I started getting into espresso coffee back in 2004 while I worked at my first office job. I used to disguise the taste with 2 teaspoons of sugar but even so, I was seldom blown away by the cafes in my area.
That christmas I decided to buy the family an espresso machine to enjoy cafe-level quality at home. I bought a machine at the entry price level and it lasted a whole two weeks before I returned it due to constant faults. Alongside the refund money I added a further investment of 200% of the original price and bought a more adequate machine. I still encountered problems as it was the first model of a new series but we still have that machine today and almost 5 years on, it continues to extract fantastic coffee.
Back to the story. Since I started buying coffee beans I knew that they came in two types; *fairtrade coffee and non-fairtrade coffee. Thanks to the oxfam, I had learned about this concept by visiting their stores.
So why fair trade?
I realised that most coffee in the world is cultivated in three third world continents; Asia, Africa and Latin America. If tomato farmers in Mexico are anything to go by then I knew that workers in the coffee industry weren’t getting a good deal. Why do I care? Well I am South American, I was born there. If I’m buying coffee, the last thing I want to do is fund an unethical component of the industry. A 250g bag of coffee today costs around $6. After the wholesalers and the roasters get paid, what’s left over for the farmers and the workers? So that’s basically it. I want to enjoy quality coffee without the feeling of guilt attached to it.
The movement has slowly picked up and now even the big players are getting heavily involved. Somewhere along the line, I started hearing about the rainforest alliance. I read a bit about them at a cafe and was pleased to see what they do. Then I asked myself: Why does the rainforest alliance exist if fair trade is already here?
Two things spurred me on to find an answer 1) How come all the big notorious names use rainforest alliance instead of fair trade? and 2) what’s the difference between the two anyway?
After doing some research, I have been led to believe that rainforest alliance is a watered down version of fair trade and that its priority is nature and agriculture rather than workers and the community.
Without wanting to go into it further, I leave the following links:
Rainforest Alliance Certification
Thanks to the comments below I am now more informed on rainforest alliance certification and their work with fair coffee. Their focus is not just on the economical welfare of coffee farmers but for the environment as a whole. Certification form rainforest alliance ensures that the best practises are used to ensure sustainability of the land and community. By maintaining these standards, the coffee industry can continue to grow without impacting negatively on their farming lands. Rainforest alliance also takes into account the human aspect of the process by teaching farmers how to use resources wisely and efficiently. This in turn allows farmers to reduce their costs and be able to compete better in an industry filled with big corporations.
**I thank everybody from rainforest alliance who aided me with the extra information.
So in closing I would like to say “The cheapest coffee costs you $6 a bag, good fairtrade costs about $10. It’s not gonna break your bank but for good quality and the ability to help the workers in this industry, how could you not consider the alternatives? Let’s put more pressure on our supermarkets and cafes, ask for and demand fair trade coffee. Support cafes and stores that do supply fairtrade.”
If you’re in Canberra and want to enjoy fairtrade coffee when you’re out and about, go to Cafe Essen, Garema Place, Civic. Costa Rican, East Timorese and Mexican Chiapas are three great roasts you can choose from their fair trade range.
* More information about fairtrade in Australia: http://www.fairtrade.com.au/
Where to buy fairtrade products in your local area: http://locator.fairtrade.org.nz/locator
Rainfores alliance sustainable agriculture standards: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/agriculture.cfm?id=standards