Friday, August 19, 2005

Coffee Talk

I used to be a Maxwell House guy. That was my brand a few years ago. I switched back and forth between their Colombian and Master Blends, content with what I had. My wife once bought me Folgers instead, and I was,, mildly irritated. I made the switch pretty easily. Throughout seminary and the first few months of my pastorate, I had Folgers at home and Maxwell House at the office. The latter was a gesture of hospitality for anyone who stopped in to talk.

For months I'd also been considering the pros and cons of going Fair Trade. This was before the Synod resolution, but the resolution certainly helped in its own right. Would it be worth the extra money? Was this a justice issue in which I could literally afford to get involved? After all, consider this: a larger can of Maxwell House or Folgers where I live costs between $4.00 and $6.00, and it lasts me a good month or so. Hold that thought.

For the first time, I traveled to the local organic market. Well, it's not that local for me. I actually have to drive 15 minutes. But I'd been meaning to check it out for a while, so I entered under a well-informed assumption that this place would have fair trade coffee. Sure enough, two shelves displayed coffee from Equal Exchange, along with 20 different kinds of coffee, all marked fair trade, that you could grind yourself. Remember the amount and price of the Maxwell House? A bag of one of these brands would run between $8 and $10. That's more money for less coffee.

By this point you might be wondering whether I'm really trying to sway you to switch to fair trade. Cost is the bottom line for a lot of people on this issue. I've heard a few people say that if it wasn't more expensive, they'd switch. If only that line really worked for smokers or alcoholics. I'm being flippant, and I need to get to the punchline.

I've been drinking fair trade coffee for about a month now. The other week, I ran out and couldn't get more until later in the day. I remembered that there was part of a can of Maxwell House still sitting over at the church, so I walked the 100 feet or so to get the can, made a pot, took a sip...and wondered how the heck I'd been able to put up with this taste for so long. That morning, I discovered that the fair trade coffee had spoiled me. After a month of enjoying a smoother richer taste, it took one return to a more bitter blend to tell me exactly why it was worth the extra money. Helping farmers get a fair shake tastes better, too.

I guess that this makes me a coffee snob. If I have to suffer a few 'snob' accusations for drinking better tasting coffee and helping people at the same time, I can live with that.