CHOW Tips:  Coffee

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Coffee may taste good and get you going in the morning, but did you know coffee also has a number of health benefits?

A growing body of research shows that coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and dementia, and have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes.

Banish bitter coffee from your repertoire.  Choose from 12 quick and easy CHOW Tips that will have you brewing a delicious cup each time, whether your drink of choice is a cappuccino, latte, Americano, or just plain drip.



  1. Coffee Processing
  2. Coffee Roasting
  3. Ecological Effects
  1. Health Benefits
  2. Health Risks

Coffee is a brewed drink prepared from roasted coffee seeds, called coffee beans, of the coffee plant.  Coffee beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees in over 70 countries, cultivated primarily in equatorial Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa.  Green (unroasted) coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world.  Coffee can have a stimulating effect on humans due to its caffeine content.

Coffee has played a crucial role in many societies.  The energizing effect of the coffee bean plant is thought to have been discovered in the northeast region of Ethiopia, and the cultivation of coffee first expanded in the Arab world.  The earliest credible evidence of coffee drinking appears in the middle of the 15th century, in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen in southern Arabia.  From the Muslim world, coffee spread to Italy, then to the rest of Europe, to Indonesia, and to the Americas.  In East Africa and Yemen, it was used in religious ceremonies.

Today, coffee is one of the most-consumed beverages in the world.  Coffee ingestion on average is about a third of that of tap water in North America and Europe.  Worldwide, 6.7 million metric tons of coffee were produced annually in 1998–2000, and the forecast is a rise to seven million metric tons annually by 2010.

Coffee berries, which contain the coffee seeds or "beans", are produced by several species of small evergreen bush of the genus Coffea.  The two most commonly grown are the highly regarded Coffea arabica, and the 'robusta' form of the hardier Coffea canephora.  The latter is resistant to the devastating coffee leaf rust (''Hemileia vastatrix'').  Once ripe, coffee berries are picked, processed, and dried.  The seeds are then roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor.  They are then ground and brewed to create coffee.  Coffee can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways.

An important export commodity, coffee was the top agricultural export for twelve countries in 2004, and it was the world's seventh-largest legal agricultural export by value in 2005.  In 2009 Brazil was the world leader in production of green coffee, followed by Vietnam, Indonesia and Colombia.  Arabica coffee beans are cultivated in Latin America, eastern Africa, Arabia, or Asia.  Robusta coffee beans are grown in western and central Africa, throughout southeast Asia, and to some extent in Brazil.  Beans from different countries or regions can usually be distinguished by differences in flavor, aroma, body, and acidity.

Coffee Cultivation and Production

The coffee tree averages from 5–10 m (15–30 ft.) in height.  As the tree gets older, it branches less and less and bears more leaves and fruit.  The tree typically begins to bear fruit 3–5 years after being planted, and continues to produce for 10–20 more years, depending on the type of plant and the area.

Coffee plants are grown in rows several feet apart.  Some farmers plant fruit trees around them or plant the coffee on the sides of hills, because they need specific conditions to flourish.  They require a warm climate (but not too hot, either) and at least 1.8 m (70 inches) of rainfall year.  Heavy rain is needed in the beginning of the season when the fruit is developing, and less later in the season as it ripens.  The harvesting period can be anywhere from three weeks to three months, and in some places the harvesting period continues all year round.

A coffee bean is the seed of the coffee plant (the pit inside the red or purple fruit often referred to as a cherry).  Even though they are seeds, they are referred to as 'beans' because of their resemblance.  The fruits, coffee cherries or coffee berries, most commonly contain two stones with their flat sides together.  In a crop of coffee, a small percentage of cherries contain a single bean, instead of the usual two.  This is called a peaberry.  Coffee beans consist mostly of endosperm that contains 0.8–2.5% caffeine, which is one of the main reasons the plants are cultivated.

Coffee Processing:

Coffee berries and their seeds undergo several processes before they become the familiar roasted coffee.  More commonly, crops are strip picked, where all berries are harvested simultaneously regardless of ripeness by person or machine.

After picking, green coffee is processed by one of two methods—the dry process method, simpler and less labor intensive as the berries can be strip picked, and the wet process method, which incorporates fermentation into the process and yields a mild coffee.  Then they are sorted by ripeness and color and the flesh of the berry is removed, usually by machine, and the seeds—usually called beans—are fermented to remove the slimy layer of mucilage still present on the bean.

When the fermentation is finished, the beans are washed with large quantities of fresh water to remove the fermentation residue, which generates massive amounts of coffee wastewater.  Finally, the seeds are dried either using using drying tables or the coffee beans are left to dry on a concrete patio and then raked over in the sunlight.  Next, the coffee is sorted, and labeled as green coffee.

Coffee Roasting:

Lindsey Coffee Company

The next step is the roasting of the green coffee.  Coffee is usually sold in a roasted state, and with rare exceptions all coffee is roasted before it is consumed.  Roasting coffee transforms the chemical and physical properties of green coffee beans into roasted coffee products.  The roasting process is what produces the characteristic flavor of coffee by causing the green coffee beans to expand and to change in color, taste, smell, and density.  The bean decreases in weight as moisture is lost and increases in volume, causing it to become less dense.  The density of the bean also influences the strength of the coffee and requirements for packaging.

The vast majority of coffee is roasted commercially on a large scale, but some coffee drinkers roast coffee at home in order to have more control over the freshness and flavor profile of the beans.  Unroasted beans contain similar acids, protein, and caffeine as those that have been roasted, but lack the taste.

Depending on the color of the roasted beans as perceived by the human eye, they will be labeled as light, medium light, medium, medium dark, dark, or very dark.  A more accurate method involves the use of a light meter that employs spectroscopy.  The degree of roast has an effect upon coffee flavor and body.  Darker roasts are generally bolder because they have less fiber content and a more sugary flavor.  Lighter roasts have a more complex and therefore perceived stronger flavor from aromatic oils and acids otherwise destroyed by longer roasting times.

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Ecological Effects

Some controversy is associated with coffee cultivation and its impact on the environment.  Originally, coffee farming was done in the shade of trees that provided a habitat for many animals and insects.  This method is commonly referred to as the traditional shaded method, or "shade-grown".

Starting in the 1970s, many farmers switched their production method to sun cultivation, in which coffee is grown in rows under full sun with little or no forest canopy.  This causes berries to ripen more rapidly and bushes to produce higher yields, but requires the clearing of trees and increased use of fertilizer and pesticides, which damage the environment and cause health problems.

Opponents of sun cultivation say environmental problems such as deforestation, pesticide pollution, habitat destruction, and soil and water degradation are the side effects of these practices.

Another issue concerning coffee is its use of water.  According to New Scientist, using industrial farming practices, it takes about 140 liters (37 U.S.  gal) of water to grow the coffee beans needed to produce one cup of coffee, and the coffee is often grown in countries where there is a water shortage, such as Ethiopia.

By using sustainable agriculture methods, the amount of water usage can be dramatically reduced, while retaining comparable yields.  For comparison, the United States Geological Survey reports that one egg requires an input of 454 liters (120 U.S.  gal) of water; one serving of milk requires an input of 246 liters (65 U.S.  gal) of water; one serving of rice requires an input of 132 liters (35 U.S.  gal) of water; and one glass of wine requires an input of 120 liters (32 U.S.  gal) of water.

Coffee grounds may be used for composting or as a mulch.  They are especially appreciated by worms and acid-loving plants such as blueberries.  Some commercial coffee shops run initiatives to make better use of these grounds, including Starbucks' "Grounds for your Garden" project, and community sponsored initiatives such as "Ground to Ground".

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Coffee Bean Storage

Cafe Britt_120x90_002 Button2

Once roasted, coffee beans must be stored properly to preserve the fresh taste of the bean.  Ideally, the container must be airtight and kept in a cool, dry and dark place.  In order of importance: air, moisture, heat, and light are the environmental factors responsible for deteriorating flavor in coffee beans.  Coffee is often vacuum packed to prevent oxidation and lengthen its shelf life.

Folded-over bags, a common way consumers often purchase coffee, are generally not ideal for long-term storage because they allow air to enter.  A better package contains a one-way valve, which prevents air from entering.  Once bought, the method of storage used depends on the type coffee purchased.

Green beans store the best in cooled airtight containers, and can easily last in this state for a year without losing flavor.  Roasted whole beans are best stored in airtight containers out of the light.  The best material choices for the container are ceramic, or opaque glass.  Plastic and metal will alter the flavor of the coffee bean.  In addition, for the first week of storage, containers should be opened to vent out the carbon dioxide gas that will be produced by the roasted beans to prevent the gas from changing the quality of the coffee.

Whole bean roasted coffee stored in this manner will last for about two weeks. If the beans are frozen, however, the flavor can last for around a month.  Refrigeration alone will not achieve the same effect on the storage life of the bean.  Once beans are frozen, leaving them frozen until brewing best preserves the flavor of the coffee.  Frozen beans will grind the same as unfrozen beans, but refreezing beans alters the quality of the coffee.

Coffee grounds are stored in airtight ceramic or glass containers, like roasted beans.  Due to increased total surface area of coffee grounds, the grounds go stale in days, rather than weeks.  In addition, freezing has no effect in increasing the storage life of coffee grounds.

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Coffee Finder Tool

The roasted coffee beans may be ground at a roastery, in a grocery store, or in the home.  Most coffee is roasted and ground at a roastery and sold in packaged form, though roasted coffee beans can be ground at home immediately before consumption.

Coffee beans may be ground in several ways.  For most brewing methods, a burr mill is deemed superior because the grind is more even and the grind size can be adjusted.  The type of grind is often named after the brewing method for which it is generally used.  Turkish grind is the finest grind, while coffee percolator or French press are the coarsest grinds.  The most common grinds are between the extremes; a medium grind is used in most common home coffee-brewing machines.

Coffee may be brewed by several methods boiled, steeped, filtration or pressurized.

The stimulant effect of coffee is due to its caffeine content.  The caffeine content of a cup of coffee varies depending mainly on the brewing method, and also on the variety of bean.

  • Brewed:  1 cup (7 oz, 207 ml) = 80–135 mg.
  • Drip:  1 cup (7 oz, 207 ml) = 115–175 mg.
  • Espresso:  1 shot (1.5–2 oz, 45–60 ml) = 100 mg

Boiling was the main method used for brewing coffee until the 1930s.  Turkish coffee is an example of this method and is used in the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa, Turkey, Greece, the Balkans, and Russia.  This produces a strong coffee with a layer of foam on the surface and sediment (which is not meant for drinking) settling on the bottom of the cup.

Coffee may be brewed by steeping in a device such as a French press (also known as a cafetière or coffee press).  Because the coffee grounds are in direct contact with the water, all the coffee oils remain in the beverage, making it stronger and leaving more sediment than in coffee made by an automatic coffee machine.

Drip brew coffee, also known as filtered or American coffee, is made by letting hot water drip onto coffee grounds held in a coffee filter surrounded by a filter holder or brew basket.  Drip brew makers can be simple filter holder types manually filled with hot water, or they can use automated systems as found in the popular electric drip coffee-maker.  Strength varies according to the ratio of water to coffee and the fineness of the grind, but is typically weaker than espresso, though the final product contains more caffeine.  The common electric percolator, which was in almost universal use in the United States prior to the 1970s, and is still popular in some households today, is another example of a filtration method system.

The espresso method forces hot pressurized and vaporized water through ground coffee.  As a result of brewing under high pressure (ideally between 9–10 atm), the espresso beverage is more concentrated (as much as 10 to 15 times the quantity of coffee to water as gravity-brewing methods can produce) and has a more complex physical and chemical constitution.  A well-prepared espresso has a reddish-brown foam called crema that floats on the surface.  Other pressurized water methods include the moka pot and vacuum coffee maker.

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Coffee Tasting

Coffee cupping, or coffee tasting, is the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee.  In the United States, cupping became a standard industry practice in the late 19th century (in what is retrospectively called the First Wave of American coffee), due to its use by Hills Brothers Coffee of San Francisco.

A standard coffee cupping procedure involves deeply sniffing the coffee, then loudly slurping the coffee so it spreads to the back of the tongue.  The coffee taster attempts to measure aspects of the coffee's taste, specifically the body (the texture or mouthfeel, such as oiliness), sweetness (the perceived sweetness at the sides of the tongue), acidity (a sharp and tangy feeling at the tip of the tongue, like when biting into an orange), flavour (the characters in the cup), and aftertaste.  Since coffee beans embody telltale flavors from the region where they were grown, cuppers may attempt to predict the coffee's origin.

Cupping is a professional practice by professionals known as "Master Tasters", but can be done informally by anyone.  Practice makes perfect.  The more you cup coffees, the more you focus on the coffees you drink every day, mentally rating and describing them, the better you'll become.

Cup with others.  If there's a friendly roaster in the area, try to get an invite to one of their cupping sessions.  You'll see how people argue, play "name that taste," and usually, but not always, reach some agreement.

To find out more, visit:

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Coffee Beverages

Once brewed, coffee may be presented in a variety of ways.  Drip-brewed, percolated, or French-pressed/cafetière coffee may be served with a dairy product such as milk or cream, or dairy substitute (colloquially known as white coffee), or not (black coffee).  It may be sweetened with sugar or artificial sweetener.  When served cold, it is called iced coffee.

Compared to other coffee brewing methods, espresso often has a thicker consistency, a higher concentration of suspended solids, and crema (foam).  As a result of the pressurized brewing process, the flavors and chemicals in a typical cup of coffee are very concentrated, so espresso is the base for other drinks, such as lattes, cappuccino, macchiato, mochas, and americanos.

Alcoholic spirits and liqueurs can be added to coffee, often sweetened and with cream floated on top.  These alcoholic coffee drinks are often given names according to the alcoholic addition.

A liqueur coffee, as its name suggests, is a coffee brew with a 25 ml shot of liqueur.  This brew is usually served in a clear, clean, pre-heated, liqueur coffee glass with the coffee and cream separated for good visual and taste effect.  The liqueur of choice is added first with a teaspoon of raw cane sugar mixed in.  The glass in then filled to within an inch of the top with good, strong, fresh filter coffee.  Fresh, chilled, additive free, slightly whipped cream is then poured carefully over the back of a cold teaspoon, so that it floats on top of the coffee and liqueur mixture.  The sugar is required in the coffee mixture to help the cream float.

In some cultures, flavored coffees are common.  Chocolate is a common additive that is either sprinkled on top or mixed with the coffee to imitate the taste of Mocha.  Other flavorings include spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, chicory, or flavored syrups.  Vanilla- and hazelnut-flavored coffees are common in the United States; these are usually artificially flavored.

Espresso-based, without milk

Espresso-based, with milk

Brewed or boiled, non espresso-based

Alcoholic coffee drinks

Cold drinks

For a more comprehensive list, see List of Coffee Beverages.

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Health Effects of Coffee


The health effects of coffee have been studied to determine how coffee drinking affects humans.  Many studies have examined the relationship between coffee consumption and certain health conditions; whether the overall effects of coffee are ultimately positive or negative has been widely disputed.  The method of brewing coffee has been found to be important to its health effects.

Coffee contains several compounds which are known to affect human body chemistry.  The coffee bean itself contains chemicals which are mild psychotropics for humans as a defense mechanism of the Coffea plant.  These chemicals are toxic in large doses, or even in their normal amount when consumed by many creatures which may otherwise have threatened the beans in the wild.

Coffee contains caffeine, which acts as a stimulantCaffeine dependency and withdrawal symptoms are well-documented.

Recent research has uncovered additional stimulating effects of coffee which are not related to its caffeine content.  Coffee contains an as yet unknown chemical agent which stimulates the production of cortisone and adrenaline, two stimulating hormones.

For occasions when one wants to enjoy the flavor of coffee with almost no stimulation, decaffeinated coffee (also called decaf) is available.  This is coffee from which most of the caffeine has been removed, by the Swiss water process (which involves the soaking of raw beans to remove the caffeine) or the use of a chemical solvent such as trichloroethylene ("tri"), or the more popular methylene chloride, in a similar process.  Another solvent used is ethyl acetate; the resultant decaffeinated coffee is marketed as "natural decaf" because ethyl acetate is naturally present in fruit.  Extraction with supercritical carbon dioxide has also been employed.  Decaffeinated coffee usually loses some flavor compared to normal coffee.

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Health Benefits:

  1. Reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and Dementia – a longitudinal study in 2009 found that moderate coffee drinkers (3–5 cups per day) had reduced risk of developing dementia in addition to Alzheimer's disease.

  2. Reduced risk of Gallstone disease

  3. Reduced risk of Parkinson's disease – studies found an inverse relationship between the amount of coffee regularly drunk and the likelihood of developing Parkinson's disease.

  4. Cognitive performance – in tests of short term recall, simple reaction time, choice reaction time, incidental verbal memory, and visuospatial reasoning, participants who regularly drank coffee were found to perform better on all tests, with a positive relationship between test scores and the amount of coffee regularly drunk.  Elderly participants were found to have the largest effect.

  5. Analgesic enhancement – caffeine increases the effectiveness of pain killers, especially migraine and headache medications.

  6. Antidiabetic – coffee intake may reduce one's risk of diabetes mellitus type 2 by up to half.

  7. Liver protection – coffee can also reduce the incidence of cirrhosis of the liver and has been linked to a reduced risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, a primary liver cancer that usually arises in patients with preexisting cirrhosis.

  8. Cancer – coffee consumption is also correlated to a reduced risk of oral, esophageal, and pharyngeal cancer.

  9. Cardioprotective – coffee moderately reduces the incidence of dying from cardiovascular disease.

  10. Laxative/diuretic – coffee is a powerful stimulant for peristalsis and may prevent constipation.  Contrary to popular belief, caffeine does not act as a diuretic when consumed in moderation, and caffeinated beverages contribute to the body's daily fluid requirements no differently from pure water.

  11. Antioxidant – coffee contains the anticancer compound methylpyridinium, which is not present in significant amounts in other food materials nor in raw coffee beans but is formed during the roasting process from the trigonelline that is common in raw coffee beans.  Methylpyridinium is present in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, and even in instant coffee.

  12. Prevention of Dental Caries – the tannins in coffee may reduce the cariogenic potential of foods and may reduce plaque formation.

  13. Gout – coffee consumption decreased risk of gout in men over age 40 inversely proportional with the amount of coffee consumed.

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Health Risks:

  1. Gastrointestinal problems – coffee can damage the lining of the gastrointestinal organs, causing gastritis and ulcers; coffee is not recommended for people with gastritis, colitis, and ulcers

  2. Anxiety and Sleep changes – coffee can cause anxiety, irritability, and insomnia in some with excessive coffee consumption.

  3. Cosmetic – coffee causes staining of the teeth.

  4. Cholesterol – a 2007 study found that the diterpene molecules cafestol and kahweol, found only in coffee beans, putatively raise levels of low-density lipoprotein or LDL in humans, especially in women.  Paper coffee filters have a property that binds to lipid-like compounds which allows it to remove most of the cafestol and kahweol found in coffee during brewing.

  5. Effects on Pregnancy – caffeine molecules are small enough to penetrate the placenta and slip into baby's blood circulation.  Since fetuses are not capable of fully metabolizing caffeine and excreting it, the energy booster tends to linger in the fetus's blood ten times longer than in adults.  A Danish study of 18,478 women who drank eight or more cups a day during pregnancy had a 220% increased risk of stillbirths compared with nondrinkers.

  6. Iron Deficiency Anemia – coffee consumption can lead to iron deficiency anemia; coffee also interferes with the absorption of supplemental iron.

  7. Coronary Artery Disease – a Harvard study conducted over the course of 20 years of 128,000 people concluded that there was no evidence to support the claim that coffee consumption itself increases the risk of coronary heart disease.  The study did, however, show a correlation between heavy consumption of coffee and higher degrees of exposure to other coronary heart disease risk factors such as smoking, greater alcohol consumption, and lack of physical exercise.  The results apply only to coffee filtered through paper filters.  However, this study acknowledged that subsets of the larger group may be at risk for heart attack when drinking multiple cups of coffee a day due to genetic differences in metabolizing caffeine resulting from polymorphisms in the CYP1A2 gene.  In patients with a slow version of the enzyme (slow caffeine metabolizers, the risk for myocardial infarction (heart attack) is increased by a third (2–3 cups) to two thirds (>4 cups).  The risk was more marked in people under the age of 59.

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Organic Coffee

Modern coffee, tea and cocoa plantations that do not use more traditional indigenous cultivation methods which are essentially organic rely on the use of petroleum-based fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.  In addition to the issues related to the damaging effects to the ecological environment from these artificial chemicals, there is also grave concerns for the welfare of the workers using these chemicals, particularly in regions that may not have as stringent health and safety regulations as we do here in the United States.

There are several published reports on the results from the various analysis for the determination of the pesticide residues in green and roasted coffees originating from multiple countries.  It was discovered that the pesticide residues found in the green coffees were considerably lower than the amounts permitted.  Furthermore, the residues were reduced to insignificant amounts during the roasting process.  The degradation rates ranged from 85% to 100%.

There are a number of bodies that independently certify the production of coffee, tea and cocoa, such as UTZ Certified and OrganicOrganic farming avoids the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides or the use of genetically engineering.

Organic agriculture stimulates the environment’s natural development of disease and pest control.  Because much organic coffee is shade grown, large amounts of forest may be preserved.  This preservation has many additional benefits: minimizing soil erosion, preserving habitat, especially for birds; further, the leaves from the trees and bird droppings naturally fertilize the soil.  Birds also control pests by eating insects that eat the leaves of coffee plants.

In 2006, 67,000 metric tons of organic coffee were sold in the world, while world coffee consumption, including both organic and non-organic coffee was estimated at approximately 6,900,000 metric tons in 2005.  The primary producer and exporter of organic coffee is the South American nation of PeruMexico and Ethiopia are also major producers of the coffee.  According to the center for Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education in Costa Rica (CATIE), 75% of the world's organic coffee comes from Latin America, and that 10% of growers have reverted to conventional production due to price competition.

Production of organic tea is rising; 3,500 tonnes of organic tea were grown in 2003.  The majority of this tea (about 75%) is sold in France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In order to be sold as organic coffee in the U.S. it must gain organic certification and meet the following requirements:

  • Grown on land without synthetic pesticides or other prohibited substances for 3 years.
  • A sufficient buffer exists between the organic coffee and the closest traditional crop.
  • Sustainable crop rotation plan to prevent erosion, the depletion of soil nutrients, and control for pests

Additionally, many organic farmers practice environmentally friendly practices by using traditional and sustainable growing, harvesting and processing practices, including the use of shade trees, manual weeding (forgoing the use of pesticides), water conservation and other organic farming practices.

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The Economics and Benefits of Fair Trade

Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day.  Over 90% of coffee production takes place in developing countries, while consumption happens mainly in the industrialized economies.  Worldwide, 25 million small producers rely on coffee for a living.  For instance, in Brazil alone, where almost a third of all the world's coffee is produced, over 5 million people are employed in the cultivation and harvesting of over 3 billion coffee plants; it is a much more labor-intensive culture than alternative cultures of the same regions such as sugar cane or cattle, as it is not subject to automation and requires constant attention.

Fair Trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries make better trading conditions and promote sustainability.  The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as higher social and environmental standards.  It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, wine, fresh fruit, and chocolate. 

Although no universally accepted definition of fair trade exists, fair trade labeling organizations most commonly refer to a definition developed by FINE, an informal association of four international fair trade networks (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, World Fair Trade Organization, Network of European Worldshops and European Fair Trade Association):  fair trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade.  It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers—especially in the South.

Fair trade organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.

Fair trade products are traded and marketed either by an "MEDC supply chain" whereby products are imported and/or distributed by fair trade organizations (commonly referred to as alternative trading organizations) or by "product certification" whereby products complying with fair trade specifications are certified by them indicating that they have been produced, traded, processed and packaged in accordance with the standards.

In 2008, products certified with FLO International's Fairtrade certificationIn 2008, products certified with FLO International's Fairtrade certification amounted to approximately $4.98US billion worldwide, a 22% year-to-year increase.  While this represents a tiny fraction of world trade in physical merchandise, some fair trade products account for 20-50% of all sales in their product categories in individual countries.  In June 2008, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International estimated that over 7.5 million producers and their families were benefiting from fair trade funded infrastructure, technical assistance and community development projects.

The response to fair trade has been mixed.  Fair trade's increasing popularity has drawn criticism from both ends of the political spectrum in the Fair Trade Debate.  Some economists and think tanks see "fair trade" as a type of subsidy that impedes growth.  Segments of the left criticize fair trade for not adequately challenging the current trading system.

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Certified Organic & Fair Trade Retailers of Coffee

There are an increasing number of companies and retailers offering certified organic and/or fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate.  This number will continue to increase to match consumers' demands.

While by no means comprehensive, below is a list of some of the companies and retailers at the forefront of bringing these products to the market place.  Most specialize in selling coffee, tea and/or chocolate that is certified both for Organic and Fair Trade, several of which can be found in most large natural and conventional grocers throughout the U.S.A.  and Canada.

  • Equal Exchange is a for-profit Fairtrade worker-owned, cooperative headquartered in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts.  Equal Exchange distributes organic gourmet coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, and chocolate bars produced by farmer cooperatives in Latin America, Africa and Asia.  Founded in 1986, it is the oldest and largest Fair Trade coffee company in the United States.  The highest paid employee of Equal Exchange may not make more than four times what the lowest paid employee receives.  Equal Exchange products are available in cafes, co-ops, supermarkets, and natural food stores throughout the United States.

  • Marley Coffee, based in Portland, Jamaica.  Bob Marley always said he would return to farming one day. With Marley Coffee, Bob's son Rohan fulfills the dream.  Marley Coffee is an international gourmet coffee company founded by Rohan Marley, sourcing beans from around the world, including Ethiopia, Central America and Jamaica.  The beans from Jamaica are from atop the Blue Mountains, long revered as the region with the world's most desirable coffee beans. Marley Coffee strives to support communities and the environment through organic, sustainable and ethical practices

  • Allegro Coffee, based in Thornton, Colorado, and a subsidiary of Whole Foods Market, offers one of the country's largest selections of single-origin cerfited organic and Fair Trade coffee.



CHOW Tips:

BEER:  3 ways to chill beer, how to pair beer with food, how to identify off flavors in beer, and more.

WINE:  The best cheap wines, how to properly chill wine, wine tasting, wine paIring, and more.

SPIRITS:  How to taste fine spirits, when to blow on your liquor, how to make the perfect martini and more.

MEAT & POULTRY:  How to choose fresh meat, how to grill, how to make the perfect hamburger, and more.

SEAFOOD:  22 back-of-the-house secrets from chefs, such as how to buy fresh fish, and how to smoke or grill seafood.

PRODUCE:  Tips that will help you get your daily recommended servings of grains, cereals, fruits, and vegetables.

CHEESE:  How to buy cheese, how to cut and serve cheese, whether or not to freeze cheese, and more.


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