Know your morning joe

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A cup of coffee with a dollar-bill as its shadow. The shadow represents the fact that coffee producers use cheap and poor quality coffee beans for hazelnut coffee, which results in a lower pay for coffee farmers. Photo by Igor Haritanovich/Pexels

Recently, I wrote a poem romanticizing my morning coffee. Rereading this snippet of the poem inspired my coffee-themed article this week: 

“The coffee spills over and I remember the here and now. That is how it goes, anyways. Constantly pulled between then and now. Getting caught up in thinking. And sometimes in feeling. But always willing to tap back into the present. Being in the here and now takes me away from there and I don’t know where, always, it will be, but I do know I would much rather be here, realizing things like how these hours are my favorite / i am forgetting the harshness of the moon / i am remembering what it means to rise with the sun / i am remembering i can always choose to try again/ 

I watch the steam rise from the mug. Watch it dissipate and think of how every moment dissipates into the next…” 

First, a wave of gratitude washed over me as I thought of the coffee farmers who made this cup of joe possible. It’s a labor-intensive job, especially since most coffee cherries are picked by hand. The cherries that are not hand-picked are often of lesser quality; when they’re hand-picked, the farmers intentionally choose which ones to harvest. 

The mechanized forms of harvesting are also not an option for many coffee farmers, since coffee farms are commonly in mountainous areas. This means the environment is not well-suited for large machines to go through the tree rows.  

I also have to say I’m not some sort of coffee aficionado. I enjoy the 99-cent coffee from Cumberland Farms as much as I enjoy what is roasted on site at specialty coffee shops. Seeing as how my go-to order is always a medium coffee with almond milk, I wondered if I even have the grounds to write an entire article about coffee. I realized that, despite me not being a professional in the coffee realm, I still feel strongly about this because it goes back to an idea I think about regularly: Farmer’s rights and, specifically, in this instance, the rights of coffee farmers.  

This article is specifically anti-artificially flavored coffee. 

Flavors such as French vanilla or hazelnut come at the expense of farmers’ livelihoods. Coffee producers create hazelnut coffee by using the coffee beans that are cheap and of poor quality — the coffee beans that are not good enough to roast as their natural flavor. This means the farmers are paid less for these beans. This is especially devastating, considering that 44% of coffee farmers earn below the poverty line and 22% of coffee farmers live in extreme poverty.  

For those that know me, sustainable farming and supporting community-based farms are important to me. I don’t really know who I would be without the role that farms and community-supported agriculture have had in my life.  

It’s why I’ve researched and come to the conclusion that when I’m purchasing my coffee grounds, an indicator of ethically-sourced coffee is if the label says “single origin.” This means that the coffee beans can most likely be traced back to the exact farm they were harvested from and that the amount of middle-men between me and the coffee farmer is as few as possible, maximizing the profit and autonomy of the coffee farmer. How could I write poetry about beauteous cups of coffee if I know that the farmers behind that mug are being taken advantage of? 

I know I am no coffee expert. I aspire to be in a constant state of learning new information about the things I interact with on a daily basis — coffee, food, environment and clothing, to name a few. Yet from what I’ve read so far, I feel confident in my anti-artificial coffee stance. I prefer natural coffee beans that support small coffee farmers instead of chemically-washed beans that don’t provide farmers that same financial benefit.

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