Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Caffeinated Tears

This weekend I watched the first half of the documentary, Black Gold. The first time I had a cup of coffee I was 18. I'll never forget it because of that unexpected buzz. It was an extra large double hazelnut latte from my small town coffee shop and an hour later I was at the college I was attending at the time locked away in a practice room my fingers flying over the ivory piano keys and only the morning sun shining in and my head hung back while I extemporized some quite surprising and frantic melodies with my shaking fingers! I was hooked from that day forward. I must say, though, the past few years I have been drinking certain brands of coffee with a guilty conscience. Mostly the coffee I have at home. I stay away from the stupid cult of starbucks with their tall and grand-eh burnt shitty coffee and cheek puckering sweet machiatos, as well as Tim Horton's, their pretend-to-be-canadian-but-sold-out to American-owned Wendy's in the mid 1990's and Afghanistan war supportin' propoganda bullshit - at work I try to pick the fair trade coffee...
Back Gold made me weep. The farmers needing $1.10 a day earnings to have a life they dream of: to send their children to school with nourishing meals every day. Living in shacks with 15 family members, the Ethiopian children are sick and dying in the regions where the coffee grows, especially the coffee sold and distributed primarily to Starbucks. To see the smiley green apron faces insisting you order by saying "Grand-eh" or tall or low fat... and that coffee makes people happy and the world a better place - the shame. The crying shame to see what it is really doing to people's lives.

A woman's coffee collective in Peru called Café Femenino is made up of about 750 women in approximately 50 communities. These women are in control of the coffee profits that come back to them and they have their priorities for the allocation of profits, children being a main investment. For women in regions soaked in poverty, this offers them a business opportunity but also independence and autonomy they may never otherwise afford.

Instead of spending $5 on a cup of coffee and stumbling over the starbucks-verse, I'm going to be ordering some coffee from this collective. I'll finish watching Black Gold, soon, and dry my eyes again. Keep seeking. Keep understanding. And caffeinate with a good conscience.

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