I can still remember first tasting wild Fijian coffee. It was an unusually hot night back in 2014. I’m not a fan of heat, so you can imagine how it felt sitting in a hot tin shack in the middle of the muggy highlands. I can still remember the feeling of sweat constantly burning my eyes. The sweat kept on dripping, trying to ruin my mood. But I was also feeling the pure energy of adventure.
It could have been that I had just finished using an oversized mortar and pestle, typically used for Kava, in order to pound some freshly roasted Fijian coffee beans. Not your typical coffee routine. We had to use a ’Fiji-Style” grinder because, once we came to the island, we typically kissed our coveted morning ritual goodbye.
The crazy thing is… up until that exact moment of grinding (well, actually pounding) we had never known wild Fijian coffee existed, let alone could become a thriving business that could support many.
Before I jump into the moment my tastebuds took a journey, I have to give a quick background. Up until that point, Seth and I had already spent a few months on the coast of Fiji, working on a number projects for Mission Fiji—the nonprofit that Seth started.
Since its beginnings, Mission Fiji’s main focus had always been on empowering Fijians in their way of life. Over time, we found this actually to be the case with both Fijians AND Americans. Fiji is rich with more than just coffee: the slow pace of life, the strong feeling of community, all of the unashamed toothless and shining smiles… it’s obvious why this island feels like a safe haven for Americans. And I’m even talking outside of the luxurious resorts.
Through inviting individuals and teams from the U.S. to work on many different projects, we watched profound relationships form between two very different cultures. I could tell many inspiring stories, but that’ll be for another post.
Our mission, then, revolved around creating and executing projects that would empower both Americans and Fijians, and the relationship between them. But we began to exhaust ourselves for very little result. Although we had seen relationships form and done a number of projects for the village—like building a village shop and restoring a village fishing boat—we were running out of energy. We were in need of a caffeine boost to keep our vision moving forward.
So on that hot and steamy night, we suddenly found ourselves with a new sense of energy as we put the smooth, tasty liquid to our lips. And I’m not just talking about the organic feeling caffeine boost that Fiji Wild is known for, or the that amazingly smooth texture entering our mouths. Though the coffee wowed us, we realized we were running into a rare opportunity.
As we rode back Mission Fiji’s base, we couldn’t stop dreaming about what this could be. Could we actually make an impact up in the highlands, miles away from our coastal village, saving us from burnout? If we just did the ground work, could this actually become a reliable and consistent livelihood for many—in both Fiji and America?
Now I sit in America, sipping that smooth tasting morning brew, sensing an answer to those questions beginning to form. A familiar burst of energy comes… this time, it’s definitely the coffee.