Coffee Wars: Battle of the Beans
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST
Enter Email
CONTRIBUTE TODAY
FOLLOW US ON
FEATURED CAMPAIGN

 Watch the Video

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare

The Emory Wheel, Aug 23, 2010
 

As of Fall 2010, a war is set to begin on Emory’scampus, one between the David and the Goliath of the coffee industry.

Café Campesino, a Georgia-based, organic, shade-grown and Fair Trade Federation coffee roaster and retailer, will take on Starbucks in the new bookstore, which was constructed merely 100 yards away from another Starbucks in Emory Village. You might say the fight is between David and Goliath, plus Goliath’s twin brother.

Thus far, dedicated students and faculty members have put forth tremendous effort to make the most sustainable coffee in Georgia readily available on campus. The presence of educational gardens, regional/local food choices in Dobbs University Center and Cox Hall, a weekly farmers’ market and the continuous brewing of Café Campesino in multiple locales all attest to the administration’s dedication to creating a ‘green’ university.

But criticism of the administration also travels between students and over coffee tables. By giving Starbucks a physical presence within the confines of campus, Emory has risked undermining the very message they send to their students and the public.

For a majority of students, fair trade coffee serves as a rallying point for the uninitiated, those unfamiliar with the fair trade movement. Students, so often sleep deprived, drink coffee in mass quantities for most of the year. It is the energy boost at night and the much-needed wakeup in the morning. For the sake of context, coffee also happens to be the most popular commodity traded fairly.

But what exactly is “fair trade coffee?” Traditionally, coffee farmers live in the poorest regions of the poorest countries of the world. An overwhelming majority of coffee communities are plagued by crushing poverty and powerlessness. Because of political strife or racial discrimination, many farmers struggle to survive, unable to voice their problems to a concerned party.

Fair trade is an alternative movement that began about 30 years ago and aims to change the way international trade is executed. Whereas in free trade the social aspect of production is sacrificed in order to keep prices at the minimum, fair trade has prioritized environmental and humanitarian stewardship. The movement relies upon a direct, mutually beneficial partnership between a producer and a consumer that maintains transparency, dialogue and justice.

In the case of coffee, fair trade depends upon the equitable exchange of the highest quality coffee in return for financial security and the benefits of connections to an ethically engaged company. The fair trade premiums actually cover the cost of production for the coffee farmer and enable them to rise out of poverty. Because fair trade empowers community members, it facilitates local development in a way that can truly and substantially improve the quality of life for everyone.

Large corporations like Starbucks, who wield enormous amounts of power in the coffee industry when it comes to price-setting, have great influence over the abysmal conditions of the coffee world, but most opt to enlist the help of members of the communities, aptly called “coyotes,” to ensure that the coffee farmers receive the absolute lowest price for their coffee. It’s capitalism at its best and its worst.

In other cups, Café Campesino has taken the fair trade approach, one grounded in mutual benefits. And while Starbucks certainly does not have the best reputation in the fair trade coffee world for actively advocating fairness and justice, they have committed themselves to becoming responsible buyers through their “Café Practices” regulations.

It is because of pressure from the fair trade coffee pioneer Equal Exchange that Starbucks began purchasing certified fair trade beans, and because of their great size, the volume they purchase (which is only about 5 percent of their entire volume) has made a noticeable impact on the fair trade market.

So while Starbucks may not completely embrace the principles of the fair trade movement, their purchase of fair trade certified beans has undeniably made a prodigious impact on the lives of many, many farmers.

So the stage is set, and as freshmen take their first steps on campus, the battle between two ideals — one ground in capitalism, the other social responsibility — will begin. But this war has an interesting rule: a third party will decide the victor.

Students, professors and administrators — the people of Emory — will choose a side, aware or not. And which side they take will say much about how sustainable Emory truly is.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailShare

Truly Equitable Trade: A Vision for Transformative Markets

credit - Equal Exchange Coop - Cooperativa Norandino Members

Fair trade has shown itself to be a successful model for building capacity and allowing marginalized producers to enter the market. Yet the fair trade movement is falling short of its potential to achieve genuine, profound, inclusive and democratic fair trade that truly transforms the way in which markets and economies are established. In June […]

The Road to Food Sovereignty

Global Land Use and Food Production Statistics

For every dollar consumers spent in supermarkets, health and environmental damages cost two dollars more. Our planet can no longer afford the industrial food chain that is destroying our planet and our health. The solution? To support the interlinked network of small-scale farmers, livestock-keepers, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers, fishers and urban producers who already feed […]

Fair For All: The Climate Solutions Embedded in Fair Trade

Woman picks Papaya - Serendipol - Dr Bronner

Experts agree, it’s high time we make some changes in the ways we grow food and crops. The good news is that small scale-farmers and their fair trade cooperatives are already leading the way to a new future—read on for seven principles that fair trade and climate advocates can agree on. Written by Anna Canning […]

Collaborating to Cool the Planet

photo-credit: Coop Coffees - Training group

How Farmer-to-Farmer Trainings Are Spreading New Solutions to Climate Change In the fall of 2017, Grow Ahead, a partner of Fair World Project, successfully crowdfunded a farmer-to-farmer training in Nicaragua. Here’s what José Fernando Reyes of Norandino Cooperative in Peru has to say about his experience. How Farmer-to-Farmer Trainings are Spreading New Solutions to Climate […]

Building Power From the Ground Up

Black Dirt Farm Collective

“There is no food sovereignty without land; land really is the basis of power, and it does not get simpler than that. Land is the primary mechanism for many of us poor folks and people of color to actually have something to stand on and have a future to farm. And it is not just […]

Product Picks

Tortilla Stones

We asked members of our staff and editorial board for some of their current favorite products that support traditional foods and the communities they are rooted in. Find them online or at your favorite natural food store! Deforestation, decreasing biodiversity, increasing pesticide use – those are just a few of the ways that our industrial […]

Fair Trade is the Pathway to Regenerative Agriculture

Coop Coffee

The movement for a food system that sustains people and planet is been growing. Fair trade offers a model to incorporate fair livelihoods and the true cost of production into regenerative agriculture models that are both new and very old, feeding the world and tending the planet. Written by Ryan Zinn The climate is changing, […]

A Soil-to-Soil Vision for the Fashion Revolution

Paige Green - Fibershed

From origins in Northern California, Fibershed is building a global network of regional regenerative fiber systems. Founder Rebecca Burgess describes her vision for vibrant local fibersheds that connect us to the landscapes that grow what we wear and sustains a new generation of farmers, ranchers, natural dyers and mills. From conventional cotton production, which uses […]

Fair Trade As We Do It: the Story of Jumbo Nuts

Annie Jose sewing rice seeds into her rice paddy

Fair Trade Alliance Kerala, the small-farmer collective I work for, is recapturing the homestead farming traditions of Kerala. Our goal is to grow to about 10,000 farming families stewarding about 40,000 acres of farmland, creating conditions that are akin to a tropical rainforest in crop diversity and biodiversity. For us, biodiversity is a food security […]

Regenetarians Unite!

Regenetarians Unite

As eaters, we have a choice: will our diets restore and replenish the earth, or will they deplete it? An exploration of three key principles that look beyond simple distinctions between omnivore and vegan towards a new Regenetarian ethos. By David Bronner How the Regenerative Agriculture and Animal Welfare Movements Can End Factory Farming, Restore […]