Friday, September 12, 2008

Coffee 101

Can I just say.... I LOVE the whole coffee house culture?

I love sauntering up to the glass counter - filled with pastries and power bars and bananas - and ordering my Skinny Extra-Dry Cinnamon Dulce Cappuccino at 180. (Yeah, I'm one of those people.)

Some days it's not that complicated (or expensive). Some days it's just "Large, Dark Roast, Room for Light Cream."

I love all the different flavors and smells and sounds. I enjoy talking over the espresso machine to place an order. I like knowing what flavors go with what coffees from what areas of the world. And I LOVE it when my barrista knows my name - and my regular order.

If you are one of those people who never knows what to order, I'm the person you want next to you. I have, on more than one occasion, ordered for a perfect stranger who knew what they wanted, but didn't know how to order it.

It is because of this passion for the drink of bean, that I am initiating a new Friday theme: Coffee 101.

Basically, each Friday, I will highlight a coffee shop, or drink, or flavor that, I believe, can make all our lives a little more pleasant.

Today's Topic: Starbucks Coffee - Why You Shouldn't Feel Guilty About Expensive Coffee.

About three years ago, I chose Starbucks' Sumatra blend as a subject of an entire research paper. I traced the source of the bean (in Sumatra, Indonesia) from the farmer's fields all the way to my paper cup in the coffee shop in Athens, GA. And it was in the process of this research project that I discovered something:

Starbucks is the best coffee place on earth. Allow me to explain why...

Have you ever heard of "Fair Trade" coffee? Starbucks has.

In fact, they are the single largest purchaser of "Fair Trade" coffee in the U.S.

What does that mean? Starbucks pays third-world farmers above and beyond the "market value" for coffee in their region.

Example: "In 2003, when commercial-grade arabica coffee ranged from $0.55 - $0.70 per pound, Starbucks paid an average of $1.20 per pound for all our coffee."

Because of Starbucks' decision to participate in the "Fair Trade" program, farmers that harvest coffee beans for Starbucks very quickly become the wealthiest farmers in their region. In the case of Sumatra: "Originally, membership [in the Fair Trade organization] consisted of 100 small-scale coffee producers located in two villages. By the end of last year, there were 455 members from five villages." Not only that, but the Fair Trade Certified coffee is also organic, which means fewer harmful pesticides or toxins in those villages.

Granted, Starbucks isn't the only reason for this growth, and it certainly isn't the largest purchaser in every region.

But... it is the largest coffee chain in the U.S. that deals regularly with Fair Trade Farmers.

So, the next time you treat yourself to a Pumpkin Spice Latte, extra whip... or a Java Chip Frappuccino... or a plain ol' cup of joe, ask your barrista if it's Fair Trade coffee in your cup today.

If it's not, let them know you'd like to see that stuff brewed more often.

If it is, you don't have to feel so bad about spending $5 on a cup o' Joe, because that cup of Organic Fair Trade coffee in your paper cup means a better life, more food, higher education, and so much more to farmers in third-world countries around the world.

So, that's it, ya'll. Now I'd love to hear from you. Do you have any more creative names for Friday's theme? Coffee 101 is a little blah, in my opinion. Second, what's your favorite coffee? Coffee shop? Anything you always wanted to know about coffee, but you were too afraid to ask? This is your chance...

Sources are here and here.


superstarr said...

Brandy, I think you and I both know that you are the reason I drink coffee and have been able to spend any amount of my horded up, clinched with a fist, money. I have been taught well. I am your coffee Padawan learner.
Thanks Friend!!
And for a name
Maybe 'Friday Coffee Spaz Hour' or atlist you know that's what coffee does to me!!

Amy said...

Thank you so much for this education. I will feel less duped next time I buy a three dollar cup of black coffee.

Angela said...

How 'bout "Coffee Buzz"???

I almost can't live without coffee. In fact, life is not worth living if there isn't coffee involved.

Starbuck's is always my first choice, but can't always afford it. The Sam's brand (Member's Mark) is actually quite good, cheap AND Fair Trade! And it comes in a 2 lb bag. Can't beat that.

Debbie said...

Starbucks frozen frappuccino's, especially dulce de luche is by far my favorite. It is only enjoyed a few times a year on a special occasion because it just isn't in the budget, but I have to say that if you try, you can duplicate their products if you really want them but can't pay the price.

Debbie C. said...

How 'bout, "it ain't JO mama's Java", I don't know, I'm blank, maybe I need some coffee!!

Heather @ The Striving Wife said...

It's pretty late, all traces of caffeine have worn off, and I'm definitely not creative enough to come up with a blog name... but I do like coffee... especially WaWa coffee, which is a local favorite in my neck of the woods. (WaWa is like a QuickCheck, or 7Eleven, if that helps?) It's just yummy.

If you're thinking of doing a coffee blog, and you seem to know a lot about coffee (by the way, what does "extra dry" mean?), you should consider doing a "show"... like Gary Vaynerchuk at <-- He's pretty crazy, but he's built an AWESOME business around what he loves, which is wine.

Just something to consider... :)

The Quote That Started It All...

I myself have twelve hats, each one representing a different personality. Why be just yourself? - Margaret Atwood