Pedro Ascencio On Chocolate, Coffee + Farming That’s Fair

By Kim and Edgar Alvarez, Chefs and Owners
Avenida Restaurant
7402 Germantown Avenue, Mt. Airy, PA

Everyone at Avenida Restaurant is excited to partner with Weavers Way Co-Op to co-sponsor a special dinner event on Oct. 20, from 6-8:30 p.m., featuring fair trade expert Pedro Ascencio of Las Colinas Co-Operative in El Salvador.

A leader in the co-op community, Ascencio has witnessed the profound impact of a one-person, one-vote workplace without a corporate hierarchy.

“We work with small-scale farmers who make their own decisions on business and community matters,” explains Ascencio, a manager at Las Colinas. “We love working with Equal Exchange because its founders envisioned a food system that empowers farmers and consumers, supports small farmer co-ops, and uses sustainable farming methods.”

Today, Las Colinas annually produce tens of thousands of pounds of coffee that Equal Exchange roasts and sells throughout the United States as Organic Las Colinas (also used in their classic Breakfast Blend), and Organic El Cashal coffees.

A True Success Story

Weavers Way General Manager Glen Bergman says he is very pleased to be co-sponsoring this special dinner at Avenida Restaurant, for it is an honor to tell others in his community about the important work being accomplished at Las Colinas and through Equal Exchange.

Bergman knows that theirs has not been an easy row to hoe.

Indeed. Las Colinas is collectively farmed and managed on the site of an old coffee plantation in the town of Tacuba, in the Ahuachapán department of El Salvador, near the Guatemalan border. The farmers received their land in a 1980 land reform.

However, 30 years later, they still struggle because of a high interest rate to pay off the mortgage they received with it.

The good news is that since 1997, Equal Exchange has supported Las Colinas by purchasing the majority of their coffee, all under Fair Trade terms, and collaborating with them on improving coffee quality. And in recent years, Las Colinas has obtained organic certification, which has enabled Equal Exchange to pay super-premium prices for special lots of Las Colinas’ coffee, in addition to the premium prices paid for the rest.

“It’s a real success story, and a tribute to what can be done when smart, creative, determined people work together toward a common goal,” Bergman says.

In fact, the Oct. 20 dinner event is part of Ascencio’s 10-day tour from Oct. 14-24, where he’ll be speaking at churches, cafes, food co-ops, and other Equal Exchange customers from Boston to Philadelphia. His trip concludes at the Northeast Ohio Fair Trade Expo in Cleveland, where Ascencio, along with Equal Exchange’s co-founder Rink Dickinson, will give the keynote speech. Learn more about Equal Exchange here: .

Make Your Reservation Today for the Oct. 20 Dinner Event

There is space for 50 people at Avenida to attend this special evening event, which will include appetizers and cocktails, and a three-course Salvadorian-inspired dinner, followed by a coffee tasting featuring a selection of coffees by Equal Exchange. During dessert, Ascencio will discuss the lives of the farmers in his community and their compelling history of organizing and nurturing an effective co-operative.

Cost: The cost is $30 per person; $25 for co-op members.

Another bonus: Co-op members can buy Weavers Way Co-Jitos at Avenida Restaurant throughout October for only $5.

To register for the October 20 event: Call 267-385-6857, or send an email to

How to Make a Co-Jito

3 fresh mint sprigs (from your favorite co-op)
2 tsp. Fair Trade sugar
3 T. fresh lime juice
1 1/2 oz. light rum
1 1/2 oz. club soda
stalk of sugar cane (optional)

1. Into a tall glass, add fresh mint and lime juice to sugar. Muddle.

2. Pour in light rum and club soda. Mix.

3. Top with a stalk of sugar cane, and more fresh mint.