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Responsible Coffee drinkers

Posted Nov 11 2008 12:00am

This post originally started off to tackle the caffeine debate. However, as I started to gather my information, I came across some info on the politics of coffee, and here we are...

More often, we are seeing terms such as "organic" and "fair trade" in coffee shops and on bags of coffee beans at the market. "Organic" is becoming fairly mainstream now, and I'll talk about that another time. For now, let's talk about "fair trade" and what it means for you and the people responsible for producing that delicious cup of java.

If I asked you where your coffee came from, chances are most people would say "Starbucks". If I were to pry further, you may guess that the beans originally came from somewhere quite far away, Columbia perhaps. You might even conjure up the image of Juan Valdez himself, gathering beans and carefully inspecting each handful for quality and aroma, before carting them to town on the back of a donkey. But what if someone told you that Juan was barely making ends meet... that he could barely afford to feed his family on what he makes off those beans.

Today, in our competitive global market, coffee bean production is a fierce industry, and farmers are struggling. Coffee is mostly produced in very poor, developing countries. Since production far exceeds demand, farmers are often forced to sell beans at extremely cheap prices, even below the cost of production. This is where "Fair trade" comes in...

"Fair trade" applies to many types of goods, such as tea and sugar, produced far from home here in North America. For coffee, it refers to a certification that ensures that farmers receive a fair price for their product, as well as empowering them by giving them skills and resources to better handle the market. By using more direct trade and reducing the number of middle-men, Fair trade helps the farmers receive more of the final selling price. Child labour is prohibited, and workers receive safe working conditions and fair wages. Fair trade also helps the earth by promoting sustainability of the land, eliminating agrochemicals and GMO's.

Who would've thought that a cup of coffee could make such an impact?? Luckily, lots of small and large coffee brewers are getting on board, and many offer at least one variety on their menu, making it easy for you to be a socially responsible coffee drinker.

While you're at it, bring your own travel mug to fill up, or at least go for paper. Help the earth by staying clear of styrofoam!!

Images from, and more info at:

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