Sunday, March 14, 2010

It’s icy, it’s delicious, it’s an iced caramel latte; great for sore throats too!

It’s that time again, my ever popular Sip of the Week. As the title of this post states, I had an iced caramel latte, but I also said I have a sore throat. No, I’m not sick, but my throat hurts and I have a legitimate excuse.

I’ve been in Cleveland, Ohio since Friday (I’m back in Athens now) for the Mid-American Conference Tournament watching the Ohio University men's basketball team. We played Kent State University Thursday in the MAC Quarterfinals and beat them in a thrilling match 81-64. This put us up again Miami University (Our biggest in-state rival, everybody here hates Miami) in the MAC Semifinals. We beat them in a slow paced matchup 54-42, and with this win we were set to play the University of Akron in the MAC Championship last night. Since I was already in Cleveland on Friday with my boyfriend, we just decided to stay in town for the championship game and boy I am glad we did. The Bobcats beat Akron in a thrilling overtime game and a dunk at the end of OT by Armon Bassett sealed us the the win and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament (The Big Dance) with a score 81-75. So, as you can imagine, I screamed my head off for two games. This is why I had a sore throat.

Anyways, as much as I could go on and on about what the past two days have been like, I need to get on with this coffee drink.

As I already stated, I got an iced caramel latte today and it came from The Front Room. I was never really a fan of cold coffee before, but I really wanted a creamice (smoothie like beverage), but unfortunately the machine was broken, so I ordered the next best thing, this iced coffee drink. I was nervous that I would spend $3.10 on a drink I wouldn’t enjoy, but that wasn’t the case at all. I really did enjoy it and as soon as I took a sip my throat felt noticeably better.

I wanted to work on some homework for a bit after I got my coffee, but I had laundry in the washers and needed to go put it in the dryer. I have been to The Front Room before though and from those observations, The Front Room is the spot. People are always there studying or large groups meet there. It’s usually the place to be and if you say, “Lets meet at The Front Room,” everyone at OU knows where you’re talking about, so that is always nice (I’m horrible at giving people directions). Also, The Front Room proudly brews Starbucks coffee, so that is another reason as to why people love going's good!

For now, I must go and study for finals. This week is finals week at OU and my spring break officially starts Wednesday. I am pretty excited, but my wisdom teeth come out in a week so I’m not looking forward to that.

Thanks for reading, have a great week everyone! Good luck on your finals to those that have them.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fair Trade: Helping farmers get a fair share of trade

Have you ever been to a coffee shop and read somewhere that the coffee they sell is Certified Fair Trade? If so, have you ever taken a minute to think about what that really means? Well, if not, then I am here to tell you what it means to be Fair Trade Certified.

To start, agriculture is big business all over the world. Without farmers we wouldn’t have most of the food we have today. For large-scale farmers, their benefits of farming and selling is huge, but for small-scale farmers it is usually small. This forces those farmers into a cycle of poverty and debt. There are many middlemen in the process from growing the food to getting it to your table, so little money you actually spend on food reaches the people who grew it. It’s a very sad process for those hard-working farmers, so that is why there is such a thing as Fair Trade. Fair Trade enables those small-scale farmers to sell their food and have enough money to feed their family and survive.

The Fair Trade Movement arose during the rebuilding period post-World War II. This was a period of time when organizations were formed to help develop policies and standardize financing practices. At this time, there was a term known as “development trade,” which began with European and American organizations and churches linked to impoverished communities. These organizations and churches would purchase goods from the developing countries and sell them to customers in developed countries.

The organizations were known as Alternative Trade Organizations (ATO’s), and the number of these types of organizations increased during the 1960’s and 1970’s. In the 1980’s these development organizations coined the slogan, “trade, not aid” in reaction to the corruption created by foreign aid to large organizations and directly to governments. This was the point in time when the term “fair trade” was used with this movement as opposed to the “free trade” policies of that time.

Although I will be mainly focusing on fair trade coffee, other items that are fairly traded include; handicrafts, cocoa, sugar, tea, rice, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate and flowers.

In 1988, a coffee cooperative from Oaxaca, Mexico drafted a proposal with Dutch ATO, Solidaridad, to buy and sell large amounts of coffee. Solidaridad came up with the Max Havelaar label instead of forming a bridge between the Mexican group and the European group. This label was put on any coffee where the producer was paid a “fair return.”  The name came from a fictional Dutch character who was opposed to the exploitation of Dutch coffee pickers.

In 1989, the International Federation for Alternative Trade (IFAT) was formed between multiple ATO’s to create support globally. The Fairtrade Labeling Organizations (FLO) group was formed in 1997 to set standards and made sure those standards were met. This group brought together Max Havelaar and its counterparts in other countries.

In 1999, Fair Trade coffee was introduced to the United States, the world’s largest coffee consumer. Today, the United States consumes about one-fifth of the world’s coffee.

At the time one advocacy group, Equal Exchange, was set up and demanded coffee companies begin buying and selling fair trade.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, there are many middlemen in the process from growing coffee to actually getting it into the consumers' homes, so the grower gets a small percentage of the money most of the time. This is why there is such a thing as Fair Trade and Equal Exchange created a different path that would allow the growers to earn more money in the end and help out their communities. The graphic below shows the path Equal Exchange has created by eliminating the middlemen, giving more money to the producers and giving the consumers a better value.

Image courtesy of Equal Exchange

According to the Equal Exchange Web site the current minimum price for fair trade coffee is $1.21 per pound, plus $.10 per pound social premium and an additional $.20 per pound for organic. *When the market rate for coffee exceeds the minimum Fair Trade price, a premium is paid above the market rate. According to an article published by Global Exchange in November 2009, the current market prices of coffee are around $.60-$.70 per pound. Since these prices are so low, many farmers don’t make enough to maintain their families, so that is why Fair Trade is needed.

Now that I told you the history of Fair Trade and how much companies have to pay the farmers for their coffee, but what are the actual criteria for being Fair Trade and how does one company receive certification?

A non-profit organization based in the United States, TransFair USA, is the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S.. TransFair’s audit system makes sure the products “verifies industry compliance with Fair Trade criteria.” This organization licenses over 600 U.S. companies that proudly display the Fair Trade Certified label. This organization is also one of 23 members of FLO.

According to the Transfair USA Web site, these are the Fair Trade principles:

•Fair prices: Organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price with a additional premium price for certified organic products.
•Fair labor conditions: Workers on fair trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Child labor that is forced is strictly prohibited.
•Direct trade: Importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as direct as possible, avoiding any middlemen, which in turn empowers farmers and strengthens their organizations.
•Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and workers decide democratically how to use their Fair Trade premiums.
•Community development: Fair Trade farmers invest their premiums into the social and business development of their community. This includes; health care, new schools, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.
•Environmental sustainability: The Fair Trade certification prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), promotes farm systems that improve soil fertility, and limits the use of harmful agrochemicals.

Numbers to make note of:

•There are over 35,000 retail establishments in the U.S. that offer Fair Trade products.

•Fair Trade benefits over 800,000 farmers organized into cooperatives and unions in over 48 countries.

•TransFair USA has certified more than 74 million pounds of Fair trade coffee, which has generated more than $60 million of additional income for farmers.

•In 2009, Starbucks doubled its consumption of Fair Trade coffee making it the world’s largest consumer of Fair Trade coffee.

I had the opportunity to talk to Megan Lobsinger, an employee at Donkey Coffee & Espresso in Athens, Ohio. Below is a clip of what she had to say. The first one was a response to my question about why coffee shops should buy Fair Trade coffee to sell and the second is a response to a question asking her if she thought the fair trade label helped their business and if she thinks that makes people more inclined to purchase it.

I wanted to know just how many people at Ohio University really paid attention to the Fair Trade label when they bought coffee, so I can’t really survey 20,000 students, so I sent a survey link to over 100 people on my Facebook Friends list. Fifty people took the one-question survey and here are the results.

Graphic Illustration made by the editor.

When I looked at the final results of this survey, I was surprised to see that close to half of the people didn't even purchase or drink coffee. Also, the lowest percentage at 14% is the number of people who actually pay attention to Fair Trade, that was only around 7 or 8 people, very low I think.

As I end this post I think about how important Fair Trade is to those hardworking farmers and I will now pay more attention to it. Without Fair Trade, those farmers can't live. So I encourage those of you who drink coffee to pay more attention next time you go to Starbucks or any other coffee shop and if you have the opportunity to pay a little more for Fair Trade coffee, just think about who you are helping and the ways it will help those people and their families in the long run.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's baaaaaack!

Well this week I made a decision, I was feeling up to doing a real Sip of the Week and that is exactly what I did. Actually, I’m drinking my beverage right now (fancy, eh?). I was hesitant at first, but there are some places I want to try on Athens still, so I figured I need to go out and do it.

Today’s Sip of the Week brought me to the Pangaea International Tea and Coffee Room at the Athens Book Center. I was excited about this place mainly because I always drive by, but never have the time to stop, so I figured today would be a great day.

As I ended Plant Biology class in Walter Hall, I put in my headphones, turned on some music from iPod and made my way to the north end of town to the Athens Book Center. It was a long walk, but well worth it. As I came in the door, I was greeted by an older man, I assume he is the owner, and right away he asked what I wanted. I told him to wait a minute and once I made my decision I told him what I wanted.

I ordered a cappuccino, with one shot of espresso instead of two (still watching my caffeine limits). As the friendly man made my beverage, I took a few minutes to look around. The “coffee shop” is just a little area in the front of the store. Not only can you get coffees and teas, you can also purchase smoothies! Everyone loves smoothies, but since it was a cool day I decided to order something that would warm me up, rather than cool me down. I did notice that if you order smoothies, you have the option for nutritional additives including, antioxidant, bee pollen, multi vitamin, immune blend, soy protein, amino hydrate, whey protein and performance boost.

Photo taken on my cell phone of the "coffee shop" in the Athens Book Center.

While my cappuccino was being made, the man asked me what flavor I wanted, I was just going to say to not add anything, but I knew it probably wouldn’t taste very good, so i said french vanilla. A little while later my drink was made for an astonishing $2.50, and my flavors for today were thrown in for free. Now that’s a deal!

Now, I paid for my drink and had it in my hands, and needed some place to sit. I looked around and found some seating, but It was kind of crowded. Tables and chairs and a few couches surround the front of the store, a little too well. I had my book bag and coffee and to my luck, I almost dropped my cup o’ joe on a guy sitting at one of the tables, but I caught it and made my way to a different table right by the big windows in the front. As I look behind myself out into the street...woah, I am greeted by the butt of a stuffed animal sitting on the bar. Actually there are a few stuffed animals sitting on the bar table that sits along the windows. What if I want to sit there and can’t? I like this place, but maybe the stuffed animals are a little TOO much to be in the front of the store where people are trying to relax with a cup of coffee.

When I took my first sip, I just felt...I don’t know....relaxed. It had been a full two weeks since I had a cup of warm coffee and I have missed it. Coffee has never tasted so good. Weird, considering last week even the thought of coffee made me want to puke.

Well, my coffee is going to get cold soon if I don’t stop writing, so I am going to finish the rest and check out the book side of the store, since this is a bookstore after all. From a distance, it looks like there are a bunch of unique books and I want to check them out. If you’re looking for a unique bookstore in Athens with a coffee shop, the Athens Book Center is the place for you! I think I’ll be back to get a smoothie once the weather warms up a bit.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, don’t drink too much coffee, but try to enjoy a little bit!


Monday, March 1, 2010


I’m not much of a political person, I listen to what’s on the news, but sometimes I just don’t care about what our politicians say. I know that’s not very good since I am a journalist and all, but I’ve never really had an interest in that stuff. I’ll have you know though, I am signed up for a political science class for spring quarter, Current World Problems, so who knows what I will get out of that and how my views of political science will change after that.

Anyways, this is going to be post sort of off-topic, but I saw this and became very interested in it and thought a lot of other people would be too.

Forty-one-year-old Documentary filmmaker, Annabel Park may have just started something that could really make some changes in this country and it all started with a simple update on Facebook...this is what that update said, from the National Post.

“let's start a coffee party . . . smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea. geez. ooh how about cappuccino party? that would really piss 'em off bec it sounds elitist . . . let's get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion.”

This update got enough positive feedback from her friends, that Park decided to create a ‘Coffee Party Movement’ fan page on Facebook. This movement is basically a reaction to the U.S. Tea Party movement. Park sees the Tea Party as somewhat anti-democratic- “trying to obstruct the elected government’s reform rather than working to improve it.” For those that do not know, the Tea Party movement was formed in early 2009 in response the the federal government’s stimulus package, which was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The fan page has been on Facebook since Jan. 26 and more than 43,000 people have joined to date. You may be thinking, how is this newly formed party movement going to accomplish anything? That’s where the people come into play. Local chapters are being formed everyday (already in at least 30 states) and that is their voice in the entire matter. In an interview from the Washington Post, Park said,”We are a democracy and every vote DOES count, and we have to engage everyone in the political process--that’s the only way we’re going to have a government that represents the will of the people.”

Courtesy of the Coffee Party Movement Website, this is the mission statement:
MISSION: The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.

The Coffee Party has a Web site where people are actively posting on forum topics and learning how to make a new chapter. The Coffee Party is diverse and 100% grassroots. This means that the party won’t go anywhere without the help of its supporters and volunteers, so if you are interested in joining you can follow the party on Twitter or join the Facebook fan page.

Like I said in the beginning of this post, I am not really into politics, but I think Park started something that may help with political decisions down the road. I think it’s great so many people are supporting it so early since it was formed just a little over a month ago.

What are your thoughts on this new Coffee Party Movement?

Coffee Party Movement logo with slogan. Courtesy of the movements Facebook Fan Page.