Perhaps you like it with milk, sugar, or simply black. Maybe you buy it at a fancy roaster or you brew it in your own kitchen. In rural Ethiopia, freshly roasted beans are beaten with a mortar and pestle and then boiled with water (pictured above). We all have our own rituals with coffee and tea, and for many of us, it is a comfort as well as a ritual. Photographer Michael Hanson (@mhansonphoto) and his brother, David Hanson (@davidhanson3), followed that comfort to its source. Here, they share a peek into coffee and tea production in different countries around the world, from leaf or bean to beverage.
Kayo Aro, Sumatra, Indonesia
“When we drove through Kayo Aro, a small community in the Kerinci Valley in Indonesia, we found ourselves in the middle of miles of tea plantations, some of the largest in the world, dotted with small colorful hats scattered across the green, such as the one this woman is wearing. When the Dutch arrived in Indonesia in the 1700s, they brought tea. Originally planted on the island of Java, tea production quickly expanded to Sumatra around the turn of the 19th century. Today, Indonesia is the seventh largest tea producer in the world; it makes up 17 percent of their agricultural product.”
“The number-one cost in tea production is labor. Only the young leaves can be harvested, and the delicacy of the process demands that the work be done by hand. But, as minimum wages rise and production facilities remain inadequate, the efficacy of such a labor-intensive industry is declining. An additional blow to the already-struggling industry is the growth of the Indonesian palm oil industry: Sumatran forests and tea plantations are being destroyed to make way for palm oil farms and production facilities.”
“Not only does Indonesia have a thriving coffee industry in addition to their tea industry, but the Kerinci Valley is also the world's largest producer of cinnamon, growing over 85 percent of the world's supply. For many families, this variety of agricultural products is the key to much-needed financial stability. In addition to a few acres of coffee plants, these sisters, Elina and Juminah, have also planted cinnamon trees along the border of their property. ‘It's an investment,’ Juminah says, ‘but in a few years we can sell the bark when the trees become large.’”
“Driving through Boquete, Panama one evening, I noticed these young sisters in bright dresses among the green plants. Like many of Panama’s high-end coffee growing areas, coffee plants don't dominate the horizon for miles. Instead, many families harvest relatively small amounts of coffee from small backyard plots that grow in the shade of banana trees. They then sell their homegrown product to distributors.”
“One of the most productive coffee-growing areas of the world is the Sidamo Region in southern Ethiopia. It's often said coffee started here (though Yemen’s coffee producers would disagree). Hidden beneath banana plants are rows and rows of Arabica coffee plants. For a week, my brother and I walked these farms and processing facilities that produce some of the best coffee in the world. The overwhelming majority of adults in the area work in the coffee industry, and behind every home in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia, is a small plot of bushes offering a small but much-needed additional income.”
You can check out more of the Hanson brothers' work on their Instagram feeds or over at their joint story-telling project, @modocstories. Follow @afarmedia on Instagram to see more fascinating takeovers from some of our favorite photographers.
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