Regular and Fair Trade coffee: What's the difference?

Regular and Fair Trade coffee: What's the difference?

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Regular and Fair Trade coffee: What's the difference?

Does a cup of Fair Trade coffee taste better than the conventional stuff? In a taste-test showdown, we bet only the �nest coffee connoisseurs can tell. But it's where your espresso comes from that could leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Where your coffee comes from
At the beginning of the coffee-picking season in Ecuador -- one of the biggest coffee exporters in the world -- we drove along a dirt road edged by plantations. We pulled over to take a look at the coffee cherries hanging from the trees and caught sight of a group of pickers.

There were whole families of transient workers, dragging with them the day's harvest in brown burlap sacks. Some were kids, not even taller than the sacks that hung from their necks. As we chatted, a truck pulled up and a farmhand called out for the workers to take their bags to the weighing station where the day's wages were paid out based on bulk.

A picker muttered that the scale was crooked. The farmhand yelled back that the pickers were the thieves, tipping the scales with metal hidden in the bags. As a blistering sun beat down and the argument heated up, we looked on, understanding only the worried looks on every face.

The difference
Later, we visited a Fair Trade co-operative of family-owned farms. There were no kids running around. One farmer proudly told us they were in school.

That evening, we sat with other co-op members, sipping the fruits of their labour. A feeling of excitement filled the air as they discussed buying new books for the school and a water cistern with their fair wages. Here, the future wasn't something to be feared. It was embraced.

Coffee in Canada
In the Canadian cafés where we grab our skim lattes or double grandees, those scenes feel far away from us, especially with the music and conversation and coffee percolating in the background.

Page 1 of 2 -- Find easy ways to incorporate Fair Trade coffee into your life on page 2
The hot drink in our hands comes to us with a dark track record; coffee beans are the second most traded product in the world after oil. It's impossible to ask for Fair Trade at the gas station, so instead we can take advantage of what's on offer behind many local coffee counters. It always keeps us connected to the farmers down south…

A good brew
- If you're often forgetting your flower-decaled thermos on your desk, buy a few and keep them at key coffee-fetching points throughout your day: in your car, at your desk and in your backpack.

- Keep a bag of Fair Trade beans at your desk so you can make your own Fair Trade brew cheaply whenever you can.

- Share the wealth: buy a bag of Fair Trade beans for a co-worker, friend or family member.

- Ask for Fair Trade wherever you can: choose Fair Trade chocolate, sugar, flowers, honey, gold, rice, spices, herbs, tea and bananas.

Where does my money go
Decipher the various symbols that you see on a bag of coffee beans:

Excerpted from the book Living Me to We: The Guide for Socially Conscious Canadians © 2012 by Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger, published by Me to We. Reprinted with permission from the publisher. Illustration by TurnStyle Imaging.

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Regular and Fair Trade coffee: What's the difference?