Sunday, April 22, 2007

Keep Organic Coffee Alive...Sign the Petition

Last month the USDA ruled that they were going to tighten organic certification requirements. Sounds good in theory, but the reality of it means that small, poor farmers who have worked extremely hard to reach organic certification standards will have to shell out even more money--money they don't have which according to Kimberly Easson, director of strategic relationships for TransFair USA,: "This ruling could wipe out the organic coffee market in the U.S."

Please send this link and forward it on to your friends!!

You can read more on the organic coffee ruling here. Also, inform yourself on why choosing organic coffee is so important.

How to GREEN your cup

I read this blog this morning at and I thought I'd pass on the author's advice and helpful info!

It’s Earth Day…

In the face of the now very real threat of global climate change, this year’s recognition of Earth Day carries with it a certain sense of urgency. It’s time to change some habits. Permanently. The good news? Greening up your coffee cup doesn’t mean sacrificing the quality of your coffee! Here’s some tips to get you started…

  • Enough of the paper filters, already. If you enjoy your coffee in a press pot, good on you, you’re already there. But if you’re making a drip cup, consider some alternatives to your paper coffee filters. The gold standard of reusable drip filters are made by SwissGold, and they have a product line that covers most every filter basket style — from Mr. Coffee to Bunn to Melitta-styled cone filters — used in auto-drip machines today.

  • Enough of the bottled water, too. I’ve written quite a lot about the importance of good water for good coffee. So by all means, use great water, but make it great yourself. Start with water from your own tap and filter it with any number of great filtration products (I like Brita, and PUR.) You’ll save oodles of money, and save oodles of carbon emissions from all the shipping that bottled water requires.

  • Heat your water on-demand. Long-time readers will know that I’ve proclaimed my love for Bunn coffee makers in the past… but I have to tell you, that relationship is over. Home coffee makers that keep water hot 24 hours are energy hogs, pure and simple. Instead, use a water kettle to boil up only exactly as much water as you need. Chances are it’ll take no more time than your Bunn ever did.

  • Take your mug on the road. If you’re heading to your local coffee house, take your mug with you! There’s thermal travel mugs and tumblers of every sort to make sure you don’t spill a drop on your commute, and chances are your coffee shop will thank you! (One of a coffee shop’s biggest costs is paper, and the lion’s share of that is paper cups.)

  • Choose Fair Trade Certified™ and Organic coffee. Yes, you really can make a difference by choosing coffee with eco-friendly bona fides. And you have been! Sales of Fair Trade coffee rose ten-fold between 2000 and 2005, and Fair Trade and Organic coffee sales are right now seeing accelerating double-digit growth. Keep it up! These coffees are ecologically sound, sustainable, and make for safer, healthier coffee-growing communities.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Shocked and Appalled

I'm completely dumbfounded. I don't get it. One would assume that if you're going to open a coffee shop, you'd know a little about the very least you would drink it every now and then right? To my utter dismay, while doing research on local San Diego coffee shops, I came across an owner who had no idea if her coffee was organic or fair trade (or what fair trade really meant). In a previous post, "The Uneducation of Coffee Baristas" I wrote about how many baristas today have very little to no knowledge about the term fair trade. But an owner? She went on to say she didn't even like coffee! She bought her coffee from three different local roasters--I asked her if anyone services her equipment and she said she had no idea! How do you run a business and know nothing about your product?

This was definitely the exception, for the most part the owners I've spoken with have been knowledgeable and friendly. So please people, for the love of coffee, support your local coffee shops that offer fair trade coffees, and at the one's that don't--keep asking for fair trade, keep getting the funny looks from baristas, and soon enough they'll catch on.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fair Trade...beyond our own cup

So what does buying Fair Trade products really mean?

According to Paul Rice, CEO of TransFair USA, "It basically links consumers, you and me, to third-world families, and through more direct trade helps those families get a fair price for their coffee, their tea, their bananas, whatever it is they produce."

What's in it for me? Why is buying fair trade items worth it?

Rice continues, "Well, it just so happens that there's a direct correlation between the quality of a cup of coffee, or the quality of a banana, or some other piece of fruit, and the amount of money that the farmer actually gets paid for that harvest. As you might guess, if prices are low, farmers have to cut corners on quality. If farmers, on the other hand, get a decent price, then they can invest more in the quality of the final product."

So, there's actually an alignment of interest there between your and my desires as consumers for higher quality products, and the return to the grower. Fair Trade is all about ensuring that that grower gets a fair price. Not only to produce high-quality products, but also to keep their kids in school, to put food on the table, to protect the land, and to protect the forests around the farms.
That, I would argue, is the other big benefit for consumers of Fair Trade. One is being able to get a high-quality product, and two is to know when you buy a Fair Trade product that you're also helping other families around the world. Helping families keep their kids in school, helping them farm in a sustainable manner."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"Organic" marketing leaves bitter taste

Organic and fair trade products are becoming more and more popular among consumers and many companies are jumping on the "sustainable bandwagon." I have an inner conflict with the present and fair trade products are good and the more people buying these products the better, but major companies who have no previous concern or care about sustainability who are suddenly promoting these types of products purely for profit kinda bugs me. Especially when there are smaller businesses where sustainability is part of their mission and vision statements.

For example, Proctor & Gamble just came out with a grocery store line of organic coffee by Millstone. The reviews were...well terrible. Here is a sampling :

" tasted like coffee that was too weak made in a dirty pot"

"It was a surprise to us all that such a strong, dark and assertive-looking brew could taste so flat, insipid and lifeless. It left an odd coating on the tongue."

" reminded me of a hot puddle of seawater sitting on a pair of discarded rubber waders on a crab-fishing boat. "

Furthermore, when Proctor & Gamble was questioned about the origins and quality of the coffee, they strategically half answered and skirted around the questions.

My point is that when you purchase coffee that is mass produced by a company that really doesn't know much about sustainability, taste and quality is always going to be sacrificed. Just because something has pretty packaging and eco friendly words does not mean its legit--Thanks P&G for leaving a bitter taste in people's mouths.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ethiopia Vs. Starbucks Debate Continues...

Starbucks had record revenue of $7.8 billion last year, yet continues to battle Ethiopia, one of the poorest developed countries in the world for trademark rights. According to calculations by Oxfam, which has taken up Ethiopia's cause, if trademarking pushed prices of specialty coffee up 80 cents a pound, Ethiopia would stand to gain $88 million a seems to me $88 million could help this poor country quite dramatically. Hmmm...maybe $7.8 billion isn't quite enough to stuff the pockets of upper management.

An article in Fortune Magazine covers the latest on this debate.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Starbucks Dissapoints....AGAIN

At the United Students For Fair Trade convergence held last week in Boston, a Starbucks representative surprisingly attended and admitted that SBUX is not interested in drastically increasing their Fair Trade coffee saying that “we will never be 100%”. In fact, she said they would not even commit to 5% at this time. I think the average consumer is easily duped into thinking that SBUX is greatly involved in Fair Trade practices due to their manipulative marketing, but here you have it--straight from the source about their ideas regarding Fair Trade. She also revealed that SBUX does not publish their contracts and other data because consumers find them to be "very confusing." This is in my opinion is hogwash. Most of the sustainable coffee companies will gladly share with consumers the paper trails of exactly where each dollar and cent is fact many companies publish it on their websites!

You can read more about the USFT convergence on the Just Coffee website.