moved back to his home town in Aqua Prieta when his father asked him to help with his new screen printing business he had recently started. 

Gonzalez holding a bag of his favorite blend.

"It wasn't for me though," said Gonzalez. Therefore, Gonzalez caught word of a coffee company that was to be started by the local church he attended, and heard they had an opening.

"I knew nothing about coffee but I knew it sounded like a great experience and a lot of fun," said Gonzalez, adding that, "There is no way you can say anything bad about this concept because it is a perfect solution." He said especially with the way the economy is in America today, more people are inclined to purchase free trade products because it makes the most sense.  

Now, after more than six years of working with Just Coffee, Gonzalez still loves his job and does not plan to leave anytime soon. 

Gonzalez said his new dream is to go to school so he can receive a degree in International Business. He said he learned to speak English when he started working for Just Coffee by talking with customers in America on the phone, through email, and from the tour groups that come at least once a week to visit Just Coffee. He said it took him two years to be completely fluent and comfortable with using the language on a day to day basis. He said it was hard in the beginning because he was afraid to use the wrong word, for instance, "This one time we were trying to find someone to ship the coffee, but instead of saying ship I kept using the word shit...that was embarassing," said Gonzalez laughing.

Gonzalez recently married a woman he met seven years ago at his local church, the same church that started Just Coffee.  

The employees of Just Coffee in Aqua Prieta at their roasting location.

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