DiBosco Coffee Project
Slovakia, 28 July 2020 -- Interview with the co-founder of the DIBOSCo International Coffee Project.
How was this idea of the Past Pupils coffee network born?
The idea of networking the Past Pupils producers with Past Pupils customers and eventually the wider Salesian Family as customers came to my mind in 2015 when a friend of mine brought me a few samples of roasted coffee from Thailand from Rome, after the General Assembly of Don Bosco Past Pupils . I had a small local coffee roasting business back in that time and I immediately got the idea of purchasing coffee along with the values and background story from Past Pupils. Since I have been active already in international structures of Past Pupils I contacted Past Pupils involved with the DIBOSCo project in Thailand – Chiang Mai and we started step by step to build up this dream.
How was your first travel to Thailand - DiBosco in Chiang Mai?
My first Experience with Asia, Thailand and Chiang Mai is connected with my visit to the DIBOSCo project in Chiang Mai. I spent a week on an international meeting of Past Pupils of Don Bosco of Asia and Oceania region in Bangkok in autumn 2018 and after that I booked a flight to Chiang Mai with insecurity in my expectations but with a great willingness to explore what Don Bosco was doing in the jungles of northern Thailand. I was not disappointed. In fact I was thrilled with what has been done there in humility and with hard work. Beautiful people, beautiful coffee – beautiful project. I spent a week visiting the farms, coffee shops and coffee roasting by the DIBOSCo team led by Mr Paisan. I was amazed that those small Thai people, always smiling and open to talk have such a big heart for others. And for great coffee as well. I thought originally that it will be me offering them something, but it ended up being them who have shown me their way of work and life and offered me friendship and cooperation. What an intense time I had back there.
How did the 'Coffee DB Network' grow? Countries, connections....
That is the even more adventurous part other than travelling and visiting the farms and producers. Along with Mr. Paisan and the DIBOSCo Thailand Team we have met several more times after my initial visit to them in Thailand. Once in the United Kingdom and three times in Slovakia at our headquarters. We started to form international and worldwide cooperation based on our previous experience with coffee, roasting, travelling, expertise and contact. We used the very rich potential of experience and human resources in Thailand combined with travel and contacts with the Salesian Family all around the world in order to launch the valuable international DIBOSCo Project. Basically we are now at the level that we are covering two regions – Europe and Asia with franchise level of cooperation for whoever might be interested to become our partner and we are working with producers in Africa, Central and South America and Asia. It is a long term and challenging process but we are finding interested people and great coffee everywhere we go, all with good intentions and in the name of Don Bosco´s Past Pupils. So far we have some level of communication or business in countries like Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Haiti, USA, Thailand, Philippines, East Timor, Brazil, Kenya, Congo, Slovakia, Hungary, United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta, Poland and Czech Republic. Slowly we are trying to enlarge our network on both sides – producers and customers/partners.
Is 'Fair trade' with coffee the main added value of this action?
There are two main values we add to the project. First one is Fair Trade which means we know from whom we buy the coffee, what the conditions are for growing it and that there is ethical approach on all sides of the process. Secondly we create a kind of new network inside the Salesian Family (although not exclusively within SF) and we are able to give more money and recognition for their work to the farmers and producers. At the same time we are able to actively join with customers since they are not only having a nice cup of coffee but they know about its origins; we teach the customers to value all the work and the processes behind every cup of their coffee and in a way we connect them with farmers in an open and honest friendship based on Salesian values.
Last but not least, DIBOSCo is a part of a worldwide project by Past Pupils – Don Bosco Market and Services which allows us to raise even more funds to help those in need by using the trademark and sticker of this project of the World Confederation of Past Pupils of Don Bosco.
What are the first fruits of this DBCoffee network?
So far we have had the opportunity to visit several countries and sign a number of documents in cooperation. First feedback from the Salesians themselves and from Past Pupils seems to be very promising for future cooperation and expansion. One cooperation has been with the World Confederation of Past Pupils when we prepared 150 exclusive coffee gift boxes for them on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Past Pupils of Don Bosco, 24 June 2020. The gift was given to the Rector Major of the Salesian Family – Fr Ángel Fernandéz Artime SDB, as if it were to the Don Bosco of today as a reminder of the gift of coffee cups given to Don Bosco by the first Past Pupils of Valdocco on 24 June 1870. Led by Carlo Gastini they answered Don Bosco's invitation to stay with him and help each other. After 150 years we are witnesses to the fruit of their decision, commitment and the blessing of Don Bosco in the worldwide structure of Past Pupils active in almost all corners of the world. We have created a coffee blend for this special year called the Gastini blend to honour this special and significant Past Pupil. One box will be soon given to Pope Francis as the head of the Church and he himself is a Past Pupil of Don Bosco as well. Another 148 pieces are being offered or claimed by anyone internationally in exchange for support for the social fund of the Past Pupils of Don Bosco with a minimum cost of €150 plus shipment to the recipient. In case of interest please contact Past Pupils directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://www.exallievi.org/150th-anniversary/#gift
Your dream for the development of DB Coffee networking?
Our goals and ambitions are international and long term. Basically we are in the phase of growing to the quantity needed. We have a strong focus on keeping the growing strictly linked with quality at the same time. We wish to be able to enter new markets in America and Africa and to put 15 to 20 stable countries and coffee producers under our brand. Given our Franchise system we are hoping to open 1000 coffee shops in the coming 10 years in the counties where Past Pupils and the Salesian Family are active. With such a network we will be able to develop the potential of international cooperation and trade among Past Pupils and at the same time we will be able to spread the word about Don Bosco, the Salesians and Past Pupils in a very pleasant and 'tasteful' way. We believe that the coffee we work with can attract people by its taste and values at the same time so they can be energised by caffeine and inspirational ideas to change the world and to realise many more of Don Bosco's dreams. In a way I personally see this project only as a test and example for the future. Imagining millions of Past Pupils around the world I think of many more projects and cooperation like DIBOSCo in various fields and areas. Just as Don Bosco wanted us Past Pupils to help each other, we are able to do it as professionals in every field of our everyday life. We would like to be there with our coffee to encourage and bring some energy and joy for dreamers like us.
Your hope for EAO Past Pupils?
I would like to greet all Past Pupils and readers of AustraLasia news. I would like to invite you all to visit our website www.dibosco.co and find out more about us or eventually to contact us in case of interest in Cooperation. If you know someone who might be interested in becoming part of such a project feel free to share our contacts and ideas. At the same time we ask you for your support of prayers. The whole DIBOSCo coffee project will work only with Don Bosco's blessing, therefore he is our main supporter and assessor. I invite all who dream to dream big and to see if your dreams are compatible with God's intentions. If so, don't worry and work hard. We are invited to change the world and as sons of Don Bosco we are invited by him to do the same.