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.