Sunday, May 04, 2008

Alright, so I'mma take it down a notch and talk about conversations. Real talk. I was in London last weekend and met a local roaster, and had an interesting discussion. Basically, he told me about the ethical issues he deals with when procuring and selling beans, and they are numerous. I'll bet a lot of you, dear readers, have seen the documentary Black Gold, and that gives you some idea of the markup that occurs between the purchase of beans and their sale after roasting. The fact of the matter is that the farmers, working long, hard hours in developing countries, are making only a tiny fraction of what the coffee is worth.

Anyway, the roaster I was talking to mentioned that he had ramped up his production recently and was nearing a point where his profit margin would be exceedingly comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that any profit over and above it, he said, would be reinvested in the coffee's source.

Here's a movement I can really get behind. Intelligentsia's been doing this for a while, and they've even recorded it in their statement of principles. Treating the growers with the same respect we have for other artisans-- and yes, their work is a specialized art-- is a major step to righting the history of wrongs that is the current state of the coffee industry. Our suppliers provide an alternative to the poorly grown beans that larger growers-- whose names I won't mention here, but you know who I'm talking about-- pay chintzy amounts for. Coming to the Merc-- and other independent, ethically-inclined local coffee joints-- is like a vote with your wallet for a more responsible industry. And it benefits you in the end: better conditions mean better coffee.

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