Thursday, October 6, 2011

Coffee - wake up and smell the truth!

I know... I'm like Debbie Downer lately. Here's the thing, I have been made aware of a serious problem. Well... the truth is, I have always been aware. Everyone knows about child labour...(at least I hope!!) The question is, do we really take the time to understand the impact of child labour and what we can do to change it?
Ignorance is bliss and honestly all this knowledge about famine, sweatshops, damage to earth, animal cruelty, etc... etc... is very overwhelming. We can't be expected to know it all, or to do the right thing all the time. But, we can work at it one thing at a time. We can educate ourselves and share with others to increase awareness around the globe.
Coffee growing is a very labor intensive product to harvest and many coffee plantations use child labour. This happens in many countries in the world... but let's focus on Kenya. In Kenya, approximately 4 million children ages ranging from 6-14 were reported working in the commercial agricultural department. In the plantations about 50-60 percent of the workers during coffee pickings peak season were children. The children working in this kind of environment are exposed to various diseases. Such as malaria, influenza, and pneumonia. These children are not only exposed to the many diseases but also to the filthy drinking water.
These children are paid under the minimum wage, and often no wage at all. They are also victims of child trafficking, taken from their families and their villages. These children are not able to attend school and are often subject to brutality.
In Kenya, coffee workers (adults) earn about US$12 per month, while the legal minimum wage is 3 - 4 times that amount. Almost half of the workers are illiterate.  This creates a very vicious cycle. Labourers in Coffee farms, were typically raised in coffee communities - where their parents worked the fields. The parents are not paid enough to send their children to school and can hardly afford to feed the family, so they bring their children to work too. The children grow up in the fields, have children of their own, and the cycle continues. With no education, they are unable to break the cycle.

By supporting Fair Trade Coffee, you are acknowledging the inhumane treatment of these labourers. You are standing up and saying, "Yes, I will pay 20 cents more to ensure the fair treatment of all coffee labourers, so their children will be ensured an education and so no child will be stolen from his family."
So, I have a confession to make. A month ago, I was in Safeway looking to buy coffee. I got a small pang of excitement as I suddenly thought of looking for Kenya coffee... we have never tasted it before! Well my eyes quickly scrolled the little bags of goodness... fair trade Colombian, fair trade Rainforest blend, fair trade Arabica... etc, until I spotted Kenyan coffee. But!... not fair trade? Every coffee flavour of this brand was fair trade except Kenya. How can this be? I scoured the shelves for a fair trade Kenya roast - but without luck. This was the only Kenyan coffee. So you know what I did? I bought it. My selfishness and excitement to taste it, overcame my senses. It totally wasn't worth it though. After watching a documentary on child slave labour (which I will show next week) - every cup I have, I think of the child's sweat that went in to make that coffee.

Here is a great list of affordable free trade coffee. Thanks to Crossing Borders.

Coffee Shops and Bagged Coffee

1) DUNKIN' DONUTS--The leading retailer of coffee and baked goods in the world, They were the first National brand to sell espresso beverages made exclusively with Fair Trade Certified beans.

2) STARBUCK'S--Ask for their Estima Blend. In 2009 they doubled their purchases of fair trade coffee to 40 million pounds, making the company the largest purchaser of Fair Trade Certified coffee in the world.

3) PEET'S COFFEE AND TEA--Peet's Fair Trade Blend. Peet’s pays apremium to all of this blend's suppliers for producing coffees of superior flavor, as well as ten cents from every pound to thenon-profit group TransFair USA for promoting Fair Trade.

4) BRUEGGER'S--Bruegger's and Green Mountain Coffee share a commitment to quality--and to people both locally and globally that make their partnership in fair trade work. Green Mountain is an industry leader in fair trade coffee.

5) COSTCO--Costco's own brand, Kirkland, makes Kirkland Signature Fair Trade Coffee, roasted by Starbucks.

6) SAFEWAY--Seattle's Best signed an agreement with Safeway Inc. to sell their entire coffee line of organic, fari trade coffee. The agreement will result in the largest distribution of Fair Trade Certified, organically grown coffee products in North American grocery stores to date.

7) SAM'S CLUB--Fair Trade is in the Can: Sam's Club Converts Private Label Member's Mark Premium Ground Coffee to Fair Trade Certified.

8) TARGET--The company's Archer Farm's brand now has Fair TradeCertified Organic Tierra Del Sol Coffee.

9) TRADER JOE'S--By choosing Fair Trade Coffees from Trader Joe’s, you are supporting economic independence for coffee farming families. One of Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Coffees was selected from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Sumatra. It is sold as their Organic Five Country Espresso Blend.

10) WEGMAN'S--Buy their Green Mountain Fair Trade organic coffee, ground, Vanilla Cream, Flavored/Light Roast.

PS - "Tim Hortons does not sell organic coffee, does not sell Fair Trade coffee, and does not disclose the source of its green beans." They do claim to be involved in a partnership where they support coffee communities. Hmmm... but yet, they still won't let the cat out of the bag of where they get their coffee from. Wonder why that is? This partnership sounds like a smoke and mirror initiative to me. I am not convinced.

(Stay tuned for Chocolate's dirty little secret, and a fantastic documentary - next week!!)

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