Food and Drink: November 2008 Archives

Fair Trade Coffee

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by Mama-Lu

There's fair trade coffee and then there's fair trade coffee.

In our house we do not use "Fair Trade Certified" coffee beans. "Fair Trade Certified" is a relatively new group of programs and they have their flaws. The most significant one being the cost to certify. Farmers have to pay inspectors to certify their farms, and the same goes for organic certification. So the farmer sees even less of his already small profits.

Instead we prefer to buy from small roasteries whose buyers investigate the farms themselves as part of the purchasing process. There is no extra cost for this, and the roasteries or buyers also get a chance to see in what way they might build up the communities in which the farms are located.

Here in Champaign, our own local Columbia Street Roastery is doing just that. So not only are we buying fair trade, but we are also supporting local business. It's a win-win. There are many other roasteries with practices like this; it just takes a little poking to find out what the companies values are.

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Fair Trade

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by Mama-Lu

October was Fair Trade month. All month I meant to put something up here about my thoughts on fair trade. Better late then never!

For some time I have been making a concerted effort to only purchase items that are sweat-shop/abuse free. The idea started with a simple question from our eldest, at the time 3 years old, "Who made my shoes?" The shoes came from Target and were made in China. My response was, "People working in a factory in China." The conversation continued with requests from him to visit China and see the factory where the shoes were made. Then we moved on, but in my mind I could not stop thinking about the "who" and the conditions under which that person worked.

In thinking about this person who suffered unknown injustices to make a pair of cheap shoes for my son, I felt complicit in their abuse. The obvious next step was to avoid this in the future. The question was and is, "How?"

So far, it has not been possible for me. Despite high ideals, I have all kinds of loop-holes and exceptions. Abuse of persons in the third world is frightenly common in our ordinary life. In our house two simple, yet significant, steps reduce participation in that abuse. First, we buy second hand as much as possible. The item's origin might have been a sweatshop, but our money is not supporting systemic abuse. Second we buy fair trade coffee and cocoa/chocolate. Coffee and cocoa are widely sold at prices that cannot support even remotely just practices. A few extra dollars for these luxuries prevents our money from driving a farmer deeper into debt or supporting the routine kidnapping of boys for labor.

These steps are not going to change the world, but they can bring about solidarity. We cannot avoid every level of abuse in our society. It is barely possible to avoid the abuses we are aware of let alone the ones of which we never even hear. Yet giving up and saying there is nothing that can be done is not an option for a person of conscience. Something must be done; something that says "I will not participate in the suffering of my brothers and sisters." These things are our small way of saying that. Hopefully, we will grow toward greater solidarity as we relearn how to shop.

Dorothy Day explained this much better than I ever could. I will try to locate her words on the subject and share them here, but until then I have a few more things to say on this subject, which I will save for another day.

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Trifecta

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Me: "Lord Byron famously proclaimed that lobster salad, served with champagne, was the only thing a woman should be seen eating."

She: I hate lobster

Me: You're not a big fan of champagne either.

She: And I don't really like Byron.

The review is actually pretty interesting.

The most gripping moments in Barbe-Nicole's saga occur in 1814 as Russian troops, retreating from battlefield defeat at the hands of Napoleon's armies, threatened to overrun Reims, where the family's then-flailing business was based. Ordering workmen to seal the entrance to her cellars, the widow hoped to prevent the soldiers from raiding her wines, especially those made in 1811, the year of a legendary grape harvest. The cellars were not looted, as it turned out; the soldiers mostly bought the wine, spreading the word of its nectar-like qualities when they returned east. "Today they drink," she said. "Tomorrow they will pay!"
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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Food and Drink category from November 2008.

Food and Drink: October 2008 is the previous archive.

Food and Drink: September 2009 is the next archive.

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