By the extraordinary whiff wafting through the car as I drove home with several pounds of Dean’s Beans, I knew this was not going to be any ordinary coffee. It all began when a lovely member of my church coordinated a “buy fair trade coffee” movement – providing members the opportunity to purchase organic, fair trade coffee for the same price as conventional brands at the grocery store. Obviously, I couldn’t resist the chance to explore a new caffeinated horizon.
Until now, I’d only understood the fundamental human rights purpose of fair trade. But thanks to my four bags of coffee (and a lot of reading) I understand the fair trade purpose, who certifies it, and even the latest arguments over it. According to Fairtrade International, an association of 25 organizations worldwide, fair trade practices include fair wages (more than the applicable minimum wage), no child and forced labor, small-scale requirements, prices set to cover the cost of sustainable systems and support of collective bargaining.
Ultimately, it boils down to a few regional and international organizations (see below) that promote fair trade and offer third-party certification for producers. It’s up to the consumer to determine if what a particular certifying organization defines as fair trade is fair enough for them.
And just like these beautiful coffee beans, many fair trade foods are organic, even if only by default. But the real question: Am I willing (and able) to go out of my way to find fair trade products beyond coffee? The answer for me, I’ll shamefully admit, is not yet. But that doesn’t mean I can’t support fair trade when possible, and become a regular member of the church coffee clan. Because the coffee does taste better – figuratively and literally. The Moka Java brew we’ve been enjoying exudes lovely fruity notes I’ve never before experienced in my mug.
So I’ve decided to approach fair trade the way I approach organics. Not in strictly buying only organic products, but by seeking out specific ones with a greater overall impact, such as thin-skinned fruits and earth-friendly cleaning supplies. I believe these few choices help send a message to the market, and that purchasing even a small number of fair trade products can do the same. And consuming fair trade makes me feel better about life in general. Even when I pair my morning Moka Java with a very indulgent, and no doubt fattening, croissant. I knew this was no ordinary coffee.