COFFEE: changing the world one cup at a time (Fair Trade Rocks!)

The king will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” Matthew 25:40

This morning's pot - circa 7:00 AM

Sometimes that first mug of coffee at the beginning of the day is so good it defies description. Out of bed, slight “chill” in the air (hey, it’s Florida, I can call 62-degrees “chill” if I want to!); quiet time with God and a long walk with Scout; pick up the newspaper; wake Rebekah with a steaming mug of “fair trade” morning Joe; and then breakfast without any hurry.

So what’s with the “fair trade” designation, you may be asking?

Well, first we need to understand just how extensive coffee consumption is. The global coffee market is worth between $80 and $100 billion. The US market (currently # 8 in the world) stands at between $18 and $20 billion. The average American drinks 3.1 cups per day, with a staggering 54% of the population in the “daily coffee-drinker” category and 25% more “occasional.”

Fair Trade

FAIR TRADE: Essentially, the fair trade movement is concerned with two things. The first is the appropriate treatment of coffee workers. Harvesting and production is labor intensive, and there is a huge amount of forced labor as well as outright slavery in the business. The second issue is economic benefit. In other words, do the impoverished communities where the workers live benefit in a reasonable way from their work?

However, even though the fair trade ideal is more widespread than ever, there is a long way to go. The most recent figures report a worldwide coffee production of over 7,000,000 metric tons. Of that, 33,991 metric tons were guaranteed fair trade. That’s still only around 0.5%. Or, put in fractions, just 1/200th of the coffee produced comes in under the fair trade umbrella.

Coffee we purchase through our church

So why is Coffee such a great candidate for world-wide pressure?

  • Everyone uses the product…
  • It’s consumed increasingly in affluent and industrialized economies…
  • Coffee is (I can’t believe I’m saying this)… optional…
  • There is a huge amount of money at stake…
  • The product can be easily traced from production to consumption…
  • The profit margin allows for a “win-win” scenario so that everyone benefits…

Here’s what I understand, from the limited reasoning scope of my Liberal Arts educated brain (yeah, Florida Governor Rick Scott, that was a jab at you!)…

The US coffee market alone has the clout to literally transform life in most coffee-producing communities. It’s simple, really. All we have to do as consumers is insist on the availability of fair-trade certified coffee. Not march in the street. Not go on a mission trip. Not send a check to a relief agency. Not compromise on quality. Simply look for the fair trade logo, buy that product, and let our merchant know that fair trade is all we will buy (and why).

Presbyterian coffee = yummy!

Rebekah and I purchase our coffee through the Presbyterian Coffee Project (click on the link for info). I am one of those people who insists on great coffee, and I don’t mind paying a little more for great over simply good. But, let me tell you, the Presbyterian Coffee Project coffee is as good as I’ve ever tasted. There are many blends to choose from, including my favorite Columbian, Sumatran and Ethiopian. Seriously, this is no compromise at all.

Truth in $$$$$: Like it or not, this world is a global marketplace. Therefore, as consumers, we no longer have the excuse to opt out of awareness or responsibility when it comes to how we spend our money.

There are billions of people in this world who are unmoved by the Gospel of Love; but they are very much partial to their chosen religion of money. There are also many who call themselves “Christian” who are also unmoved by the Gospel of Love; yet they, too, are more than a tad partial to their possessions.

Can't get too much of the good stuff!

As Jesus-followers then (as well as other readers of good conscience), the choice of how we chose to spend our money has the potential to advance the Gospel of Love even if we can’t get everyone on board when it comes to personal faith.

Like I said, fair trade is win-win. Isn’t it time you considered your responsibility to get on board?



  1. Thanks for the info.
    Of course Fair Trade has a lot of applications. One huge one is chocolate, a product that relies on a lot of abusive practices to child “employees”…
    Lots to think about….


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