Cafe Justo

by Ellen Roth

Café Justo is a fair trade plus coffee cooperative based in southern Mexico.  This grower-owned business, with a store on the U.S.-Mexican border in Agua Prieta, Sonora, and an international distribution network, has been touted as a model initiative for alleviating poverty in Mexico and reducing Mexican migration to the United States.[1]

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Latin American immigrants pour across the border. They seek better jobs and the promise of a new life in the United States. This might seem like a wonderful opportunity for those who can get across, but it comes with heavy consequences. Families are ripped apart, and the chances of ever visiting their loved ones are slim because it is so difficult to travel across the border. This tragedy is only compounded by the fact that families often have to immerse themselves in massive amounts of debt to pay the coyote fees. Although immigrants may make more money in the United States, the cost of sending them there is exorbitant. Operations like Café Justo allow families to remain together and workers to stay in Mexico; they also eliminate the need for dangerous border crossings.

Many coffee vendors, including giants like Starbucks,[2] offer fair trade coffee. However, many coffee growers in Mexico were unable to support themselves on the profits they made from these enterprises. Fair trade coffee is often significantly more expensive, and only $0.60 per pound is returned to the grower. When Café Justo sells a one pound bag of coffee, the grower receives $1.33. Not only are they compensated more in this fair trade plus program, but their families are given health insurance and retirement benefits. The cost to consumers is significantly more than common store brand coffees, at $10.00 per pound. However, with that price tag comes a USDA certified organic seal, no harsh chemicals or pesticides used in production, and the promise that it is the freshest coffee available.[3]

Eri Cifuentes, one of founding directors of Café Justo, has a lot of experience in the coffee growing business. As the president of the cooperative in Salvador Urbina and Tapachula, he handles the day-to-day business in Chiapas, Mexico.[4] Most of the farmers that the organization works with live in or around Salvador Urbina, so it is easy to keep track of the every growing organization. Once the coffee has been grown and harvested, it is shipped to Agua Prieta, Sonora, right on the northern border of Mexico. At this location, Daniel Cifuentes is the manager of the roasting plant. Another native of Salvador Urbina, Daniel was the first employee of Café Justo and firmly believes that the coffee isproduces is well worth the cost. “Our coffee has value, and we the growers were not being paid for this value.”[5] Once the coffee is roasted, it is sent to Elvia Carillo Lopez for grinding and packaging.[6] Anyone can purchase the coffee online through the Café Justo website. However, many support this organization through serving their blends at schools, offices, and churches. There are other ways of supporting Café Justo, such as visiting the roaster in Agua Prieta, Sonora, or even by simply donating funds.[7]

Further Reading

Adams, Mark and Tommy Bassett. Just Coffee Caffeine With A Conscience. Chiapas: Just Trade Center, 2009.

Aída Hernández Castillo, Rosalva and Ronald Nigh. “Global Processes and Local Identity among Mayan Coffee Growers in Chiapas, Mexico.” American Anthropologist 100 (1998): 136-147.

Regan, Margaret. The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010.

[1] Margaret Regan, The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010).

[2] Starbucks, “Responsibly Grown Coffee,” Starbucks, (accessed April 10, 2012).

[3] Café Justo, “Compare,” Café Justo, (accessed April 10, 2012).

[4] Café Justo, “Eri Cifuentes,” Café Justo, (accessed April 10, 2012).

[5]Café Justo, “Daniel Cifuentes,” Café Justo, (accessed April 10, 2012).

[6] Café Justo, “Elvia Carillo Lopez,” Café Justo, (accessed April 10, 2012).

[7] Café Justo, “Support Us,” Café Justo, (accessed April 10, 2012).