If all the coffee chatter about triple certification labels or the Make Trade Fair campaign gives you nervous heart palpitations and jitters, just follow these half-dozen steps to get on a sustainable, alert-but-not-wigged-out caffeine high.
1. Say bye-bye to yucky coffee. This means a big adieu to Kraft, Nestle, Sara Lee, and Procter & Gamble — AKA the "big four." These coffee biggies helped engineer a huge overproduction of coffee that made coffee farmers dirt poor — a situation dubbed the coffee crisis. The four also got the American public used to drinking swill. If you're drinking canned Folgers coffee, you're probably downing twigs, dust and floor sweepings.2. Get a local roast. Brew coffee at home? Then get to know your local coffee roaster — You can get a quick list of fair trade coffee roasters in your state here to start. Not only will you support local business, you'll also get tastier, freshly roasted coffee. Plus, you won't incur more food travel miles by having your coffee shipped to you from, say, Seattle. Unless you live in Seattle, in which case you might try Pura Vida or Cafe Humana.
3. Opt for organic and fair trade. Why organic? So people don't have to pick coffee amid pesticides, and so you don't have to drink pesticides. Why fair trade? Fair trade coffee ensures that farmer co-ops receive at least $1.26 per lb of green coffee — a lot more than most coffee farmers get in the commodity market. Finding double-certified (both organic and fair trade) coffee isn't hard — And in fact, it's a fast-growing niche! Chances are, if your coffee roaster offers fair trade, it also offers double-certified coffee; about 80% of the fair trade certified coffee coming into the US is also organic. And if you're up for a challenge, you might look for triple-certification (organic, fair trade, and shade grown), but those are rather tough to find, especially locally.
4. Step away from that Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks gets great PR — They have excellent marketing people. But beyond the miniscule amount of fair trade and organic coffees offered in those ubiquitous stores (the mermaid doesn't have a single blend that's both fair trade AND organic), Starbucks has also been charged with unfair and predatory business practices that drives out local businesses, as well as union-busting. Or if you must go — maybe because all your local indie stores have already gone kaput — take the Starbucks Challenge
5. Check out your local indie coffee shop, especially if they offer organic or fair trade options. If you had a big Starbucks habit, you'll be in for a shock, because each indie coffee shop will be — gasp — different! It'll be a thrilling coffee adventure that'll keep your money in the local economy. Plus, indie coffee shops usually come with a lot of little privileges, like free wifi, locally baked goods, and friendly owners who listen to what you want — and might change things up for you (again, amenities will depend on location). Which brings us to –
6. Convert your coffeehouse. Dilemma: Your coffee shop's cute and local, but it doesn't brew anything organic or fair trade. What's a coffee addict to do? If you're feeling up to it, have a little chat with the owner or other people working there, starting with, "Hey, I love your coffee shop, and I was wondering…." Not that brave? Then send your coffee shop an email: "Hi! My name is [insert name] and I'm a Treehugger! Also, I love your coffee shop, and I would bike over with all my Treehugging friends every morning if you offered organic, fair trade coffee…."
7. Relax with your coffee. Resist the temptation to freak out because you can't find a triple-certified, solar-power-roasted coffee from a local cafe that composts and uses only CFL bulbs. That kind of all-or nothing thinking will only lead to a sad, Nescafe overdose! There is no "perfect" cup of coffee. Plus, each of our situations has its weird quirks. Maybe you're in a town where the only indie coffee shop's owned by a Hummer-loving oil magnate — in which case your best option might be to get the closest Cooperative Coffees company to ship some java over to you, ASAP….
Drink happy, stay caffeinated –
[This is a guest post by Siel from Green LA Girl. Thanks Siel! -Ed]