Brew the Right Thing

by Jeanne

Auduboncoffee Today is International Migratory Bird Day and World Fair Trade Day.  And it seems that we should all have a cup o’ coffee. 

Now I want you to know that I am a pretty cynical consumer when I see big corporations jumping on causes for their own gain.  When I started this post I wanted to challenge Starbucks.  However, I’ve altered–if ever so slightly–my perceptions.

You see Starbucks is wrapping its fair trade coffee arms around World Fair Trade by featuring fair trade coffee as the "Coffee of the Week" until May 15.  In 2001, Starbucks purchased 1 million pounds; in fiscal year 2002, 1.1 million pounds were purchased; in fiscal year 2003, the Company purchased 2.1 million pounds; and in fiscal 2004, the amount more than doubled to 4.8 million pounds. The coffee giant is committed to purchasing 10 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified coffee, which according to TransFair USA would account for nearly 25 percent of all Fair Trade coffee imported into the United States in 2005.

Starbucks also works with farmers and co-op managers in Costa Rica with its team of agronomists and sustainability experts to develop best practices for growing quality coffee responsibly and on improving the quality of coffee crops

And what I didn’t know is that Starbucks Fair Trade Blend coffee is promoted as Coffee Of the Week on a quarterly basis and can be brewed anytime upon request in the U.S. and Canada.  Of course, there’s a premium charge placed on the specialness of the beans. But even this small price means a lot to the producers, who are mostly small family farmers. While most bean growers receive about 20 cents per pound, the fair trade price is $1.26 – a difference that can provide a decent life in countries such as Colombia, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

According to Transfair there are about 400 companies that sell fair trade products, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Proctor & Gamble, makers of Millstone. Just this week Cadbury-Schweppes announced it’s purchase of organic-fair trade confectionery maker Green & Black’s.  Unilever, owners of Ben & Jerry’s, has joined the party with Coffee Heath Bar Crunch and Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz flavors which has been certified by Transfair USA with it’s "Fair Trade Certified" mark.  Transfair is an Oakland-based nonprofit group that audits the books of U.S. companies to ensure that the ingredients come from farmers who get fair prices for their goods.

And let’s not forget International Migratory Bird Day, which celebrates the incredible journeys of migratory birds between their breeding grounds in North America and their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central, and South America.  Today’s goal of the three sponsoring organizations–Audubon, the Rogers Family Coffee Companies and the Rainforest Alliance–is to promote environmentally and socially responsible products that protect bird species, wildlife habitat, and dwindling rainforests, and raise the quality of life for people in the world’s coffee growing regions.

The beans can be found in San Francisco and around the bay at Andronico’s, visiting the Audubon Coffee Club or by calling 800-770-9381.

So while I still have a problem with Starbucks non-stop aggressive expansion policy because it pushes out the small, locally run coffee shops I am willing to let up on them a little bit. Grab a thermos of fairly trade, organic, shade grown coffee and visit your local Audubon sanctuary or rent the remarkable and beautiful Winged Migration.

Earlier post on Fair Trade Chocolate