Fair Trade Coffee

Fair Trade Coffee

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Introduction Packaging
Lobbying Sources
Producing Coffee Making The Perfect Cup
Nestlé & Friends Coffee Makers
Finding Fair Trade Coffee Recipe
Starbucks Coffee Sizes Preserving Flavour
Cutting Back Personal
Cost of a Cup of Coffee Caffeine
My Choices Links
Why Organic?

Introduction

Most people I know, claim it was a Good Thing™ slavery was abolished, but believe it or not, some people secretly keep slaves, not here in Canada mind you. Their slaves live in Africa and South America.

They hire people to oversee the slaves. Unlike slaves of old, these slaves don’t even get enough to eat.

Just what work do these slaves do? They grow and pick coffee, bean by bean, for $0.65 CAD a pound — a price lower than it was even in the depression days of the 1930s.

Coffee-drinking you are an unwitting slave owner.

Perhaps you might consider being outrageously generous and paying the grower  $1.65 CAD a pound instead of  $0.65 CAD .

If you are willing to do that, all you have to do is buy coffee marked as Fair Trade. Ask for it at restaurants and grocery stores. There are many different brands to choose from.

It will set you back  $0.02 CAD a cup.

If you ask me, people who knowingly keep slaves to save $0.02 a cup on coffee are sick.

It’s easy. Just say, I’d like a cup of Fair Trade coffee please.

Even fair traded is not all that fair. It primarily kicks in when the international price of coffee drops below $1.20 US a pound to put a floor under the prices. However, coffee can still sell at $30.00 US a pound to consumers. Graph of Fair trade prices.

Lobbying

It is fairly easy to get a company or government office to switch. It does not cost much, and is good for public relations.

Coffee is big business. It is the leading crop traded on the international market. It is the most valuable international commodity next to oil. Volunteering  $0.02 CAD a cup extra for Fair Trade coffee makes a tremendous difference to the grower.

Producing Coffee

Producing coffee takes a number of steps:

  1. Grow the coffee trees. It takes 15 of them to keep one person in coffee.
  2. Pick the cherry-like fruits.
  3. Immediately remove the outside fruit pulp. The pit is the coffee bean.
  4. Dry the coffee beans in the sun.
  5. Ship the beans to a coffee exporter. This ends the work done by the coffee farmer.
  6. Sort the beans individually by quality. One bad bean in a bag will ruin it. Sometimes this work is done by the farmer.
  7. Ship the beans to a roaster.
  8. Sometimes the green beans are sold to the consumer without first being roasted.
  9. Roast the beans.
  10. Bag the beans for sale, or grind them then bag them.
  11. The consumer grinds the beans.
  12. The consumer pours boiling water over the grounds and lets them steep.
  13. The consumer separate the grounds from the hot coffee with some sort of filter.
  14. Serve, optionally with cream and sugar.

Nestlé & Friends

Nestlé, Kraft and Proctor & Gamble between and a few other large coffee companies pretty much control all coffee in the world, doing business under a bewildering array of brand names. As multinational corporations, they have no consciences and have but one goal — maximise profit. To do that they use every means imaginable to depress the prices they pay the farmers for coffee. In Ethiopia they pay about $0.12 USD per 1 kg (2.20 lbs) for premium coffee they sell for over $50.00 USD in the west. In the days of slavery, a slaveowner had to provide sufficient food and lodging to keep his slaves alive and sufficiently healthy to work. Today he does not. The coffee farmers in Ethiopia (where the finest quality coffee comes from) routinely die of starvation.

In Central America after prices plummeted, Nestlé paid $0.60 USD per 453.59 grams (1 lb). However it cost the farmers $0.90 USD to grow. These dirt poor farmers had to lose money, hoping for better times, or give up entirely. Nestlé has unfair advantage of the poorest of the poor. They have no conscience. They don’t deserve to stay in business. Please do not buy your coffee from them, not even instant coffee powder.

It is more than just coffee where the Africans fail to get a fair shake. We in the west have really screwed over the Africans so they get poorer and poorer every year. For example, in North America and Europe, we subsidize our farmers to make it difficult for African exporters of agricultural goods to compete. However, using the leverage of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), we have forced all African nations to drop similar agricultural subsidies. That makes it easy for America and European exporters of grain to undercut native African farmers. You think we would cut the Africans a break. Instead we take advantage of them my enforcing a tilted playing field.

dvd cover recommend DVD⇒Black Goldto dvd home
DVD
byMarc Francis and Nick Francis [director]
asinB0011Z1SIQ
upc094922891136
Documentary about the international coffee trade. Partly it just follows Tadesse Meskela, the head of an Ethiopian fair trade coffee co-operative around as he explains the coffee business, including its economics. You get to see the actual coffee farmers and how they live, literally starving to death. You see wraith-like children with legs so skinny they look like space beings. It is like movies from Hitler’s death camps, only in colour. It then cuts to tubby Americans and Europeans guzzling coffee at hugely inflated prices in tony coffee shops. The growers are not stupid at all. They eloquently make the case to the camera for paying them a fair price for coffee. You find out what utter bastards the big coffee companies like Nestlés are. Their greed, ruthlessness and crueltly is beyond belief. They make Ebenezer Scrooge look like Santa Claus. See the website blackgoldmovie.com.
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French flag amazon.fr powells.com American flag
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India flag junglee.com other stores UN flag
Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock

Finding Fair Trade Coffee

Also look for shade-grown coffee. The rainforest canopy is not destroyed which supports the birds and animals. Mass production coffee farms remove the rainforest cover purely for convenience.

We buy Creekmore coffee at the local supermarket. It is roasted here on Vancouver Island in Qualicum Beach. Another great local brand is Salt Spring made on nearby Salt spring Island.

You can get Clipper fair trade, organic instant coffee. The coffee is grown in Papua New Guinea and is packed in Germany. This is the best instant coffee I have ever tasted. It hits you with a delicious coffee aroma just opening the jar — expensive but fun. Even Starbucks now offers one fair trade blend they call Café Estima. To their credit, it is one of their least expensive offerings.

To find out where to get it from a source near you try searching for fair trade coffee.

Since I wrote this essay, Fair Trade coffee has become ubiquitous, at least here in Victoria. Grocery stores carry many brands, and every public and government event serves only fair trade coffee. There are dozens of excellent brands to choose from.

The international fair trade certifying organisation is called Fairtrade International. The Canadian fair trade certifying organisation is called Fairtrade.ca aka Transfair. They maintain lists of certified coffee roasting companies. They audit to make sure the coffee truly is fair trade. They also provide similar certification for fair trade chocolate, tea, sugar, tropical fruits, and soccer balls. There is some phony fair trade stuff out there. If you don’t see either of these two certification logos, be suspicious. Most of the world’s fair trade certification groups are in the process of converting to the international logo.

Fair Trade Canada Fair Trade International
Canada International

Starbucks Coffee Sizes

Starbucks Cup
Starbucks Coffee Sizes
Metric
Capacity
Imperial
Capacity
Name Notes
710 mls 1½ US pints venti applies to cold drinks.
592 mls 1¼ US pints venti applies to hot drinks. Italian for twenty.
473 mls 2 US cups grande pronounced grawnday, Italian for big.
355 mls 1½ US cups tall What you get if you ask for a small or regular.
237 mls 8.01 fl oz short To get it you must ask for short, not small.

Cutting Back

If you claim you can’t afford fair trade coffee, just cut back on your consumption. The easiest way to do that is to scale back on the size of your cup:

Cup Sizes
Name Metric
Capacity
Imperial
Capacity
venti 710 mls 1½ US pints
grande 473 mls 2 US cups
tall 355 mls 1½ US cups
mug 250 mls 8.45 fl oz
short 237 mls 8.01 fl oz
cup 177 mls 5.99 fl oz
small cup 150 mls 5.07 fl oz
demitasse 75 mls 2.54 fl oz

You don’t know how big you cup is? Fill it with water and pour it into a kitchen measuring cup.

Cost of a Cup of Coffee

Just how much does a cup of coffee cost? Here is my raw data:

So a cup of spectacularly good coffee you make at home sets you back  $0.35 CAD for the coffee beans,  $0.10 CAD for each serving of cream, and  $0.01 CAD for each serving of sugar. Compare that with a cup of Starbucks or a cup an a restaurant. Most often there is no additional cost for Fair Trade, but even when there is, it amounts to only a few pennies a cup. When people complain the tiny premium for fair trade, but have no problem with Starbucks prices, it means there is something other than the money at play.

It takes about 15 trees 1.83 metres (6 ft) tall to produce enough coffee for one person. The grower has to pick the coffee bean by bean. For all this work, even with fair trade, the grower gets just $1.20 USD a pound.

My Choices

A decade ago, fair trade coffee was hard to find, but where I live now, nearly all coffee is fair trade, at least the beans roasted locally. It an embarrassment of riches. There all kinds of specialty coffees. I have tried Kicking Horse Coffee, Salt Spring Coffee and Van Houtte. They are all excellent. Level Ground is delicious but the fair trade credentials are not as clear. My roommate and I consider the Ethiopian Harrar, with notes of Cherry, Tamarind and Cocoa as the best coffee ever. The Solstice Café ; introduced us to it. You can get it from the Fernwood Coffee Company. McDonalds makes the best coffee for a fast food outlet, but it is not fair trade. I don’t like dark French roasts. I would not start with them if you are just beginning to try something new. Snobs eschew Robusta beans, mainly because they are less expensive. They have that pleasant breakfast coffee smell. Just because a coffee is organic does not mean is Fair Trade and vice versa, so check the labels. You can sometimes be seduced by all the earthy imagery in the ads into presuming both.

When I was a teen I became a coffee snob much like a wine snob, showing off by telling people what their blends were composed of, and hosting a coffee tasting party where I served rare coffees from all over the world. I was popular in student residence because I had mastered the art of making the perfect cup of coffee. The odour would attract people who appeared at my door on all manner of pretexts.

Why Organic?

If you buy tea you probably should not drink anything but organic. They spray the leaves with insecticide daily, and you consume the leaves. With coffee it is not so important because the coffee bean is inside a sweet cherry-like fruit, which is discarded. However, you don’t want to poison the nice people who grow your coffee.

Packaging

In the olden days, coffee always came in 453.59 grams (1 lb) bags. Now it comes is many sizes. When you buy coffee beans, compute the cost per gram, not the cost per bag. Many websites do not tell you how much their bags contain. You have to ask. This is a dishonest business practice, but unfortunately widespread.

Packing sizes for Fair Trade Coffee Beans
Metric Weight Imperial Weight Notes
100 grams3.53 oz sampler
226 grams7.97 oz sampler
226.80 grams8 oz USA sampler
300 grams10.58 oz sampler
340 grams11.99 oz for specialty blends
370 grams13.05 oz  
400 grams14.11 oz  
453.59 grams1 lb USA standard
907.18 grams2 lbs USA double size bag
1 kg2.20 lbs large
2 kg4.41 lbs custom roast order
2.27 kg5 lbs USA large

Sources

You will notice a predominance of BC and Canadian suppliers below. There are two reasons for this.

  1. I am more familiar with local businesses.
  2. Fair trade took off in BC long before the rest of the world. BC vendors have a head start.

A number of suppliers offer a coffee-of-the-month subscription. If you don’t know what you like yet, this is a fun way to find out.

Happily, this list as growing so fast and so long it will soon be obsolete. It will be like telling you where you can get baked beans.

Where To Buy Coffee Beans Online
Company City Prov
State
Notes
49th Parallel Roasters Burnaby BC not fair trade.
Aroma Coffees Quadra Island BC Wholesale only or drop in.
Arco Superior WI Fair trade organic and ordinary. Jamaican blue mountain, Hawaiian Kona, green beans, small sample bags.
Bean North Yukon YT Fair trade and organic.
Birds and Beans Etobicoke ON Fair trade, shade grown.
Canterbury reSIProcate Richmond BC Fair trade and organic.
Dean’s Beans Orange MA Fair trade, organic.
Doi Chaang Vancouver BC coffee from Thailand. Have a program called Beyond Fair Trade.
Earth’s Choice Vancouver BC Fair trade organic. Head office is in Vancouver. Beans are roasted in Toronto.
Ethical Bean Burnaby BC Fair trade organic and Kosher. Some as low as $11.00 CAD for a 340 grams (11.99 oz) bag.
Fair Grounds Toronto ON Fair trade organic.
Fernwood Coffee Victoria BC Sell Ethiopian Harrar, the best coffee I have ever tasted. The packaging is quite classy, nice for gifts. It costs them so much they give you a discount if you refill your old bag.
Fire Roasted Coffee London ON Fair trade organic and ordinary.
Just Us Coffee Grand Pré NS Co-operative founded in 1995 selling fair trade.
Grab A Java Mission BC Fair trade organic.
Kicking Horse Coffee Invermere BC All coffees are Certified Organic, Fair Trade, Shade Grown, Arabica beans roasted in Canada. This one of the more popular retail brands where I live. You can buy online, though the button to do so is not prominent, off to the far right after you hit ordering info in the fine print. It’s as though they don’t really want you ordering online.
Level Ground Victoria BC They have a fair trade scheme, but not a certified one. This lets them offer lower prices. My roommate particularly likes their low acid Bolivian. It a mild aromatic coffee.
Marley Coffee Kingston Jamaica Bob Marley, Jamaican theme, including of course Jamaican blue mountain and Ethiopian coffees.
Organic Fair Cobble Hill BC Fair trade chocolate (excellent), coffee, spices. Make chocolate bars direct from beans.
Pacific Coffee Roasters Vancouver BC Fair trade organic. $22.0 CAD to $33.0 CAD for a 340.19 grams (12 oz) bag.
Planet Bean Guelph ON Fair trade organic
Reunion Island Oakville ON Fair trade organic and ordinary coffee.
Rhodos Courtenay BC Fair trade and organic
Salt Spring Coffee Salt Spring Island BC certified organic and fair trade. Popular retail brand in Victoria BC where I live. Have a sampling subscription program.
Starbucks Seattle WA Café Estima is fair trade; the other offerings are not
Strictly Organic Bend OR Fair trade organic. It is primarily a café with only a limited number of coffee offerings.
Sweetwater Organic Coffee Gainesville FL All coffees are Certified USDA Organic, High Altitude Shade Grown, Specialty-grade Arabica
Transcend Coffee Edmonton AB They pay more than Fair Trade prices, but this is not certified.
Van Houtte Montréal QC Fair trade organic.

Making The Perfect Cup

Given how easy it is to make excellent coffee, it is a wonder people put up with so much awful brew. Here’s how to do it.

Coffee Makers

Melitta filter coffee maker
Melitta filter coffee maker
Bodum aka French Press
Bodum aka French Press
Paper filter coffee (Melitta style) makes the best tasting coffee, though other techniques such as percolating create better room aroma. Percolators fill the air with wonderful coffee smell, but leave little flavour in the coffee, and tend to be bitter. A Bodum (aka French Press) tends to create a cloudy rich peasant coffee. The instructions that come with a Bodom tell you to stir in with a long thin plastic spoon, not metal, to avoid scratching the glass. I have scoured stores. I could not find one. Instead I used a wooden chopstick, then replaced it with a thin Trudeau seamless silicone spatula.
Trudeau silcone spatula
Trudeau silcone spatula

Recipe

Add a pinch of salt to the dry coffee grounds. The trick is to make concentrated coffee then water it down, rather than filtering all the water through the coffee grinds. This avoids leaching out the bitterer components of the coffee. Of course, you must grind the beans freshly. The odour of the beans is far more intoxicating than the final beverage.

I find the milder, cheaper beans such as Mocha Java, Brazilian, Guatemalan, Kenyan and Kona make a mellower coffee. Add a little Dark French if you want to give it a Starbucks bite.

To make the perfect cup of coffee, make sure you wipe out the grinder with a Kleenex after use so you will have no coffee grounds going stale to spoil the next batch.

Adding a subliminal pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove or ginger or a drop of organic vanilla or orange juice can add a little interest. Be subtle. People should just barely be able to tell the coffee is different, not how.

Wipe a touch of orange essence around the rim of the cup, and watch eyes pop with delight.

Of course you want to use fair trade coffee, both because you get the higher quality beans that way, and to play fair with the people who grow the beans for you.

Preserving Flavour

Thermos carafe
Thermos carafe

If you don’t serve the coffee right away, put it in a Thermos carafe. If you leave the coffee exposed to the air it will rapidly oxidise and get that all-night diner taste. It will keep a remarkably long time in a sealed Thermos. Coffee makers with warming trays under a glass pot turn out horrible coffee by oxidising it.

Personal

When I was young, my rebellion into the drug world consisted of learning to recognise the various types of coffee, much like a wine connoisseur. I would buy 100 grams of beans at a time to try out all the possibilities. I hid coffee making equipment in the back of my closet. I did manage to pull off a Wire Paladin/James Bond thing a few times, surprising people by telling them what was in their personal blend. Age has taken away my unusually keen sense of smell, so I doubt I could do it now.

Misc

Coffee whose growers and pickers are paid an equitable wage. The grower gets at least $1.26 USD a pound, more for organic. Coffee prices now are lower than they have been since the depression days of the 1930s. The coffee monopolies have gradually squeezed the prices and the farmers. Farmers now are receiving less than it costs them to grow, about $0.50 USD per pound.

Direct Trade gives the grower 20% above that.

Also look for shade-grown coffee. The rainforest canopy is not destroyed which supports the birds and animals. Mass production coffee farms remove the rainforest cover purely for convenience.

Fair-trade shade-grown coffee is very popular in Victoria where I live.

It is fairly easy to get a company or government office to switch. It does not cost much, and is good for public relations.

Coffee is big business. It is the leading crop traded on the international market. It is the most valuable international commodity next to oil.

To find out where to get it from a source near you try searching Google for fair trade coffee. To find out where to get it from a source near you try searching Google for fair trade coffee.

The international fair trade certifying organisation is called FLO. The Canadian fair trade certifying organisation is called Transfair. They maintain lists of certified coffee roasting companies. They audit to make sure the coffee truly is fair trade. They also provide similar certification for fair trade chocolate, tea, sugar, tropical fruits, and soccer balls. There is some phony fair trade stuff out there. If you don’t see either of these two certification logos, be suspicious. Most of the world’s fair trade certification groups are in the process of converting to the international logo.

Fair Trade Canada Fair Trade International
Canada International

Caffeine

Is America a Nation of Java Junkies
Source: Top Counseling Schools
Coffee Producers: list from Fairtrade Canada
Coffee, James Bond style: using a Chemex beaker
Fair Trade Bananas
fair trade chocolate laser talk
fair trade chocolate soapbox
Fairtrade Foundation in Britain
Fairtrade Foundation in Canada
Fairtrade International
Global Exchange: in San Francisco
Java: the computer language
Student Programming Project: fair trade webstore

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