How powerful is your coffee?
While it’s true that lighter roasts have more caffeine than darker roasts, that’s not what I’m talking about. Bulletproof coffee? Not talking about that either. Espresso? Nope.
Most people don’t drink their coffee and think, “I wonder whose life this cup of coffee changed today?” When most of us have our first cup of the morning, we’re not thinking about much at all. Since I’m handling boiling water and trying to pour it into a narrow tube called an Aeropress, I’m mostly thinking about avoiding an accidental burn.
So, let’s assume we’ve hard our morning consumption of caffeine and are able to think clearly about things.
Are you ready? This might be the most profound sentence you’ll read today. Here it is … Your coffee came from somewhere.
It was grown and harvested by a farmer or co-op, processed by workers, shipped by those same workers, and either roasted for you or sold to you as green beans.
Back in the days of the red Folgers can, we were told by commercials that our coffee was “mountain grown” and “hand-picked” by Juan Valdez. How Juan picked that much coffee is beyond me. He must have kept his mule pretty busy.
One of the things I most appreciate about the advent of specialty coffee is the attention it gives to where the coffee is grown and by whom. You not only know the beans came from Ethiopia but from the specific region and farm within Ethiopia. You can read about the family who has owned the farm for generations. You can see the people who are actually processing the beans that will eventually land in your burr grinder.
As with most important things in life, awareness is half the battle. When we are unaware (or uninformed) about an issue, it’s easy to think, “It’s just a cup of coffee.” When the price of our favorite beans increase by fifty cents or even a dollar, we get bothered.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to save money as much as anyone else. That’s one reason I home roast my beans — because pound for pound, the end product (roasted beans) is substantially less expensive.
But even if you buy your beans off the shelf or at a local roaster, just work the price backwards. You paid $15 dollars for 12oz of beans. It was roasted by roaster who has overhead (salaries, rent, supplies). He either purchased the green beans from a distributor or directly from the grower. Those beans had to be shipped and transported from places like Africa or South America. The farmer had to pay his workers, buy supplies, etc.
In many respects, it’s amazing that 12oz of beans only cost $15!
When you purchase fair trade, direct trade, or specialty coffee in general, your dollars are directly benefiting the people who actually grow your coffee. In many cases, it’s not a generic person or farm; you can know the actual person. Many roasters will post pictures and stories on their websites. Every now and then, Sweet Maria’s (where I buy my green beans) will drop a postcard in with my shipment, showing the people who grew, harvested, and processed my beans.
This is why specialty coffee is unlike most other foods and beverages we consume. Like wine and craft beer, every cup has a story — one that we can discover if we so desire.
You can simply purchase coffee beans and enjoy a good cup of coffee. Or, you can be intentional about the beans you purchase, enjoy a good cup of coffee, and know that you’re doing good at the same time.
That’s the power of coffee.