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updated: 4/11/2012 2:51 PM

How local coffee drinkers can help Honduran farmers

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  • Erlo Roth, international service director for the Rotary Club of Naperville/Downtown, introduces himself to Morgan Fett of Union Micro Finanza, which organizes small loans to coffee growers in Honduras -- including those that sell the beans that end up in Irish coffee at Quigley's in Naperville.

      Erlo Roth, international service director for the Rotary Club of Naperville/Downtown, introduces himself to Morgan Fett of Union Micro Finanza, which organizes small loans to coffee growers in Honduras -- including those that sell the beans that end up in Irish coffee at Quigley's in Naperville.
    Courtesy of Rotary Club of Naperville/Downtown

 

You could say this story started more than three years ago.

After dinner one evening at Quigley's Irish Pub, Ashley, our daughter, and I sipped Irish coffee for dessert. That's when we learned the nonsecret part of the secret recipe called for in the Black and Tan Blend by Uncommon Grounds Coffee Roasters in Saugatuck, Mich.

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One thing led to another and Nancy Quigley suggested a day trip to Saugatuck to meet her brother, Guy Darienzo, who owns Uncommon Grounds Coffee Roasters. Guy roasts a variety of special blends for roughly 15 other independently owned restaurants from here to his own coffee shop.

That spring we visited Saugatuck. The harbor village along the Kalamazoo River is a peaceful, picturesque place with art galleries and boutiques; a boardwalk to dockside shops, most of which were not yet open for the season; and towering sand dunes in the distance, a short ride over a bridge, that welcomed our climbing. Guy's coffee shop is quaint and was most inviting, too.

During lunch, we learned how Guy works with the local community and local farmers, as well as coffee farmers around the world, for all aspects of his 20-year-old business.

One of the partnership coffee farmers Guy has nurtured is located in La Unión, Honduras. For the past two years, Guy, Nancy and a team from Uncommon Grounds have traveled to the impoverished region with a dual purpose.

Nancy explained that Guy can purchase the best coffee beans available for roasting while helping to improve living conditions of the farmers in one of the poorest countries in Central America. Many villages there lack running water and some still are without electricity, she said.

After her two visits, Nancy returned to Naperville determined to organize future work-trips to Honduras. She's hopeful other groups will want to learn about the production of the coffee, the daily struggles in the communities, and the dedicated individuals enlisted in the innovative microloan program called Union Micro Finanza.

The first week in April, Nancy, who also is the president of the Rotary Club of Naperville/Downtown, arranged for Morgan Fett to present a program about Union Micro Finanza.

A graduate of the University of Michigan who speaks fluent Spanish, Morgan, 24, is UMF's accounts and outreach manager. Though she mostly works in the U.S., she also spends time in Honduras, where she met Nancy this past February.

During her enlightening and engaging presentation, Morgan explained the program of microloans, the brainchild of Andrew Boyd, who established the business in late 2009. Microloans are reinforced by technical training to help farmers improve their fields.

She emphasized how the program permits farmers to maintain their independence. Microloan recipients are free to sell their coffee to other coffee buyers at will.

Morgan also noted that they purchase coffee for higher-than-fair trade premiums to make sure the producers earn what they deserve.

She, too, encouraged group visits to Honduras for others to get involved, to pick coffee alongside local farmers in the mountainous villages and to see firsthand how the microloan program is helping families gain self-sufficiency.

As the consumer comes closer to the farmer in the supply chain, Morgan explained, "less money is diverted to intermediaries, allowing us to reinvest more into the La Unión communities with microloans."

Special coffee

From 7 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, April 21, Naperville CARES will sponsor its ninth annual Cuisine for a Cause in the Atrium at Tellabs Global Headquarters, 1415 W. Diehl Road. Tickets are $90.

Naperville CARES, a volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization, "provides short-term financial support and resources to meet the basic needs of local families in crisis."

Quigley's Irish Pub again will be among 25 featured restaurants serving samples of their signature dishes.

Nancy plans to mix up Quigley's Irish coffee recipe with the Black and Tan roast, blended with coffee beans grown in Honduras for Uncommon Grounds.

More than simply sampling a satisfying Irish coffee, perhaps attendees will savor the notion that a taste of Quigley's rich, dark Irish coffee most effectively supports the unmet needs of folks in Honduras. And, at Cuisine for a Cause, Naperville CARES will benefit, too.

• Stephanie Penick writes about Naperville. Email her at spennydh@aol.com.

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