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 year...it 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 allocated...in fact many companies publish it on their websites!

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

Monday, February 19, 2007

Pour Me Another! The Health Benefits of Coffee

As a coffee advocate, I often find myself defending the benefits of this precious drink to coffee naysayers. My degree is in nutrition so I have a natural interest in perusing the latest articles and research concerning food and health--and although there is always conflicting ideas on almost every topic that can be written about, there is overwhelming evidence that in moderation, coffee offers numerous health benefits. According to findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, The American Medical Association and reports published from Harvard Medical School coffee is associated with the following benefits:

  • Lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes

  • Reduces the risk of developing gallstones

  • Reduces the risk of developing Parkinson's Disease

  • Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer

  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Improves endurance and performance

  • Helps people stay more alert

  • Helps treat asthma and headaches

In another study, researchers found that a typical serving of coffee contains more antioxidants than typical servings of grape juice, blueberries, raspberries and oranges.

"Overall, the research shows that coffee is far more healthful than it is harmful," says Tomas DePaulis, PhD, research scientist at Vanderbilt University's Institute for Coffee Studies, which conducts its own medical research and tracks coffee studies from around the world. "For most people, very little bad comes from drinking it, but a lot of good."

So there you have it folks, go ahead and pour yourself another! Cheers to good health!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Christianity and Ethical Consumerism

"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;

maintain the rights for the poor and oppressed. " -Psalm 82:3

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,

he too will cry out and not be answered." -Prov. 21:13

"Do not exploit the poor because they are poor

and do not crush the needy in court,

for the Lord will take up their case

and will plunder those who plunder them. " -Prov. 22:22-23

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,

for the rights of all who are destitute.

Speak up and judge fairly;

defend the rights of the poor and needy." -Prov. 31:8-9

Education and awareness are the only ways to bring about justice to the social atrocities that plague our world. God calls Christians to not turn a blind eye to the injustices of the poor and needy--yet in many ways we unknowingly promote it by the choices we make in our daily lives.

Let me use coffee as an example--not because I'm insanely passionate about coffee, rather, coffee is the 2nd largest traded commodity in the world and by simply choosing a coffee product that is produced by a socially responsible company, we can have a significant effect on the economies and livelihoods of these poor farming countries.

The fact that many of us know this, yet still choose otherwise I believe is directly ignoring God's word. If people are uneducated/unaware, they have an excuse, but if we know that the $6.00 cup of coffee we are lackadaisically enjoying came from the hands of a poor, uneducated farmer who pulled his 8 year old son out of school or the chocolate candy bar we consume came from the hands of a 7 year old child slave, shouldn't we chose differently? What has to happen before we become advocates of ethical consumerism?

Learn more about how you can support the cause by shopping here.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Chocolate...Not So Sweet?

There was a news article I read today that caught my attention; it was about a man who asked the court to convict him for eating chocolate--he is seeking a jail sentence to raise consumer awareness about child slavery and to force the chocolate/cocoa industry to take tougher measures to get rid of child labor.

Apparently there are hundreds of thousands of child laborers who work in hazardous conditions and pick the cocoa on these farms mostly on the Ivory Coast--many arrived in their situation as a result of child trafficking.

The US chocolate industry agreed to take voluntary steps to end child slavery on cocoa farms by July of 2005--that deadline has long since passed and the chocolate industry has failed to fulfill this promise.

So how can you help? Buy fairly traded chocolate here. Or, if you're still looking for your Valentine chocolates, check out your local Henry's Market or Whole Foods-- just look for the Fair Trade Label.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Fair what? The un-education of coffee baristas

So I've been sitting here for hours calling local coffee shops to find out where they get their beans from and I've discovered that the people working in many of these shops need some serious education. This of course (on behalf of a former barista who didn't know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino) is not completely the fault of the barista. The owner should make it a priority to educate the people serving their coffee...this is just simple business protocol--especially if your business is strictly a coffee shop. I don't expect the same knowledge from a server at a cafe that is known more for its breakfast and lunch selections as I do from a barista who strictly prepares and serves coffee and espresso drinks. Here is a snippet of just one of my conversations,

Me: "I was calling to find out where you get your coffee beans from."

Barista: "Um...what do you mean?"

Me: "Who roasts your coffee?"

Barista: "Um, I'm not sure. Let me check on the bag."

Me: "OK...I've never heard of that company. Is the coffee organic or fair trade?"

Barista: "I think it's organic."

Me: "You think?"

Barista: "Well, it says on the bag it organic, so yeah, I think it is."

Me: "OK, how about fair trade?"

Barista: "Um...far trade?"

Me: "No, no...Fair Trade."

Barista: "I'm not sure, but I think it probably is."

Me: "Does it say Fair Trade on the bag?"

Barista: "I don't think so, but it probably is."

The sad part of this whole conversation, was that this was a variation of most of my conversations with the coffee shops that I phoned today.

SO....my revelation after all of these unbelievable phone calls was that if people who are currently working in the coffee industry don't know if the coffee they serve is from a sustainable source, how is the average consumer going to know? I am putting together a list of Sustainable Coffee Shops In San Diego; this is obviously a work in progress and as I learn more I'll add more to the list. Please let me know if there is a coffee shop you want me to do some research on or that should be added to the list. I'm also working on a list of coffee shops that have some organic and/or fair trade options, but these wouldn't be my top choices to purchase from...and if you frequent these places keep requesting that all their coffee be sustainable.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Coffee Crisis...what can I do?

The more I research the topic of coffee and sustainability the more inflamed I get that more companies aren't doing something about the injustices inflicted on the farmers from whom we get this daily obsession. As we wake up each morning stumbling to the coffee maker for that sweet satisfaction of the first sip that enables us to fully open our eyes and speak coherent sentences, or on our way to work as we nonchalantly drop $5.00+ down for some sweet concoction that somehow manages to drip on our new white blouse, our when we need a pick-me up after our sleepy lunch hour, or when we meet up with someone new at our local coffee shop, this indulgent drink that has become such a habit in our daily lives, comes from the sweat on the brow of a poor farmer who contemplates pulling his children out of school to help increase production; from a community that has no health care or education. It is a crisis that we have to help bring awareness to.

So you ask, well what can I do? Anytime you purchase a cup of coffee ask the person you're buying it from if it comes from a sustainable roaster, or a roaster that supports fair trade. If it doesn't, request it and don't keep spending your money there until they change. If it does sell sustainable coffee, give the owner a high five. :)

Support business that support sustainability and fair trade...wouldn't you rather know that while you enjoy that cup of coffee, more of your money is going back to the farmers hands that created it? I'm working on a list of where you can purchase sustainable coffee locally...stay tuned.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

East County Charm

I tend to forget that San Diego has an east side...but if you're from East County or make it out there you have to make a trip down La Mesa Blvd in La Mesa. It's the main strip in La Mesa where you'll find an abundance of antique shops, thrift stores, local restaurants and of course a cute little coffee shop called Cosmos. This particular street makes me feel like I'm taking a trip back in time...its so "quaint." I imagine this would be an area where people actually know each others names. The coffee house is pretty spacious inside with a nice little outside patio in the front shaded by trees. I love patios; however I hate smelling cigarette smoke from the person next to me...so I moved back indoors and ordered a yummy sounding salad and my traditional cup of house coffee. There was no obvious notations of their coffee being organic or fair trade, however I found out their supplier was Cafe Moto--who does roast organic, fair trade beans. I was happy to know they used a vendor that supported organic and fair trade, however I am not a big fan of Motto's coffee--which is unfortunate because they supply a large amount of coffee to the local cafes here in San Diego. So I'll usually order an espresso drink like a latte or cappuccino if I know the beans are from Cafe Moto. Nevertheless, the beans are coming from a good source!

I've only visited this coffee shop in the afternoon, so I'm not sure what the night scene is like, but the times I have gone there, there has been a nice mix of young professionals and college age students filling the seats. The surroundings are comfortable, with periwinkle colored walls and artwork for sale nicely displayed. Apparently they have live music...but the website didn't showcase who was performing, so I don't know if the artists draw much of a crowd. Overall the place had a nice atmosphere and good crowd...the coffee and food were pretty good but could use some improvement, but the location itself makes this place a great place to at least check out once if you're in La Mesa!

Friday, February 2, 2007

San Diego Coffee Shop Scene

I'm not an expert when it comes to coffee, but I am abnormally consumed with the warm beverage and everything that has to do with coffee--more specifically, socially responsible coffee i.e., organic, fair trade, and shade grown. As I've been doing more and more research with hopes of starting my own coffee business soon, I've noticed that most of the websites of local San Diego coffee shops as well as the coffee establishments themselves have virtually NO information about where they are getting their beans from. The sad part it a lot of these establishments are serving socially responsible coffee and could benefit from advertising this to consumers. I live in Southern California; I know there has to be a ton of people who are interested in where they can buy quality coffee that is people/bird/eco friendly (I know you're out there...I've met you at the farmers markets!) Due to my infatuation with everything coffee, and since my favorite thing to do is visit new coffee shops, I thought I'd find out more about these local hangouts and fill you in--from who roasts the coffee, to good study spots, singles scenes, live music venues etc. If you're gonna fulfill that caffeine habit, you might as well be spending your money at a place where more of your dollar is getting into the farmers hands and their communities (which are typically impoverished areas) vs. the corporate "green" giants'.

So the first little coffee shop I want to fill you in on is Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in Bird Rock La Jolla. Keep your eyes open because if you blink you might miss it--this is not a place to visit if you're looking for a "scene," however if you are a connessiour of coffee, this is the place for an incredible cup of joe. There are only a few tables inside that over look the cute street of La Jolla Blvd; inside the shop is the actual roasting facility and where you will almost always find the owner, Chuck Patton, who overlooks the entire roasting process. It's evident that Chuck has a heart for the farmers and communities in which the beans he roasts are from--most of his coffees are organic, fair trade and shade grown...my favorite so far is their Bird Rock Blend. The coolest part about this place is that if you live Pacific Beach or La Jolla in the zip codes 92109 and 92037 they will actually deliver fresh roasted coffee right to your door!

Let me know if you're looking for a cool coffee shop to visit in your neighborhood--I'll be happy to check it out!