August 19, 2009
National Geographic enters the coffee business

National Geographic is putting its considerable reputation and clout behind a new coffee venture called Terra Firma. I recently received a few pounds of Terra Firma beans. The bags also include the National Geographic logo. The non-profit scientitic and educational operation is partnering with Café Bom Dia, a coffee company based in Brazil.

It's an interesting development, especially with all the confusion about "fair trade" coffee and what it really means, i.e. is all the other coffee unfair trade?

According to written literature included with the coffee delivered to The Bee, all Terra Firma coffees from six countries are Fair Trade Certified, an official designation "that guarantees direct trade, fair prices, environmental stewardship and investment in farming communities."

Why would National Geographic wade into the world of coffee, which is complicated and competitive, to say the least? The company wants to have an influence, and it wants to use the money made through sales of the coffee to support a variety of exploration, conservation, research and education projects.

"In carrying out our mission to inspire people to care about the planet, it is vital for National Geographic to partner with organizations that share our values," said Krista Newberry, vice president of licensing for National Geographic, in a press release. "Through its emphasis on sustainability and Fair Trade Certified growers, Café Bom Dia is the ideal partner for us as we venture into the specialty coffee market."

Terra Firma will be sold on, which immediately raises questions about freshness. It's also not cheap. The 12-ounce bags of whole beans sell for about $20. The beans are sold in sealed bags, but micro-roasters often consider optimum freshness to last about two weeks.

Ironically, even National Geographic might agree that it would be better all the way around to support your local roaster or coffee retail outlet than to order online and have them shipped from who-knows-where.

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