Seeds of Hope: A Sustainable Agriculture Project
Since many of you are brothers and sisters from our partner churches, you are aware that Guatemala is [...]
Drink Coffee and Do Good. A sign near our kitchen coffee pot has these words on it. I try to do both. If you are like me, you really need that first cup of coffee in the morning to get wide awake and ready for the day. Often the aroma preceding the taste itself can do the job for me. What do you really know about the coffee you drink? Do you make conscious decisions about your coffee? Read on….
The earliest evidence of coffee-drinking appears in modern-day Yemen in the middle of the 15th century. It takes four years between planting a coffee plant and the first harvest. Coffee plants are now cultivated in over 70 countries. Green, unroasted coffee is one of the most traded agricultural products worldwide.
Originally, coffee farming was done in the shade of trees, commonly referred to as "shade-grown." Beginning in the 1970s, many farmers switched their production to sun cultivation, in which coffee is grown in rows under full sun. Side effects of sun cultivation include: deforestation, pesticide pollution, habitat destruction, and soil and water degradation.
Coffee production uses a LOT of water. On average it takes about 37 gallons of water to grow the coffee beans needed to produce one cup of coffee, yet coffee is often grown in countries where there is already a water shortage.
Coffee has a number of classifications used to determine the participation of growers (or the supply chain) in various combinations of social, environmental and economic standards. Coffees fitting such categories and independently certified by an accredited third party are termed "sustainable coffees." Sustainable coffee is coffee that is both grown and marketed for its sustainability. This includes coffee certified as organic, fair trade and Rainforest Alliance.
The concept of fair trade labeling, which guarantees coffee growers a negotiated preharvest price, began in the late 1980s. Fair Trade is a set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals. Fair Trade ultimately aims to keep small farmers an active part of the world marketplace and aims to empower us, as consumers, to make purchases that support our values.
Like most food products that we buy, coffee calls us as Christians to consider our responsibility as stewards of God’s good creation. We need to consider who grew/harvested the coffee, the care for the environment in which it was grown, and who profited the most from the coffee sales. Reading labels helps us as do recommendations of faith communities and organizations. Many congregations are committed to serving only fair trade coffee on site. Some make fair traded coffee (and other fair-traded commodities like chocolate, tea, and olive oil) available for purchase by their faith communities.
Enjoy that first cup of coffee and the second, too. But be aware and thoughtful as you enjoy!