Fair trade diaries: Arshiya Bose of Black Baza Coffee walks us through the basics of her coffee farming movement
Very few coffee lovers actually research how ethical their go-to fair trade coffee brand really is, but Black Baza Coffee ‘s biodiversity-friendly, fair-trade coffee production is going the whole mile when it comes to ethically responsible community-building. The Bengaluru-based label is committed to the idea of ‘creating a local, participatory and meaningful movement for coffee.’ During her PhD in coffee and sustainability, Arshiya Bose, the founder of the label explored some functional biodiversity-friendly coffee farming practises which helped her get a better perspective on responsible production.
“Through my research I met several smallholder coffee producers, and the brand is committed to the idea of helping them grow. Black Baza Coffee is not just about eco-friendly practises but we focus on biodiversity conservation. We take a look at how various wildlife and plants make use of the coffee farms and how they can be conserved on these farms, which also includes changing the way we farm. So we go beyond organic, from looking and understanding habitats to sticking to our all-natural agenda,” Arshiya tells us. Not to mention Black Baza’s line-up is amazingly diverse, featuring coffees with layered flavour profiles, be it fermented Robusta with spicy flavour notes or washed Arabica with a balanced acidity.
In fact, you can even follow Black Baza’s Instagram page for their excellent fieldwork stories. We caught up with Arshiya to explore her vision further.
Black Baza Coffee has a focus on nurturing smallholders producers...
Yes, we do not work with coffee estates so we typically look at those coffee growing communities which are marginalised and vulnerable, particularly at a time like this and we work closely with them. We work with those who need our input and support the most and we are actually one of the few certified fair trade coffee brands in the country. We work with around 650 producers, we help set up coffee collectives and cooperatives. We source our coffee from The Biligirirangana Hills in Karnataka, Nilgiris, Coorg etc.
Tell us about your clientele. Do most of them share the label’s philosophy?
Yes, we have a really loyal base of customers who actively want to support communities which have suffered from the shutdown and the pandemic in general. We already had a steady base, but it has definitely grown since the pandemic started.
How has the label’s objective evolved in the four years since you started?
We are not a typical coffee brand, we function like a social enterprise, and we have definitely grown. We started out with four producers and we now work with 650, we have been able to reach so many communities who needed our support. We have also been able to source so many distinct varieties of coffees with varied flavour profiles, that’s been really interesting.
Tell us about how you’ve named each variant, like the ‘Otter,’ or the ‘Ficus’?
These coffees have been named depending on where they are grown, and represent the idea of conserving particular species of fauna which inhabit the region. The Luna coffee, for instance, is named after this interesting species of moth found in Indo-western ghats, we actively make observations of the luna moth on coffee farms, which tells us about their habitat or the vegetation around them. The names are also symbols of what we’re trying to achieve, it speaks to people about the kind of biodiversity which exists in our forests and why conserving them is so crucial.