Thoughts of sipping coffee.

November 12, 2011


So for the past couple weeks I have been reading through "Uncommon Grounds" by Mark Pendergrast. The book mainly revolves around the history of coffee through the eyes of the United States and it's relationship with the countries that provide it to them. Due to this focus on this relationship, it makes it hard not to think about where the beans come from that make up that pound of coffee, err 3/4 pound, we get.



I have yet to really delve into the topic too much outside of this book other than a few articles I've read in the past like this one hereor this one. The first article cited is a piece written by Mark Prince about the plight of the growers of coffee and the other is about fair trade coffee written by Andrew Downie. Both of the articles talk about how hard it can be for the owner of these farms and the much more the actual pickers of the coffee cherries to have a decent life.



This is where the readings of the book come in, because since it is a history of coffee it does talk about some of the unforunate coffee cycles that we've seen since the turn of the last century, which are high prices for coffee and then over panting of coffee trees and rock bottom prices. It makes it hard for anyone that produces coffee to make a good living at it. While this is largely the case for a lot of agricultural products, my father was a farmer so I know this too well, the problem is the cycles in coffee are dramatic.



There things in place that are suppose to keep prices at decent levels like the Internation Coffee Agreement that sets up quotas for producing countries to export so the market should not be flooded with coffee. However, judging by the article written by Mark Prince and some of the other things that you occasionally hear on the news these things don't work all that well.



Personally, I don't know of a great solution. The best one that I can see of is just producing high quality beans that people like us who come to this site want to use. This is the view of one of the farmers that Mark Pendergrast talked to, Bill McAlpin who farms his La Minita estate in Costa Rica where at the time of writing in 2000 he was selling his coffee for a 3.99 per pound premium regardless of market price and was able to pay his workers a decent amount of money and kept full time help. He actually goes on to say that he doesn't like "fair trade" coffee because it is asking people to purchase out of guilt as oppose to the quality of the bean.



This seems like something that should be focused on, and while I don't know if fair trade should be disliked I would rather pay a farmer based on his work than a bit of cultural paternalism that fair trade does somewhat imply.



I do apologize for the some what wandering post, I just wanted to post something I had been thinking about.



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What's brewing?



Coffee:Vivace Vita



Method:Auto-drip



Taste:Very carmel sweet, with decent body. Best espresso I've had as a drip in a while.



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