BeanScene Magazine

Learning to give

From the February 2016 issue.

ASCA President Brent Williams reflects on the spirit of giving and what that can teach us.

There’s no other time of year that encourages us to think about the importance of giving back quite like Christmas.

With the silly season just passed I hope, like me, many of you have had the chance to bare witness to the acts of kindness that seem to spring up with more frequency over this period.

There is something about the holidays that seems to bring out the best in human nature.

Whether it be the families who take time away from 25 December’s usual overindulgence to visit the children’s ward of their local hospitals, or perhaps it’s the young couple who invite an elderly neighbour over to share Christmas lunch, rather than seeing them spend the day alone.

It is almost as if we save up all our good deeds to bring out the same time as the fairy lights go on.

Well wouldn’t it be nice if we could take these warm fuzzies that spring up in December and spread them right through to the rest of the year?

If, rather than only feeling good about our spontaneous acts of kindness for a few short months, we felt that way all year round. We are certainly in an industry that is crying out for altruism.

On a macro level, we can look at the disparity of wealth between producing and consuming nations and the thousands of private and public companies working hard to bridge that gap.

While most of us share a romanticized fantasy of taking that trip to origin, we know that for many farmers life can be a struggle.

This awareness is the reason why fair trade partnerships exist and the reason why many of us are prepared to pay more for the traceable chain.

In Australia, we have some wonderful roasters who have been at the forefront of highlighting the importance of giving back to the men and women who work tirelessly to produce our coffee.

On a micro level, we have grass root charities all over the country working either in, or in conjunction with, the Australian coffee industry to help those less fortunate. Whether it is through fundraising initiatives, employment opportunities, scholarships or training programs, to start naming the people doing wonderful things in coffee would take up the rest of this column.

That said I believe there are still many opportunities for coffee people to give back to this country’s fellow coffee people.

Money is a fickle resource, which unfortunately holds a great deal of importance to a great deal of people. At ASCA, we’re aware of this importance and the limitations placed on volunteer organisations and what we can achieve without it.

For this reason, we are extremely grateful to the companies that dig deep into their pockets to sponsor the events and the work that we do. But it isn’t just the big guys with the potential to give back – it is not always about the money.

Lately I’ve been speaking a lot about the importance of education. I believe education is the thing that will ensure the knowledge of the importance of a transparent supply chain is passed on.

Education is what will ensure Australian baristas remain at the head of their game.

In the conversations I’ve been having I can see that what is needed is an open discussion, not just from the few who have already lined their pockets, from everyone who values being part of this coffee community about how we take our learning to the next level.

So with 2016 now upon us, I encourage you all to keep the conversation alive and keep up the spirit of giving. Start a discussion with the new barista. What can you pass on to make life a little sweeter? Who knows, perhaps keeping these warm fuzzies for the remainder of the year might help us all learn something.

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