morning communion

It is time to drink coffee. Dear God, we praise this drink and give thanks for its discovery and development. We salute the coffee bean; its delicious aroma. Beloved provider of caffeine and giver of life.

Giving and giving and giving.

The scent of its bean is promise and rapture.

Rejoice and rejoice! Celebrate the dark, sweet and yet slightly embittered soul of caffeinated goodness. Behold the delicious flavour! Behold the soft caramel crema that swirls through a sea of perfectly frothed milk. Let us rejoice! Let this rejoicing be our thanks for coffee.

(Shamelessly ‘adapted’ from Michael Leunig’s prayer for tomatoes in ‘A Common Prayer: a cartoonist talks to God’)

I think it’s fair to say that without coffee in the morning, I am, well, less than pleasant company. As evidenced by the rather icy reception
Brett received Wednesday morning around 7am, when he ‘bounced’ into Canteen (a café on Enfield St in Auckland city) with a smile on his face. I didn’t feel the need to return the gesture. Needless to say, my coffee had not yet arrived. Despite that I did manage to crack a smile by the end of the conversation, though not without the revelation of particularly good news. In truth, it didn’t really sink in until around 8:30am, when I found myself feeling ecstatic. I guess the caffeine had actually started doing its job.

I love coffee.

My favorite morning ritual, is sitting in the study with
Jacob before we leave for work, drinking our morning coffee, slowly waking up, and doing our scripture readings. Our morning coffee and readings has become a part of the fabric of our life. Drinking coffee together, enjoying the coffee and one another’s company; reading God’s word together, and wrestling with the hard bits, together; these are defining features of our relationship.

Recently though, the coffee has been leaving a slightly bitter taste.

Not in my mouth.

In my soul.

Every morning, as I inhale that first beautiful aroma of freshly perked coffee, drifting from the kitchen, across the hallway and into our room as I finish getting ready for work, I find myself pondering not just the wondrous creation that is the coffee bean, but the awful plight of so many of the people who work to harvest it.

It’s not the first time I have thought about this. Jacob and I have experimented with numerous varieties of coffee beans, including various certified fair trade and or organic blends. But until recently the verdict has always been ‘too awful’ or ‘too expensive’. The result has been that we have tried to stay faithful to smaller New Zealand suppliers (like Coffee Supreme, Café L’Affarré, Atomic and Allpress) who import green beans themselves. While this doesn’t guarantee that all the beans are strictly ‘fair trade’, it does mean that a much higher percentage (estimated 70%) of it is bought from co-operative growing ventures that guarantee a much better return for harvesters. (If you want some stats on this you can get a lot of info from the company websites – Jacob and I also have a couple of articles, one specifically on NZ coffee industry which I can send your way if you’re interested.) So having done a little research, we rested easier. We were at least contributing something positive to the coffee industry.

Then I read Hope’s post on Fair Trade Chocolate.

It got under my skin.

Was it really enough just to do ‘something’? Could we try harder? Should we try harder? Maybe if Hope was 19 I could have delivered my complicated moral arguments about why it was ok for us to keep consuming as we were. But the idea of trying to deliver them to a 9 year old seemed unconscionable. Not because she wasn’t capable of understanding it, but because deep down I knew that the fabric of my argument was just too thin. Hope would be too clever not to see through it.

So we did some more research. Well, Jacob did some more research. (Librarians are kind of good at the whole research thing!) Eventually, after much discussion we have decided that it was time to change supplier. So as of the end of next week the Powell’s will be serving nothing but Havana. 100% fair trade*, 100% non-inflated prices, 100% fabulous coffee.
(*Havana sell some beans/blends that are not certified ‘fair trade’. Fair Trade certification is not just a set of standards you have to meet; it is also something you have to pay for. Some growers in poorer countries can’t afford to pay for the right to label their products ‘certified organic’ or ‘certified fair trade’ even when they meet the agreed standards.)

I’m not sure why we didn’t think about going with Havana a long time ago. We have been long time fans of Fidel’s on Cuba St in Wellington. I would rate Fidel’s, who serve Havana coffee, as one the best coffee experiences to be had in NZ. But you don’t find many places that serve Havana here in Auckland, and the beans aren’t right there in front of you to buy off the shelf in the supermarket. However, you can buy it direct from the supplier; which is exactly what we are going to do. Freshly roasted coffee delivered on an overnight courier. It’ll probably be fresher than the beans we currently buy. Nice.

Supply and demand. We demand something better…for everyone, and, voilà – supply.


BJ said…
Hmm, must do something about that early morning "bounciness" :) I've had a few complaints lately...resentful glances and the like...

I am gald to be joining you in the Havana experience even if the communists and cigars are a compromise I'm prepared to make a stand on and/or against...
Uncle Jakey said…
Nothing wrong with the odd cigar or two. Well, except for, perhaps, the long-term health conquences. Cuban ones are even better!

Never smoked a communist before though...
Anneke said…
Glad to hear that the 'Melissa: pre-coffee' experience hasn't changed...

Fairtrade seems to be much more of a big deal here in the UK than it is in NZ - though perhaps things have changed since I left NZ. I think the fairtrade coffee I get from Oxfam is pretty good and there is definitely a bigger range of brands and styles than there used to be. Qute a few cafes in Oxford serve only fair trade, and there are various bits of the university that only serve fairtrade (e.g., colleges, departments). I'm not sure my college is quite there yet, but there is definitely the feeling amongst the students that that's the way we want to go!
melissa said…
Yes, some things never change. Although apparently your lack of morning wakefulness did. I'm still not quite convinced - I need more evidence.

The fair trade thing has gained a little more momentum here. But the options are a bit limited. I look forward to the day when I can walk into a clothing store knowing that every item on the shelves is fair trade, from the making of the fabric to the final product on the shelf. Some stores are at least trying but we are a way off that yet.

Anarchy, how did I not know you had a blog?

Nice brain though :)
Andrew said…
Hi Melissa, Andrew here from Carey days. Have you tried Zekes? Fair Trade, Organic, Shade Grown, damn good (silver medal at NZ coffee awards), roasted the day before, delivered to your door (if you buy 300 grams) and done by two very nice Baptists!
melissa said…
Hey Andrew,

Nice to hear from you- if somewhat random! Thanks for the tip, I haven't seen/heard of Zekes before so I will have to check them out.

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