Above: Hugh Jackman drinking coffee with friends in Africa.
When Aussie heart-throb Hugh Jackman and wife Deborra-Lee Furness walked the red carpet in New York last week (June 4), it wasn’t to launch the next X-Men or Wolverine movie.
Instead, the celebrity couple were premiering an inspiring documentary about the coffee industry, called Dukale’s Dream. It’s the true story of their friendship with Dukale, a 27-year-old Ethiopian coffee farmer, and their dream to make fair trade coffee the bean of choice, for coffee lovers worldwide.
How Hugh Became Mates With An Ethiopian Farmer
The story of Dukale’s Dream began six years ago, when Hugh and Deborra-Lee first travelled to Ethiopia as World Vision ambassadors. They wanted to learn how they could make an impact on extreme poverty.
They were taken to the country’s Yirgacheffe region, the birthplace of coffee, where World Vision boss Tim Costello introduced the pair to Dukale and his wife Adanech. The documentary shows the touching moment when Hugh and Dukale first meet, and the two men working together, planting trees on Dukale’s coffee farm.
“I felt a connection with him,” he told Time Magazine. “We didn’t speak the same language [but] I worked with him. He would laugh at me because he could tell I was struggling a little bit at times. I’m an actor, after all—I’m not used to real hard work.”
Eye Opening Experience For Hollywood Celebrities
Deborra-Lee said she and Hugh bonded with Dukale over the common goal of making a better life for their children.
“When we set off [on this journey] I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “The reality of Dukale and Hugh’s lives are worlds apart. But when we spent time with his family, and heard that all he wanted for their kids was the chance at a better future – we shared a common bond.”
Hugh and Deborra-Lee learnt how many small coffee farmers across the world are poorly treated, disempowered, and forced into poverty by inadequate pay.
“It taught Deb and me what a difference fair trade makes to the income of farmers,” Hugh said.
The Birth Of ‘Laughing Man’
It didn’t take Jackman long to realise that he and Dukale could help each other. Hugh loved the taste of Dukale’s coffee and wanted to market it, and Dukale needed better market access. And so, in 2011, they went into business together.
“When we got back to the US after meeting Dukale, we couldn’t just talk about him, we had to do something,” Hugh said, “and that’s why we founded Laughing Man Tea & Coffee.”
Laughing Man Tea & Coffee is a fair trade coffee company that buys fair trade coffee and tea from co-ops including Dukale’s, paying fair prices, which removes farmers from the grip of poverty. The products are sold from Manhattan-based cafes, with the most popular blend being is the ‘Dukale’s Dream’ roast.
Hugh Jackman A Self-Confessed Coffee Snob
Hugh told Time Magazine that like many Australians, he’s a “coffee snob”, and that he modelled the Manhattan Laughing Man stores on Aussie cafes.
“We love our coffee [in Australia] and we’re a little arrogant about it,” he said. “There’s a slightly different atmosphere in a cafe in Australia and the coffee’s slightly different. We’ve tried to emulate that.”
A True Friendship Is Born
Together, Hugh and Dukale hope to raise the profile of fair trade products, reduce poverty, and change the buying habits of coffee drinkers the world over.
But they’re not just partners in business and human rights. They’re also friends. Hugh told Time Magazine that they write letters to each other and that Dukale has named two of his coffee trees named after Hugh’s kids.
Fair Trade Coffee Making A Real Difference
World Vision Australia’s acting chief executive, Leigh Cameron, said that Jackman and Furness’s dedication to the fair trade cause had been invaluable.
“This documentary demonstrates the impact that simple changes to our daily routines – such as switching your morning coffee to a fair trade alternative – can have in alleviating poverty and its causes.”
World Vision has been working in Ethiopia for years to help with economic and agricultural development, and prevent poverty and exploitation. This is achieved by forming coffee farmer cooperatives and working with governments and microfinance institutions.
Farmers in the coffee cooperatives are being given ethical certification, which leads to better income, better bargaining power and less vulnerability to exploitation.
Jackman’s Coffee Film Coming To Australia
See The Film In Australia
– Dukale’s Dream is set to launch in Australia later this year. A date has not yet been set. For more info see the World Vision Australia website.
– To learn more about Laughing Man Tea & Coffee – check out their website.