Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: Coffee the Crude Beverage: PART Three

Coffee is the second most traded commodity behind petroleum,

as well as the second highest export for developing nations, http://www.acdivoca.org/site/ID/ourwork_coffee. The specialty coffees listed here are differentiated based on origin and flavor. Part three will give you an insight to how the world’s coffee market labels “specialty coffee” as opposed to our local café.


Specialty Coffees: Specialty coffee includes: organic, fair trade, conservation, bird friendly, shade-grown, and sustainable.

Have you ever wondered what Fair Trade Coffee is?

Fair Trade in coffee?

Fair Trade in coffee?

Fair trade = direct purchasing from small/local farmers at a guaranteed fair price $1.40/lb, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_trade_coffee).

Fair trade in today’s world is nothing more than ensuring that the power capitalist in the coffee market are guaranteed their profits.  After years of struggle,   the local farmer and communities is guaranteed a set price per pound.. However, the practice of keeping a monopoly on shipping, equipment, medical supplies and services, fertilizers and transportation routes still belongs to the large food conglomerates.

This is done through cost-minimization and, primarily, by lowering the cost per pound paid to the local growers globally. This practice keeps the small local grower small and the profits virtually unchanged for the huge mass producers (according to Oxfam International 2002, mass produced coffee is sold at a markup of around 7000%).  One of the ways they insure their profit is to buy up and take over the lands and farms of the small local farmer either by forcing a lower price for their produce, or limiting access to credit, transportation and export capabilities.

Let’s be clear about Fair Trade. The movement is doing nothing more than trying to get huge profit driven transnational companies (TNC) to

  • cease restricting credit availability to small farmers,
  • open international trade routes and
  • to be environmentally conscious, as well as,
  • be a part of the local poorer coffee growers and his community.

The coffee grower needs a fair share of the profits from his labors. So much more could be presented on “Fair Trade Coffee,” however, that would be more of a night table read.

Have you ever heard of Shade Coffee?

Shade Coffee Farm

Shade Coffee  or “shade grown” coffee plants are planted among the layers of tree canopy in natural forests saving soil, preventing erosion, replenishing soils organic matter and fostering temperature and humidity regimes. The large-scale producers in Colombia and Costa Rica, like Brazil, employ a “full-sun” cultivation method, which clears valuable rain forest to plant coffee trees. Shade growing uses the protection of the rain forest canopy,

Sun Coffee farm

Sun Coffee farm

allowing filtered sunlight through by trimming the large trees.  This limits the ecological effects of coffee cultivation and allows local farmers and communities to remain intact. Shade grown coffee goes directly against the monopolistic tradition of capitalists and large corporations to maximize production and limit supply competition at the expense of destroying small local communities.


Have you ever tried a side by side taste of real organic coffee and non-organic coffee?

Organic = substituting the use of organic inputs and human labor for agrochemicals. Sun tolerant hybrid plant varieties that yield more berries in less shade are used.  ???

The largest producing nation of certified organic coffee is Mexico, (http://www.journeymexico.com/blog/mexico-the-worlds-largest-producer-of-organic-coffee)  in particular the peasant farmers or “Campesinos” of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

Recent volcanic activity and the mountainous regions there have ideal growing conditions.  The greatest deterrent to organic coffee is the connection between funding and the chemical companies.  Yes, that’s right….small farmers and new growers are unable to secure funding for farming coffee unless they agree to purchase a specific amount of agrochemicals. Agreements include specific loan language in production agreements (Nolasco, 1985).

Of the $5 billion in US coffee revenues nearly $2 Billion is spent on specialty “Green Market” coffees (Martinez-Torres, 2006).

“Exploitation is not viewed as a result of the structural imperatives of the capitalist market, but as a distortion of the market stemming from the acts of the ‘unscrupulous’ market agents.” (Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International FLO 2001: 2).

We often hear things like being conscious in the “global market”, ‘socially conscious capitalism’ (oxymoron), ‘committed to achieving sustainability while focusing on economic value in the global marketplace’ and my personal favorite “the moral compass of agro-capitalist will dictate sustainability and an innate awareness of global impact.

Where is the moral compass when less than 16% (up 6% since 2007, http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/08/08/where-does-your-grocery-money-go-mostly-not-to-the-farmer/) of the profits are making their way back to the local farmer and communities where the coffee is actually grown? We speak of morality in the same sentence as capitalism.  Yet, the large TNC’s withhold valuable medicine, supplies, and the means to build schools and improve infrastructure from the very people charged with growing, maintaining and harvesting beans. Beans used to brew our morning crude may come from nothing more than a modern form of slavery.

In the 18th century Quakers and others opposed to slavery boycotted the use of sugars and cotton as products of slavery. We don’t need to stop drinking coffee but we can make choices in the coffee we drink to shape the kind of world we want to live in.

Doing my research I realized I can and will do more, much more when making decisions to buy coffee for my home or purchase a cup at the local coffee house. I will no longer buy Dunkin Donuts coffee or any fast food coffee product.  Since 2007, I have not purchased a single cup of coffee from McDonalds or Dunkin.  I do not purchase Folgers or Kraft coffee products, nor do I purchase coffee from BJ’s, Costco, Walmart, or Sam’s Club.  Conscious coffee drinking, like eating organic, recycling and preservation of our natural resources begins with “me.”  Talk about specialty coffees with your friends and families.  Ask questions of your local and preferred coffee house. Do they serve “Fair Trade/Shade” coffee or tea? If they don’t, ask them if they will in the future.  Many places have it available, but won’t brew it because it isn’t often requested. Starbucks has promoted and marketed its move to “sustainable” “fair trade” sales, however, nearly all sales of specialty coffee is in Europe. In the US you must request it. Caribou Coffee, if you have one in your area is a great alternative to Starbuck’s they serve Green Mountain coffee brands, certified fair trade. Dunkin Donuts offers ‘specialty coffee’ but only in its espresso and latte products.

Here locally I suggest trying Irving Farm

(Lower East Side Orchard St.),


Gorilla Brooklyn, Jacks Stir Brew or


Green Mountain Coffee

Please see my friends at East Harlem Café and let Michelle and crew know you appreciate her efforts toward FTC coffee and tea products.

I am a coffee drinker, nearly my entire life. Mom and Papa Chavoya drank stove top, percolator coffee. She often brewed the next day’s coffee with the previous days brew.  My palate for tasting foods is the same for beverage and I know a good cup when I have one. I do have a voice and platform to inform readers and listeners to change how, where and why they buy coffee. I can do my part in working with the local farmer and communities to end exploitation of a people or country because they have a natural resource that I need or want for my personal pleasure or profit. Drink consciously!

While “Fair Trade” coffees have now been globally recognized we still need to “out” companies like Starbucks that continue to violate the trade agreements with local farmers, and stop them from using the local farmer’s name as a coffee producer.   Always look for “Fair Trade” labels and if you don’t see one… ask. If the counter person or the Barista do not know what you are asking them about then buy your cup-o-Joe somewhere else.

May your bellies always be full and smiling!


Chef D

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee; part one

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee; part two




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