For the Love of Coffee

This originally appeared on justgeneration.ca

IMG_3799I like coffee.

A lot.

Youth Council members both mock and adore me for travelling to meetings across the country with my own, individual coffee maker, coffee bean grinder, and locally roasted beans.

It has only been in the last 3-4 years that I’ve begun to take a keen interest in coffee; I made it through my undergrad career without needing that daily dose of java and still don’t need it to survive. It is the flavours, the smells, the joy of sitting in a coffee shop with my laptop or a good book that keeps me coming back over and over again to try different roasts and brews. I like sitting down in a local coffee shop and chatting with the barista about where the coffee has come from. If I’m lucky enough to be speaking to one of the shop owners or roasters, they are likely to be able to tell me a story of having climbed up mountains in Guatemala to pick coffee with their growers in that country or of wading through fields of coffee growing in Tanzania with local producers.

Coffee is more than just a morning stimulant or mid-day meeting prop. Coffee production is one of the largest employers and it drives the economy of many regions around the world.

At the beginning of May 2013, PWRDF Youth Council met in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia to talk about Food Security with local food producers. One of the places we visited was Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op. They have the distinction of being Canada’s first fair trade coffee roaster and have the tag line of “People and Planet before Profits”.

But what does that mean for my coffee? Because coffee is such a hot commodity (pun intended), the potential for growers to be exploited for profit is quite high. Coffee growers often endure long hours and backbreaking work for a wage that will not support their family. When the coffee is fair trade, the purchasers travel to coffee-growing regions to meet with coffee growers, to get to know them and their families, to work together to grow the best coffee possible, and to ensure a fair price for their product. Does this mean that I might pay a slightly higher price for my next latte? Maybe. But it also means that I know the people who grew the coffee can live on what they are paid and that there is a focus on sustainability with each crop that is grown.

So what can you do? Check the labels on your bag of coffee to see if they’ll tell you who grew it. Is it fair trade? Chat with the barista at your local coffee shop. Chances are they’ll be more than excited to talk coffee with you. If they’re not, then it probably isn’t a coffee shop that places a high importance on connecting with their coffee growers either. Ask around at coffee time at your church. My parish in Victoria only serves fair trade coffee (from local roaster Level Ground Trading.) The Diocese of Edmonton recently voted to go completely fair trade in all of their parishes and offices.

So investigate your coffee and try fair trade. You’ll love how it tastes and you’ll feel good about how it was produced.

For more information on fair trade, especially coffee, visit the Fair Trade Canada website, they have some excellent resources and tips on what to look for when investigating fair trade.

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