Saturday, January 25, 2014

Made in the USA: Coffee

OMFG, I hope you care about coffee.
Specifically, I hope you care about fair-trade coffee. 
Sometimes when I'm wandering down the coffee/tea aisle of Chain Grocery Store I become lost in aromatic contemplation over what values Dunkin' is actually Driven on. I percolate over whether Newman's Own's non-profit status means that their coffee-bean pickers get paid on a non-profit payscale. I steam up over the tangled web of Starbucks' clever price-fixing scheme with the Kenyan coffee cooperatives that I read about ever so many years ago in graduate school. 
Then I think about the planet. 
Coffee is bad, folks. It turns locavore tree-huggers into jonesing addicts with carbon footprints spanning hundreds of thousands of klicks. If you add in Keurig single-serve coffee makers, you become personally responsible for the death of panda bears. Or polar bears. Or koala bears-- something cute and sufficiently removed from eating us to seem vitally adorable to children nursery wallpaper motifs. 
Our national obsession with a substance with an almost 100% addiction rate is compounded with a production model encompassing the social ills of capitalism in the Third World. 
All. Of. Them. 
Thank goodness for the colonization of  Hawai'i!

What I mean to say is, hey, we Americans now have access to American-made coffee. Homegrown, fair labor standard coffee. Coffee that is domestically produced in the US of A. By Americans. 

Buy American. Period. 

See... here:
Certifications such as Organic and Fair Trade may bring in a little extra business but for a small Kona coffee farm like us, the expense of certification is not justified.  That doesn't matter though, just because we're not certified doesn't mean we can't follow the practices.  We can't call our coffee "cerified organic" unless we pay for certification but we still follow organic practices whenever we can.  We pay our pickers well because that makes good business sense and it's the right thing to do, not because some certification agency told us to.  
So the official answer is that Kona Earth cannot get fair trade certified.  The realistic answer is that we pay more than ten times the wages paid by fair trade farms so:  YES! Kona Earth coffee does indeed follow fair trade practices. 
And if you check out the pic in this Kona Earth Coffee blog post from May 2009, you may see just how American these growers are! Their workers drink Coors Light! On the job! 'MERICA!

Fair-trade certifications exist for a reason. Like any regulation, a certification has to be stringent and comprehensive in order to be effective. To have enforcement of standards you need supervision. To have supervision, you need to have people who either believe enough to donate their time or are paid to administer the task in a professional manner. It helps to pay them enough not to take bribes. Don't ask me; ask the DEA and the FBI. Outside of unorganized crime, you have corporate criminals who are organized enough to buy the whole system and then re-write the standards to suit themselves. That's another story. Back to mainstream takes money. 

For smaller farm operations, and ironically, many producers who follow the practices endorsed by fair-trade and organic certifications, the economics just don't work. Certifications are time-intensive and pay-to-play. Some places choose not to certify but are operators you'd want to buy from....and somewhat more importantly for a woman on a budget, can afford to buy from because they don't need to charge a bizillion dollars for your daily fix. But here is where the catch-22 bites you in the a$$ because without the certification, how can you tell?

Buy Kona. Buy American. And enjoy a sweet, sustainable cuppa. 

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