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Coffee is made from Unethically Sourced Magic Beans

Can we take a moment to be grateful for the farmers that bring us this Nectar?

October 28, 2017

Coffee is amazing. It’s a socially acceptable drug and the world basically functions on coffee.

What we don’t talk about is the darker side of how our products reach us so readily. And that’s the continuation of exploiting third world countries and farmers. If we had to talk about them, then we couldn’t ethically go on drinking coffee. We’d have to boycott and make the middlemen that are the problem cave to pressure. But let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen. We need our fix.

“Coffee is the most valuable trading commodity in the world after oil.” – Black Gold Documentary

The documentary Black Gold addresses this issue directly.

“Multinational coffee companies now rule our shopping malls and supermarkets and dominate the industry worth over $80 billion, making coffee the most valuable trading commodity in the world after oil.

But while we continue to pay for our lattes and cappuccinos, the price paid to coffee farmers remains so low that many have been forced to abandon their coffee fields.

Nowhere is this paradox more evident than in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. Tadesse Meskela is one man on a mission to save his 74,000 struggling coffee farmers from bankruptcy. As his farmers strive to harvest some of the highest quality coffee beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price.”


Movie still from the documentary BLACK GOLD, by Nick & Marc Francis

As a consumer, I’ve failed these farmers. I spent a decade boycotting StarBuck’s for reasons unrelated to the coffee farmer exploitation. At some point I became complacent again and started drinking StarBuck’s like I was a wealthy trust fund child.

You’ll see as this blog grows that I’ve done my part for the environment more often than not. But that shouldn’t make me complacent or a hypocrite. So here I am looking for ethical and healthy coffee as I drink my Yerba Maté shot.

After doing a cursory search, I found a scary piece basically saying there is no such thing as ethical coffee:

“The most stark example is the recent controversy over Fairtrade and the payment of a living wage to coffee workers on smallholder farms in Ethiopia and Uganda. Research from SOAS, found that the Fairtrade Foundation is unable to ensure that all workers get paid a living wage. Most coffee is produced by smallholders who employ some workers – the latter tend to be the worst paid. This is partly because their employers are poor themselves, and also because it is hard to police what happens on thousands of tiny farms.

Fairtrade Foundation standards do not regulate wages if a smallholder employs less than a “significant number” of workers, which is generally interpreted to mean 20. If they employ fewer than 20, they aren’t even required to pay the legal minimum wage.”

coffee-cup-with-heart-in-foamAnd then I found a very good piece from another perspective of coffee professionals:

“The onus is on us – the roasters and retailers, the power brokers in the coffee industry – to ensure the coffee grower is treated as an equal shareholder in the industry. We must expose and end the modern-day slavery that underpins our coffee world. We are responsible for stopping it, standing up and saying we will not tolerate or be complicit in exploitation and slavery. There is no ethics in coffee right now – but we can change that. We must change that.”

Let’s face it, Coffee is Magic. I could live on coffee and liquid vitamins and be quite happy. But right now, for myself, until I see some changes or can be guaranteed everyone was paid a living wage, then I’ll refrain 99 days out of 100. It will make that 100 extra nice!

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