Feral Trade's coffee to go

Not your domesticated coffee shop

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Talk about pop-up gourmet: Halifax’s newest spot to pick up a sandwich and a coffee won’t be open for long, so get to Eyelevel Gallery (2159 Gottingen) while you can.

Kate Rich’s Feral Trade Cafe is part of the gallery’s World Portable Gallery Convention happening this month, where it doubles as a working cafe and as an experiment in social networking. Rich, a UK-based artist, launched Feral Trade in 2003 as an alternative way to import and export goods, using human connections rather than traditional shipping methods.

Feral Trade started out by shipping 30 kgs of coffee from El Salvador to Bristol, UK. Using only the social contacts of the artist, goods are shipped in personal luggage in small quantities. As Rich grew her network, Feral Trades began to grow as well: olive oil from Greece, Grappa from Croatia and tea from Bangladesh. Now, anyone can go onto Feral Trades’ website (http://www.feraltrade.org/) to check out where the most recent deliveries have been, and even sign up as a courier. 
At Eyelevel Gallery, the cafe’s menu includes some of the El Salvadorian coffee, as well as Chinese moonshine, sauerkraut from Germany and open-source cola manufactured by Rich herself from the UK.

The cafe itself is found tucked away in the cheery front hall of Eyelevel Gallery. With a long wooden plank acting as a coffee bar and a mismatched set of kitchen appliances snatched from the homes of gallery employees, guests could easily miss the “art” part of the Feral Trade Cafe.

Saving people from mistaking the Feral Trade Cafe for just another commercial gallery cafe is a big chart posted on the wall behind the bar which shows where every last item on the menu came from, right down to how it got from the airport to Eyelevel.

Elizabeth Johnson, one of the coordinators of the World Portable Gallery Convention, says so far, Halifax has been really impressed with the idea. “It’s been done in several locations around the world, and people find it really interesting to know where their food is coming from.” Not only that, but people appreciate being made to question the line between art and food, says Johnson. “the cafe is part of the show and so it’s considered art in that manner, but it is strange to see a cafe in an artist-run centre.”

The burgeoning question no doubt on all your minds: why “Feral Trade”? According to Rich’s artist statement, “feral” describes a process which is wilfully wild—like a pigeon—as opposed to one that is romantically or nature-wild—like a wolf.

One thing’s for sure: the Feral Trade Cafe was no lone wolf project. “It took a lot of collaboration on all scales to make this happen,” says Johnson.

The Feral Trade Cafe is open during regular gallery hours (Tuesday to Saturday, 12-5pm) until September 29.

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