La Esmeralda Gesha Blend by George Howell Coffee

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Yoyo Lu
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George Howell Coffee, founded by an American entrepreneur, George Howell, is a coffee roaster. They buy raw coffee beans from plantations in different parts of the world, roast the raw beans, and sell fresh beans to customers. The raw beans of this blend come from Hacienda La Esmeralda, a world-famous geisha plantation. George Howell Coffee direct-source their beans, but other than that, the lack of information makes it difficult to assess this company. Hacienda la Esmeralda, on the other hand, is above average compared to the regular coffee plantation.

What it's made of:


In this section, I will mainly examine the source of the raw beans used in this blend. Roasted by George Howell Coffee, the La Esmeralda Gesha Blend uses two Geisha beans from Hacienda La Esmeralda, a world-famous Geisha plantation based in Panama. The two varieties respectively come from Jaramillo and Cañas Verdes (farms owned by La Esmeralda). The coffee plants themselves pose no major sustainability concerns. La Esmeralda states that they use “fertilizers in modest quantities” so that no excess nutrients will pollute the soil. They also reuse coffee pulp, a byproduct of coffee bean processing, to re-fertilize the soil. When it comes to maintaining coffee plants, La Esmeralda claims that they prune coffee plants after the local birds’ nesting season to minimize environmental impacts. La Esmeralda does not provide more information on its website. Though they could be more transparent about the coffee production process, they seem to be using a relatively sustainable farming method.

How it's made:


According to La Esmeralda, the two patches of land on which the beans are planted were purchased from local farmers; one patch was purchased as early as 1987, another in 2004. When it comes to the people who are involved in the coffee harvesting/processing process, La Esmeralda seems to be proud of what they are doing. La Esmeralda is a pronounced coffee producer, and they sell coffee beans at a higher price than most competitors. They claim that their Geisha coffee pickers receive “three times the average price paid for harvesting”.

On the other hand, George Howell Coffee’s roastery is located just 45 minutes outside of downtown Boston. They roast beans, do quality control and store raw beans in this roastery. Just like most other coffee roasters, this roastery is relatively small in size and does not require too much staff to operate. I cannot find more information about how they operate in the roastery, but I imagine the process is not too different from the regular process in the coffee industry. There’s nothing that stands out about George Howell Coffee’s operation.

Who makes it:


As mentioned before, George Howell Coffee is a relatively small company based in Boston, which means that their staff is likely well-treated (I cannot find this information on their website; could use more transparency!). George Howell Coffee claims that most of their coffee beans are directly sourced, meaning that they purchase beans straight from coffee farms. Direct sourcing is beneficial because it maximizes the wage of coffee pickers, avoiding worker exploitation.

Hacienda La Esmeralda, as stated before, seems to be a bit more open about the role of sustainability in its operation. On top of paying more wages to their workers, they also established a nursery in which harvesters’ children are taken care of when the harvesters are picking coffee beans. On top of that, they established a scholarship program for the workers’ children for elementary, secondary, and even college education. La Esmeralda claims that they “supply” food, such as rice, beans, or sardines, to each worker’s family, though the word “supply” might be a mere substitute for the word “sell”. In conclusion, La Esmeralda is certainly doing what it should be doing. However, their narratives are a bit too short and ambiguous (e.g. the scholarship program was mentioned in merely one sentence). They could be more open about their worker sustainability practices.