By Karina | November 23, 2009
I heard from a friend that she’d gone into Dunkin’ Donuts and learned that they sold fair trade coffee – which I thought was kind of amazing because 1. the chain is so ubiquitous in the northeast, and 2. because they don’t really publicize this much. So I did some research and it turns out that Dunkin’ Donuts has been a stealth provider of fair trade espresso beverages for many years now, since 2003. That’s pretty impressive, considering that most people shout this kind of thing from the hilltops when they do it, and also, that the early 2000s was, well, a long time ago!
However, I tried to find out if their regular coffee is fair trade certified (because that would be amazing!) and I don’t think it is. Just the espresso bean based coffees – so all of the lattes and other espresso drinks. Which, incidentally, I don’t usually drink – they’re generally packed full of sugar and other things, plus they’re more expensive than a cup of coffee. On the other hand *all* of their espresso is fair trade, which is a big commitment. Starbucks recently made news by pledging to increase their fair trade coffee from 20 million pounds per year, to 40 million pounds. And that’s all coffee products, not just espresso beans – from what I read it looks like the UK offerings are fair trade espresso products, while in the USA the drip coffee is the fair trade option i.e., NO espresso sold in the US is fair trade. This is the catch, I think – most drinks in the US are espresso drinks (from my colloquially gathered evidence!). However they always ought to serve you a fair trade coffee if you ask, and Cafe Estima is the name of the most common type they’ll serve you.
From my unscientifically gathered evidence, it seems kind of backwards, right? It seems like Dunkin’ Donuts serves more drip coffee, and so should prioritize the drip coffee to be fair trade, while the fancy espresso drinks that Starbucks serve seem to be the most popular, ergo the Starbucks espresso beans should be the first place to serve fair trade. Of course – if you have actual data and facts that refute these assumptions I hope you’ll post them!
So why is Fair Trade important when it comes to coffee? Global Exchange has a good page full of detail about it. Not only is coffee production an important labor issue – traditionally farmed coffee plantations can resemble sharecropping of American history, with underpaid workers bringing their children into the fields to help them make their daily picking quotas, but it’s also an important environmental issue, with many concerns:
‘Sun cultivated’ coffee involves the cutting down of trees, monocropping, and the input of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This type of industrial coffee farming leads to severe environmental problems, such as pesticide pollution, deforestation and the extinction of songbirds through habitat destruction. The Smithsonian Institute has identified industrial coffee production as one of the major threats to songbirds in the hemisphere due to deforestation – the birds no longer have a habitat in which to live. Soil and water sources continue to be severely degraded by many coffee farms, as coffee pulp is often dumped into streams. In addition to the harmful effects on the environment caused by the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides in coffee cultivation, workers are also at risk of drinking contaminated water and being poisoned by pesticides.
So go out there and take a chance asking for fair trade coffee at your favorite coffee shop. Heck, if even Starbucks is carrying it regularly, it’s the least you can do! Even the House of Representatives exclusively drinks fair trade coffee while they meander and muddy about significant legislation.
Do you have a favorite brand of coffee?
[[Photo from flickr user Sean Dreilinger via creative commons license.]]
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