On Coffee…

Oh coffee, how I adore thee…

Ahem… enough of that.

So yeah, I drink coffee, and many would say I am somewhat addicted. I don’t know about that, but I must admit, I do worry about the days that go by without a cup. The headaches and irritability that ensue without it, unfortunately make caffeine a pretty essential part of my everyday life. I truly wish it weren’t, but it is, so while I drink cup after cup everyday, why not make the best of it? I try to, really I do, but the real issue here is that I am not alone.

Everyone drinks coffee.

It’s a multi billion dollar industry, serving up cup after cup to people who line up every morning at Starbucks to get their fix. For years I’d take whatever was put in front of me, and while I’ll drink bad coffee, I always prefer the good stuff. And so the downward spiral starts, you pay an arm and a leg for the good stuff that isn’t always prepared well, by some college kid who doesn’t know much about himself much less what it takes to make good coffee (trust me, I know, I’ve been there…) and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s actually in your cup. Molten water strained through crushed, roasted coffee beans right? Well, yes and no.

And the “no” in this one, is kind of a whopper.

So much that we do as consumers now a’days has a “face value” and by that, I mean we all look at the labels, and if it appeals to us, we buy it. Sometimes we just buy what what we deem as “good” without thought or any perceived consequence. And why the hell not? It’s easy dammit! Any of us can look any of us in the eye and honestly say that life is crazy enough without worrying about something as simple as cup of joe. We all think we work hard and that we deserve, at the very minimum, a small indulgence once and a while.

While that’s true, it’s a tad bit naïve.

I’ll get to the point. As I said before, the coffee industry has turned ridiculous in the last decade. Coffee is one of the world’s most important primary commodities simply due to it being one of the world’s most popular beverages. In total, 6.7 million tonnes of coffee were produced annually in 1998–2000, and the forecast is a rise to 7 million tonnes annually by 2010.

And before you thoughts reach “holy shit” status. Coffee ingestion alone, on average adds up to about a third of tap water consumption in most of North America and Europe. The United States consumes around six billion gallons of coffee a year. In 2002 in the U.S., average coffee consumption was 22.1 gallons per person.

Pretty insane stuff huh? Everyone references the power of numbers right? Well cups of coffee are no different. What if those gallons actually stood for something? Believe it or not, they do.

Coffee also has several types of classifications used to determine environmental and labor standards. And for those of you who wondered what my point is, I’ve finally arrived to it. To you, several cups of coffee a day means nothing. You drink it, it wakes you up and you get on with your day.

But to what if you were on the other end?

What if you worked, sun up to sun down, harvesting beans, back breaking work to be sure, under a blazing sun 7 days a week. It’d suck right? Now imagine that you NEVER received any recognition or proper compensation for it? That your hard work was only lining corporate pockets in some tall building far, far away. This isn’t some crazy scenario dreamt up by your’s truly. It’s a sad reality that has been occurring for decades, no, centuries really. When you buy chain based coffee from the likes of any coffee shop with drive up window, you support an industry that has been screwing honest people from the living they’ve deserved for years on end.

Consider this, stat taken from Coop America: Each year, coffee companies make billions of dollars. Starbucks alone earned nearly $6 billion in net revenue during the first three quarters of 2006, and yet for every cup of coffee Starbucks sells, farmers in coffee-growing countries like Ethiopia earn only about three cents.

And yet it somehow gets worse – Now, Starbucks has begun to pursue trademark rights for its Ethiopian coffees – Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Harrar – despite those names describing geographic regions of Ethiopia that have been producing coffee for hundreds of years.

This is the tip of the iceberg folks, but before you throw your hands up and say “Listen hippie, there’s nothing I can do to fix this situation”, you’re wrong. One major part of the solution is probably right in front of you everyday at the same shop you buy your coffee, in the same super market you buy your groceries, and all you have to do is make a conscious decision. When buying coffee, if there is a brand that is considered “Fair Trade”, choose it over what you normally choose.

That’s all! Just make a different flavor choice, it’s that simple.

Fair Trade LogoSo what’s “Fair Trade”? Fair Trade is a system of trade based on direct relationships and partnerships between buyers in the global north and producing communities in developing countries.

Fair Trade helps ensure that farmers and artisans throughout the developing world receive a fair price for their products, that communities are healthy, and the environment is preserved. You play an important role in promoting Fair Trade. By shifting your spending to support Fair Trade, and by demanding that businesses make Fair Trade products available, you can reshape the global economy to one that works for people and the planet.

Sounds great doesn’t it? It is.

And it is just the plain right thing to do. When you buy coffee or anything that is “Fair Trade” you’re not only most likely getting a better product, you’re also making the world a better place.

I know all of this is preachy, I hate dragging the soap box out, but trust me, I don’t want you change your day to day or change the way you live your life. I’m just telling you there’s a better way to spend your money on products that actually do good things that span WAY beyond yourself.

Hell, I’m not perfect, far from it in fact. God knows when I need a caffeine injection, I get it where ever I can. But whenever I’m given a choice, and I/we almost always are, I always try to do the right thing and buying Fair Trade products is a small, yet effective way to change the world, without changing your’s. So let you dollar speak volumes, and maybe sleep a little better at night.

Once the caffeine buzz dies off of course…

** The italicized bolded paragraphs above are stats taken from Coop America, Oxfam, and couple other sources I have sitting on the shelf. If you’d like specifics, leave a comment below or you can email me directly **


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