Just Ideas: Make That Coffee Fair Trade

April 17, 2008 by

This is part four of a four-part series called “Just Ideas,” looking at ways your church can commit itself to fighting for justice and righteousness in the society around you.

The Presbyterians like their sweatshop-free shirts, and the Episcopalians have another idea for you to seek justice. Fair trade coffee. Here’s how they describe it on their site:

A growing number of congregations and individuals are buying fair-trade, organic, shade-grown coffee. This means coffee growers in developing countries receive a fair wage for their product, which is grown in an environmentally friendly and sustainable fashion.

So when you’re hanging out before and after church, drinking coffee and talking with your friends, what’s that cup of joe supporting? Heck, maybe when someone is visiting your church, they’ll take a sip of that cup, think about what you’re doing and decide they want to be part of something like that.

When we support the economics and fairness of coffee growers around the world, we make a statement about Christ’s love for those people and our love for those that Christ loves.

A Google search for “Fair trade coffee” will be your best friend as you start your search for a steamy cup of justice.

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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10 Responses to “Just Ideas: Make That Coffee Fair Trade”

  • Steve K.
    April 17, 2008

    Joshua, thanks for making this suggestion. I think we take for granted how these “small” decisions (like whether or not our coffee is fair trade) add up to make a large difference as more and more of us combine our efforts.
    I’ve discovered that I can order fair trade coffee at Starbucks simply by asking for it. The barista has to prepare it via French press, which usually takes 5 more minutes but there is no extra cost and the wait is worth it to know that my coffee purchase is not contributing to the UNfair treatment of coffee growers elsewhere in the world. Oh you can’t get “half caff” with a French press coffee, so it’s either full-tilt or unleaded (I usually go full-tilt myself ;-)
    So the next time you’re ordering your usual “venti with room” at Starbucks, ask for fair trade coffee. You’ll be glad you did.

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  • John Felkins
    April 17, 2008

    Check out Ugly Mug Coffee. These guys are awesome.

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  • Dave
    April 17, 2008

    Our church sources fair trade coffee from Equal Exchange which is supported by quite a few denominations: http://equalexchange.stores.yahoo.net/info.html
    No other affiliation.

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  • Greg Smith
    April 17, 2008

    Hi guys… great comment… here’s a great place to find free trade coffee:

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  • nooc
    April 17, 2008

    I’m learning there are several sides to the fair trade story.
    While not as fashionable – the reality is that most premium coffee purchases trickle down favourably to the grower. Anything shade-grown or organic and most of what you pay a premium for at a cafe. This includes your non-fair-trade favourite at Starbucks. What’s to be avoided universally is purchasing cheap, generic and/or multinational-branded coffee.
    Premium coffee from Starbucks or other sources won’t trickle down as much as actual fair-trade certified but it’s competitive.
    And bear in mind that fair trade certification means the grower has to be part of a collective… so individual growers or family operations don’t qualify regardless of quality or growing methods… and they don’t survive unless you create the market for their stuff through non-certified avenues that offer their premium coffee.
    And since certification is more dependant on economic criteria than quality/flavour… the motivation to constantly be striving to grow the best possible coffee can be muted.
    Some of the above assertions above are not first-hand knowledge on my part but are true as far as I’ve heard/read.
    Just suggesting there may be value in digging a little deeper before choosing how your church or personal purchases will best benefit growers.
    You may want to see if your supplier is involved in “Direct Fair Trade” – which doesn’t just deal exclusively with cooperatives – and sometimes exceeds the payment to farmers that certified fair trade does.
    As one example, check out: http://www.levelground.com/direct_fair_trade

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  • Carole Turner
    April 17, 2008

    Hey, My church, HPC, serves Community Coffee in their cafe. I researched and found out that they practice Fair trade THEN read in Christianity Today about how the CEO of the company, back in the 90’s, started implimenting Fair Trade practices even before their was such a thing.
    I do go to Starbucks sometime but I give my business to Community Coffee as much as possible. It’s a local Louisiana company, very small, but their coffee is great and I like knowing they are helping the communities they are getting their beans from.

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  • Rich Barrett
    April 17, 2008

    nooc has some very good info above.
    I’ve been doing a little reading also and am learning that Fair Trade might be more hype than we realize, and in an effort to appear like we care about the “least of these” Christians are jumping on board without doing their own research.
    The reality is that the world consumes so much coffee every day that Fair Trade is not even close to being able to meet the demand. Not saying we shouldn’t move in that direction, but the reality is that large, commercial growers are necessary to meet the world’s hunger for the bean.

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  • nooc
    April 18, 2008

    The current coffee situation (aka “crisis” in coffee producing nations)… is very complicated and ultimately requires a political solution. It stems from international deregulation of the industry, a glut of low-quality coffee (especially of the inferior Robusta beans), and multinationals setting prices far below what it costs growers to actually produce the beans.
    You can google things like the International Coffee Agreement to learn more.
    Not really sure how to influence the situation politically so I’m kind of in “do what I can” mode… mix my buying between fair trade and other premium coffees, never buy multinational, make sure everything is 100% Arabica beans (so as not to support the market for inferior Robusta beans).
    US coffee drinkers might want to check out http://www.saintscoffee.com... buying a pound of fair trade/organic from them not only supports the growers but they also use a portion of the proceeds to feed orphans.
    I can personally vouch for the quality/taste of their “St. George the Dragonslayer” blend. (Awesome name, huh? – “I need a cup of Dragonslayer”)

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  • Drew Dyck
    April 18, 2008

    Drinking fair trade coffee is a great starting point. But our committment to justice must extend beyond sipping the right coffee. Sometimes in the west we tend to find ways to do what we’re already doing (ie drinking coffee or shopping) in a slightly more equitable way and call it charity when it can simply be a way to assuage our conscience without inconvenience.
    Drew Dyck

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  • Melissa
    April 22, 2008

    Another fan of Land of a Thousand Hills–in addition to paying the farmers a living wage, proceeds from every bag actually go back into microfinance loans for widows of the genocide in Rwanda. And it’s really good.

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