Fair trade coffee facts

Coffee, coffee, coffee… oh how much I love thee!

Coffee is the most perfect beverage ever conceived by the human mind. (Don’t beat about the bush, Hope, tell us how you really feel :) - Hugh) Here’s a bit of trivia for you: did you know that coffee was said to be first discovered by goats? That is, a goatherd named Kaldi saw his goats prancing wildly and excitedly whenever they grazed on a certain red bean; he followed his goats and tried some of the bean for himself. He experienced the same heightening sensation and thus coffee was born!

Coffee comes from either one of two coffee plants: Arabica and Robusta. Coffee Arabica, or those that come from the Coffea Arabica plant which is indigenous to Ethiopia, has a more flavourful and smooth taste and are grown near the equator, at high altitudes. They cost more too since Arabica coffee beans require a little more care when growing. Coffee Arabica makes around 70% of the world’s coffee. On the other hand, coffee Robusta contains twice the caffeine found in Arabica and makes a much stronger brew. It’s much cheaper though because coffee beans from the Robusta plant require less care when growing. Around 65 countries (all found in the equator) grow coffee. Although being the world’s largest consumer of coffee, coffee is not grown anywhere in the US except in Puerto Rico and Hawaii, which lie near the equator.

Coffee is also a certified fair trade product. In fact, fair trade started as a response to the drop of the price of coffee in the world market. It started in the Netherlands during the 1980’s.

Fair trade coffee simply means that the coffee was grown, manufactured and purchased under terms that are fair to the producer, the consumer and the environment. The producers or farmers are expected to be paid at least $1.26 per pound of raw coffee beans which is far from the world market average of $0.60, allowing the producers to lead a life far from poverty.

In the early 2000’s, Starbucks started introducing a line of certified fair trade products. Since then, they have become the largest buyer of fair trade coffee in North America. This movement helped raised mass awareness on fair trade.

In the UK and Ireland, Starbucks espressos are certified to be made from 100% fair trade ingredients.

Coffee is majorly produced in Asia, Africa and Latin America. However, the wages farmers receive aren’t fair enough since they receive less than what they shell out. Importantly, some coffee buyers and producers question the value of the Fair Trade brand, rather than the principles behind it - see Has Bean’s article on the subject. However, the problem is well-recognised, and Fair Trade is generally reckoned to be at least part of the solution.

According to the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand, coffee is the most purchased fair trade product in Australia and New Zealand making up 76% of the total fair trade retail sales. It even surpassed that of fair trade chocolates and tea.

By the way - if you care about Fair Trade coffee, you should care about Fair Trade chocolate even more. Horrible things happen in the chocolate industry - read our article on fair trade chocolate facts for more info.

  • This was a guest post for Kamikaze Cookery by Hope Jael Perez

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