#BlackHistoryEats / Day 25 / Coffee

 Source: www.fast-growing-trees.com

Source: www.fast-growing-trees.com

HISTORY /

  • Coffee beans (which are found at the center of the red cherry fruit) come from the Coffea plant -- small trees that are native to tropical and southern Africa and tropical Asia. 
  • Coffee rants as one of the world's most valuable and widely traded commodity crops
  • Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee (Coffea arabica).  The mystic Sufi pilgrims of Islam spread coffee throughout the Middle East and from there throughout European (and it's subsequent colonial empires)
  • It is believed that the ancestors of today's Oromo people in a region of Kaffa in Ethiopia were the first to recognize the energizing effect of the coffee plant (during the 10th century they mostly ate the red cherry fruit and didn't drink the coffee bean beverage we know today)
  • Ethiopia is the 3rd largest coffee producer in Africa. About 98% of the coffee in Ethiopia is produced by poor migrant workers on small farms and it is the country's most important export. 
  • Today, the top three countries that produce the world's coffee are Guatemala, Mexico, and Uganda. 

NUTRITION /

  • I get asked a lot weather or not coffee is "healthy" and my answer is always "it depends"
  • Coffee is naturally high in antioxidants (cancer fighters) but obviously this isn't the only source of antioxidants that we should be getting (e.g. it is healthy/balanced to drink a ton of coffee but never eat fruits and vegetables? nah).
  • Some studies conclude that coffee helps prevent type 2 diabetes but 
  • The most important question is not should you drink coffee (and not even how much coffee should you drink), but really, like every beverage, what are you adding to it.

PREPARATION /

  • Most of us have brewed, prepared and drank coffee at some point in our life. However, most are not aware how are coffee is produced and/or in what conditions small farmers AND migrant laborers work in.
  • Coffee farmers only get 7-10 percent of the retail price of coffee sold in supermarkets and both forced and child labor practices are very common.
  • Many folks (myself included) have been in the practice of purchasing fair trade products, especially coffee and chocolate. Here is a list of 14 fair trade coffee brands -- you may even recognize some of these brands at your favorite local coffee shop (in your favorite gentrified neighborhood (I kid, I kid -- or am I?)). However, it's come to light in recent years that the trademarked fair trade model is flawed for several reasons. Here is an article that explains some of this history -- and here is a HuffPost article that gives a condensed version. While the mission of FairTrade International (to "connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives") is a beautiful one, there isn't compelling data that shows that the extra 75 cents that you and I pay for our certified FairTrade coffee from Guatemala actually goes to the migrant worker (perhaps half a cent, but nothing significant). Some say that the fair trade model more benefits the Global North (more money is made because of social justice minded folks who are willing to spend 50 cents more on a FairTrade cup of coffee) than the Global South. 
  • I don't know the answers, but I do know that this is a perfect illustration as to why ethical consumerism--albeit "feels good"--is no quick fix will always be lacking.