The day has finally come. My pre-Lent-bought Trader Joe’s cuppa fair trade joe has run out, and I need to find a coffee source. I’m not embargoing the world here! I mentioned in the comments of this blog that I plan to buy fair trade for some of my non-New-England staples (coffee and coconut oil). BUT I don’t really know anything about fair trade, and if you do a little searching on the interwebs, there is some understandable skepticism about it. Coffee, in particular, is super complicated…
Here are some of the things I read:
- From the famous Cracked.com: 4 Reasons Why Fair Trade Coffee is a Scam. Doesn’t really offer me any alternatives, but okay…
- Oh looky: an economics class blog! Let’s see what the young minds think of this fair trade “scam”. Still no alternatives…
- Fair Trade: Is it Really Fair? The pros and cons from our United Kingdom brothers and sisters.
- The Unethical Consequences of Ethical Coffee–Help me!
I was getting pretty discouraged… Still am a little.
Enter a new term: Direct Trade [Coffee].
It is what it sounds like. Small independent passionate coffee roasters buy from the small independent passionate coffee growers. The fair trade middle man is no longer necessary. Check out what Chicago-based Intelligentsia does, as far as I can tell, they coined the term.
Right now, there isn’t any sort of official certification process. There isn’t anyone checking up on these buyers, but I can’t help but feel like, there is something good here, because there is passion here. Good practice came/comes out a good passion for coffee. So for now, it’s not just a consumer tool offering me an ethical placebo effect. It’s genuine love in every bean.
Enter this guy: George Howell.
How can you not buy coffee from this guy?!?! About 10 years ago Starbucks bought out George’s popular Boston-based cafes: The Coffee Connection. Part of the deal was that he couldn’t open another cafe, or sell coffee, for 10 years. Now, like the Terminator, he is back. He basically spent the past 10 years travelling the world to find the best coffee and planning his coffee empire in the coffee death star (I feel like I’m somehow getting away from the ethical parts of this, but I can’t resist the analogies!). You can read more about him here and here and here. Here are his thoughts on fair trade, but his thing is direct trade coffee.
Whether you buy into this direct trade thing or not (it’s pretty new), coffee connoisseur, good luck to you in finding your perfect, happy, ethical, cuppa joe. George’s stuff will be mine.