Personal | What Happens When I Watch Too Much TV
I watch A LOT of TV in the winter. Cabin fever for ya. And what happens when I watch too much tv…there is a much higher probability of me coming across a really cool program.
Naturally, when my landscape is snow-laden, grey and boring, I land on the Travel Channel. I mean, if I can’t really get there, I can watch other people explore the corners of our world. In my show-surfing of the Travel Channel I came across a program called Dangerous Grounds.
The show is phenomenally cool and follows a man named Todd Carmichael as he traverses, often dangerous, regions of the globe in search of high-grade coffee. He seeks out rare beans, strikes deals directly with local farmers, then has to try and figure out how to get it back into the US. Paramount to how he tracks down these coffee farms, and struggles to get the beans to the US by crazy deadlines and through international obstacles, is the stories of the different cultures and the people behind the coffee farm operations.
I am not a huge coffee drinker, I average maybe a cup a day. To be honest, I have no idea what kind or brand of coffee is stashed in our cabinet at any given time. That’s how little I have paid attention to coffee in my life.
But after watching a whopping 2 episodes of Dangerous Grounds, I am hooked on Todd Carmichael and his coffee.
And so just like that, I was converted to a coffee snob.
I googled him because I wanted to learn more about him and the company he co-founded, La Colombe. He is a self-proclaimed crusader of social and ecological issues and apparently an adrenaline junkie (dude holds a world record for being the first American to solo trek across Antarctica at a record speed). Way to make me feel bad about sitting on my couch during the winter surfing the TV, Todd.
(Note to self: stop watching people do infinitely cool things and start making plans to DO stuff, Kelley)
I’m a picky eater. I like to know where my food comes from. So much so that when I bought my side of beef, I asked the farmer/butcher to take me out and show me the cows when they were still mooing, show me the corn fields that they grow and harvest to feed them with. I checked back in and he showed me my side hanging and the room where he butchers the cuts and processes the meat. I feel much more of a connection to the vegetables I cook with when they have come from my own garden, my own muddy hands. I get a little too emotional when one of my chickens gets hurt, even though I eat their fresh eggs and even some of them. It’s a completely different eating experience when you have been intimately connected to your food. There is a complete disconnect, detachment, when you go to the grocery store. And for meat-eaters, like myself, I really think it is important to be a part of the process (harvest, clean, butcher your own cuts) at least once in your life so that there is a greater personal appreciation and respect for how your meat ends up on your dinner table. But that’s a whole other discussion and a bit off topic now…
I think that’s what made me instantly buy La Colombe’s coffee. Seeing the process, learning the stories of the farmers, and understanding how it comes back to the US. It is the whole experience.
And what has now made me not just a consumer of La Colombe’s coffee, but an evangelist as I share my experience with you is that there is even more to the story. Because of Todd’s eco-socioeconomic awareness, he finds ways to infuse charitable contributions back into the regions he develops relationships with for coffee sourcing. One of the episodes I caught followed Todd as he went into Uganda to source beans for the gormet grocer brand Dean and DeLuca. After making a deal with local Ugandan coffee farming co-op, Todd’s company partnered with Dean and DeLuca to rebuild a children’s school that had been burned down by militants.
On La Colombe’s website, when I went to order, I also found that he partners with Leonardo DiCaprio’s foundation, with the proceeds from a blend (from Brazil, Haiti, Ethopia, and Peru) supporting a variety of projects including access to clean water in places like Sierra Leone, collaborative efforts with the World Wildlife Fund, and more that you can learn about on the LDF website.
I got to thinking about what it was that made me instantaneously a fan, customer, and evangelist for Todd and his coffee. I mean, they are doing something right if after an episode I was hooked and on La Colombe’s website shopping, and googling Todd’s personal website to learn more…
I think it boils down (or percolates 😉 ) to a couple things:
1. Todd just comes off as a really cool guy, savvy on his feet, and aware of his surroundings in more ways than one. Plus, I think he is a millionaire/billionaire and here he is humping 50lb bags of coffee on his shoulders out of these third world countries by himself. There’s something to be said for not having a guy for that at this point in his career. I get the feeling he is very hands on with his coffee sourcing. I respect that. I don’t think Donald Trump is running around in a t-shirt and jeans helping hammer up new real estate with his crew.
2. The stories. The faces of the farmers spread out from different cultures across the globe. Because I am a picky eater and like to know where my food came from, and how, I am really drawn right in. Now the coffee I am sipping on this morning means something to me.
3. I’m not just drinking luxury coffee like a bean snob without a cause…there’s a side to every cup that is giving back, whether its in a charitable manner, or whether it is in support of sustainable farming practices, giving people in devastating regions a source of income other than through gun/drug/human trade. It is long-term relationships his company builds with direct source farms. Their ethics page on their website explains their position/role in a lot of detail, click here if you’d like to read more.
In the last year or so, I started incorporating gifts into my client care process for wedding clients. Last year, I gifted wall prints. This year I want to shift the focus of my little photography business into finding ways to support our wild earth and the many people/cultures who grow food that feed us. This year, I will be gifting a bag of La Colombe’s Lyon coffee, which partners with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Foundation, to each of my wedding clients. Most of us start our mornings with our loved ones over a shared pot of coffee anyway, so what better way to kick off a new marriage than with a bag of high-end coffee that has a story and gives back.
Last year I photographed Dennis and Morgan’s beautiful Adirondack wedding. Knowing my extreme addiction to chocolate, Morgan mentioned a chocolate factory that is about a mile from their home in Seattle. Any excuse to buy chocolate, I had to check it out. Love me some high-grade chocolate. And even better, The Theo Chocolate Factory is the first organic and fair trade bean-to-bar factory in North America. Their beans come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Peru and Costa Rica. They have partnered with the Eastern Congo Initiative to help the region combat poverty and violence. I have been including their chocolate now as a part of my welcome kit to my wedding clients. So in sharing my love of chocolate with clients, I also get to support a company that is responsibly conscious in the cacao bean journey, from the Congolese farmer to the chocolate factory.
I like that business model, the one La Colombe and Theo Chocolate use, where your luxury product is finding a way to give back and partner with other organizations to create sustainability. Photography, like chocolate and coffee, is a luxury item, an investment. And right now, the best way for my little business to incorporate that model, is to partner with those companies and use their products in my client care process.
Food for thought.
So, what is the guiding force behind your food-purchasing/preparing decisions? Are there products that make you an instant fan, like my experience with La Colombe and Theo Chocolate?
And for folks who have become clients of mine, or people who follow my work or buy my prints, what is it about me or my photography that makes you decide to invest and follow along with my life as viewed through my Nikon lenses? Comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts.
And now you can see what kind of wheels get spinning when I watch too much TV.
PS. Catch an episode of Dangerous Grounds if you get a chance.