From Limu, with Love
Peter van de Riet @ Behance
Ada puts the ethically sourced vegan “honey” in her basket and continues down the aisle, perusing the shelves. At the coffee section, she pauses, trying to remember if she needed coffee or not. She can never remember, so she pulls up her kitchen list on the display of her contact lenses. Her AI assistant, Brian, automatically adds to it whenever she runs out of a product at home.
No, coffee is not on the list. But Ada is drawn to the selection of coffee on the shelves. Absent-mindedly, she picks one pack up and checks the label. Browsing the words, her mind drifts. She skims to the SourceIt code at the bottom of the label and navigates the menu by eye-tracking over the colorful icons. In a moment, she has found what she is looking for: a link to the producer’s avatar stories. Standing in the supermarket aisle, Ada watches a highlight reel of the coffee farmer’s daily life in Ethiopia. She skips through some promo materials but slows down to dwell on the family snaps. Ada smiles at the happy faces of the children beaming into the XR glasses of the photographer taking the photos.
At that moment, in the highlands of the Jimma region, Ethiopia, Mazaa gets a notification on her wearable that someone has liked one of her stories. She is busy taking a reading from the electrochemical nanobiosensors on the coffee leaves and comparing it to soil and moisture data from the other farm sensors. Mazaa still needs to check and sign off the rest of the day’s data for the AI farming app, so she hopes she doesn't receive a chat request; there is no time for that today.
Mazaa is anxious about the weather. In recent years, Arabica coffee has been failing due to Climate Crisis: it is more sensitive to climatic factors than Robusta coffee. Arabica had been Ethiopia’s king crop for decades, and Mazaa received a great deal of funding from the local cooperative to expand her farm in the early 2020s. When that started to fail, she tried to diversify with Limu coffee beans, but this proved to be a harder sell to the cooperative’s buyers. They had been told repeatedly that Western tastes favored Arabica, but what were the farmers supposed to do? Magically keep the coffee trees alive instead of watching as hectare by hectare failed? Mazaa tries not to think too much about it and does her best to showcase her coffee. One of the terms of her loan required regular updates to the crowd platform, BeCoffee, the biggest global rating platform for coffee producers and consumers. In 2031, she managed to get hold of an old XR glasses which meant she could upload straight to the platform. This was getting her a lot of likes on the BeCoffee app.
Mazaa sighed as she checked the data points on the app. Things were not looking so good for this year’s crop. She turned around and looked for her children to take her mind off the coffee plants. Her children were helping her out on the farm today, but she did not like them being in the photographs in case people from all corners of the globe accused her of using child labor. Once she got flagged by BeCoffee's AI compliance algorithm, but thankfully they did not pursue any action. Ever since, she has kept the children out of the way when she is recording stories unless they are enjoying themselves far, far away from the main crop. Today, she snaps a pic with the AR headset, displaying the young coffee trees hugging the valley slopes. She tags the picture with a snapshot of the climate model, and captions it, “Will we still be here in five years? #limu #tastetheworld.”
Back in Minnesota, Ada flicks through to the last story, only just uploaded a moment ago. The view is so pretty that she immediately likes it with a track of her eyeball. The provocative caption also makes her think of the recent floods they have been suffering. She makes a mental note to tell Brian to remind her to find her landlord's insurance documents. Brian’s voice appears in her ear to remind her of the time, rudely snapping her out of her virtual tour of the Ethiopian coffee farm. She exits the Stories, navigating briefly back to the product description.
“Mazaa’s Limu Coffee: Delicate body and intricate sweet, winey and spicy flavors; often fruit-toned. Jasmine, lychee and roasted cacao aroma with floral overtones. Brewing Hints: Brew for 1–2 minutes for maximum flavor.”
Worth a try, thinks Ada, as she drops it into her basket. With her lens, she exits the menu, switches to kiosk mode and approves the payment for the items in her basket.
In Jimma, a gold bar symbol appears in view in Mazaa’s XR glasses, and she hears the familiar cash machine sound alert as a blockchain chama transfer deposits into her account from a purchase of her coffee. One step closer to the loan repayment, Mazaa thinks, and she goes back to checking the DNA barcode data from the trees on her app.