Coffee, caffeine, and the men who cultivate it.

When I hit the library last night around 10 pm, my first stop wasn’t the bookshelf… I headed straight for the source of the college student’s liquid gold: coffee.

Coffee has become much more than the average cup of Joe, or even a caffeine fix. It’s become a way of life in many cosmopolitan areas, and of course on college campuses. Coffee is practical, social, and delicious. But the last time you filled your mug, did you think about where it came from?

This article from The Guardian has a lot to say about how green the coffee industry is, bean sources, growing techniques, and the economics of growing your morning cup.
In the context of sustainable agriculture, and natural growing techniques, the coffee industry is moving more and more towards disaster. While coffee beans naturally grow under the canopy of trees, they are now being cultivated on open plantations- using vast amounts of forest land, fertilizers, and irrigation. “Sun cultivation” may appear to produce higher yields, but is the environmental cost worth it? Many coffee producing countries also have the highest global deforestation rates.

What about concepts of industry like Fairtrade? Starbucks advertises Fairtrade coffee, but how, exactly, are the growers of this coffee benefitting from the Starbucks empire? Many coffee brewers today are moving towards a goal of higher profits and stability for third world coffee farmers, and for more sustainable growing practices. As the coffee industry becomes more aware of the consequences of current trade and growth practices, we are likely to see the industry take a greater interest in the livelihood of coffee farmers and in stewardship of the environment.


2 thoughts on “Coffee, caffeine, and the men who cultivate it.

  1. Hmm…this will definitely make me think twice before running to Starbucks next time I’m in the library! The part about some farmers trying for higher yields makes me think of Food Inc. and the whole idea of “bigger is better.” I wonder if the coffee industry will become as distorted as corn or soy beans in the US? Hopefully not with Fairtrade around.

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