Fair Trade Coffee

Early Fairtrade Certifications Marks
Image via Wikipedia

What’s the big deal with “Fair Trade” coffee? If you haven’t heard of this type of coffee before you might be a bit confused. This is because you will be able to easily acquire bags of coffee in the most familiar blends, such as espresso roasts, breakfast blends, and more, but each of these coffees will be grown, harvested, and sold in a way far different than standard blends. Fair Trade simply means that the distributor is purchasing coffees that are certified to have been grown by farmers who tend to work at a disadvantage to larger operations.
For example, you might give a gift of a Dark Sumatra coffee that is organic, shade grown, and certified Fair Trade. This would mean that the farmers who grow the coffee as a way of life are concerned about their environment and use sustainable practices. It would also mean that no one who is involved in the agricultural process, the harvesting, or the selling of the coffee is subjected to substandard or indecent working conditions. Additionally, the farmers involved in Fair Trade are usually guaranteed a decent price for their crops, and this allows them to remain competitive with larger global farming industries.
What this also means is that the consumer is going to pay a bit more per pound, but this is something that should never stop someone from enjoying Fair Trade coffee. Why? Imagine the difference between a cup of coffee made from beans that were grown using pesticides, chemical fertilizers, harvested via machines and highly processed prior to being bagged and sent to market versus the pot of coffee made from mindfully and responsibly grown beans that are organic, harvested by hand, and unprocessed prior to being roasted and sent to market. Simply avoiding the chemicals is reason enough to consider buying only Fair Trade and organic coffees, but also supporting hundreds of responsible farmers is just as valid of a reason too.
As stated earlier, you won’t have to forgo your favorite roasts or blends in order to rely strictly on Fair Trade coffees either. For instance, you could find decaffeinated blends, espresso varieties, and mixtures that come from all parts of the coffee-growing world. There are Mexican, Sumatran, Guatemalan, Haitian and many other coffees available. There are also blended mixes and original beans too. This means that you would be able to use the coffees in the same espresso machines, electric pots, and French Press devices, but would enjoy superior taste and results.
It is important, however, to ensure that the coffees are truly Fair Trade. This would mean that they must be certified by an independent agency such as the TransFair USA group that monitors and certifies Fair Trade products sold in the United States markets. Such a group would ensure the consumer that they really were supporting and encouraging the self-reliance and environmentally friendly policies of the independent farmers that make up the core of the coffee growing industry, but whom often face serious difficulties where market pricing and competitiveness are concerned.

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Wet Cappuccino with heart latte art
Image via Wikipedia

Who among us, as adults, either from the bookstore café menu, the nearby coffee shop, an endless stream of trendy TV commercials, or our own interest in beverages have not heard of the gourmet beverage Cappuccino?  Cappuccino: that frothy, smooth style of coffee with an ever-elusive recipe for perfect taste; even more so than regular coffee. Whether you get your Cappuccino from a corporate establishment like Starbucks or you’ve already mastered that ever-elusive recipe for great Cappuccino (please share), Cappuccino is arguably the most popular style of gourmet coffee there is besides traditional coffee itself, and just may be one of the most recognizable and oft-imitated beverages in the world.

The traditional Cappuccino is made with espresso, hot milk, and steamed-milk foam. Such a simple ingredient list made it an ideal beverage for the clergy and upper-class of 16th century Italy, where some believe Cappuccino originated. However, the true origin of cappuccino is considered somewhat of a mystery. While it’s mostly certain that Cappuccino existed in some form before the 1900’s, it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that Cappuccino became truly renowned in Italy thanks to Luigi Berezza, who invented the first Espresso machine. Espresso machines would see an explosion of popularity in post-World War II Europe; a popularity that gourmet Cappuccino would share as well.

The espresso machine, along with the CD player and the Waterbed, became a favorite of “young professionals” in the 1980’s, and by 1995, an espresso machine was a must-have in many suburban households  “Cappuccino Parties” were not unheard of, and the rise of the Internet allowed people to share their favorite gourmet Cappuccino recipes with others across the world. Cappuccino is largely responsible for the current success of the Starbucks café franchise, and they’ve found even more success through creating their signature beverage from it: the Frappucino, a combination of frappe and Cappuccino.

Cappuccino is versatile, meaning it can be mixed or prepared any number of ways and still retain its gourmet taste. Even alcoholic mixtures of Cappuccino, such as the Cappuccino Cocktail or the Vodka Cappuccino can now be found in high-class dinner clubs and local “dives” alike. For those interested in making gourmet Cappuccino, a common rule for beginners is to first obtain an Espresso/Cappuccino machine. It’s possible to make Cappuccino with a normal coffee machine, but a good Cappuccino machine cuts down on the frustrations of getting the taste just right and creating that delicious froth. When making Cappuccino with or without a machine, a preparer follows the “rule of 1/3” when mixing each basic ingredient, those again being espresso, hot milk, and steamed-milk foam.  Vanilla extract, cinnamon, and strawberries are often favorite additions to many Cappuccino recipes; most Cappuccino recipes do not include any sort of artificial flavoring as they make Cappuccino taste far different than it should, and not in a good way.

Etiquette-wise, cappuccino is considered a “higher class” form of coffee, so drinking Cappuccino with your friends out of a Styrofoam cup might earn you some unwelcome stares. Socially, Cappuccino can be consumed at almost any time of time, especially in a coffee café with a barista; the stereotype of the “Bohemian” who drinks Cappuccino with every meal is hardly a stereotype, as many of them hold great pride in their exotic recipes.

Why shouldn’t they? To master the making of Cappuccino, one of the finest and allegedly oldest forms of coffee, is an art that can elude even a master chef.

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