Let's face it: my husband and I are addicted to coffee. It should come as no huge shock that coffee does not grow anywhere near northern Virginia. Thank God I am not a purist when it comes to eating and drinking locally sourced foods.
Despite my acceptance of the fact that I can't get everything I need from the greater Washington DC area, coffee poses a moral dilemma. Most coffee comes from developing countries. In these places, the land and the people working the land are easily exploited. According to the Global Exchange coffee farmers are often paid less for their product than it costs to produce it. This places farmers and workers into an endless cycle of poverty. How can I get peace of mind that my daily cup of joe is socially conscious?
One solution to this problem is to buy fair trade certified coffee. Fair trade certification ensures that workers are paid a living wage. It also prohibits forced child labor. Often, fair trade products support sustainable agriculture. To learn more about fair trade certification and other fair trade products, visit the Fair Trade Certified website.
I found my Fair Trade coffee at Trader Joe's. In addition to the Fair Trade label, my coffee is also certified organic and shade grown. Shade grown means exactly what it says: the coffee is grown under the shade of other trees. Commercial coffee growers often plant the trees in hot sun. They do this to increase efficiency, but it is often necessary for them to use pesticides and fertilizers to keep the coffee growing. Furthermore, this practice depletes the soil and the environment. Shade grown helps to restore habitats for migrating birds and is often organic. Read more about shade grown coffee.
This 13 ounce container of whole beans cost around $8.00. According to the label, the coffee is produced by "an all women organization in an effort to offer women of Peru a better life." In addition, "women participate in every step of the process" and "a portion of the purchase goes directly back to [them]" (in addition to their wages). Now that's a cup of joe I can swallow guilt-free.