Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Bitter Brew

photography by flickr
(and an anoynomous photographer)

The coffee clash between Ethiopia and Starbucks explained


Nov. 6, 2006 Vol. 168, No. 20 October 30, 2006

Ethiopian coffee farmers


Ethiopian coffee farmers hope to earn more with a U.S. trademark

U.K.-based charity Oxfam last week accused Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks of blocking Ethiopian efforts to trademark three types of coffee beans in the U.S. Starbucks denies this, but the controversy continues to percolate.

What does Ethiopia want? The Ethiopian government applied to trademark its most famous coffee-bean names — Harar, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe — in the U.S. last year. The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office estimates that controlling the names of the beans could earn Ethiopia an extra $88 million a year.

How so? Owning the names, Ethiopia reasons, will enable it to build premium brands.

How has Starbucks responded? The coffee chain has said it is against Ethiopia's trademark initiative, arguing it will actually harm poor farmers more than help them, but it denies Oxfam's claim that it asked the National Coffee Association to oppose the applications. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office turned down Ethiopia's application for the Sidamo and Harar beans, saying the names are generic, but it did grant Yirgacheffe a trademark in August.

Do governments frequently trademark native products? It's not uncommon, but they more frequently use geographic certification to brand everything from orange juice to cheeses.

Jamaica has achieved great success with its Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, which is registered with a certification mark in the U.S. Starbucks says it supports a certification program for Ethiopian coffees, but not trademarks.

Originally Published in October 30, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Coffee is good for you, claim scientists

photograph by godi

Coffee has many beneficial effects as a beverage and it protects from illnesses like diabetes and Parkinson's disease, scientists have claimed.

The recent International Science Association of Coffee (ASIC) assembly, held in Montpelier, held that even those who consume substantial quantities of coffee (six cups daily, for example) should not suffer from digestive or heart diseases if they are healthy.

It has been widely recognized that the research about coffee had been focused on caffeine for a long time, but scientists consider that the bean has a group of very rich constituents, according to a French researcher Astrid Nehlig.

Nehlig, who specializes in coffee-health interaction at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), said the grain also contains Clorogenic and Melanic acids, known as potent antioxidants.

Some experts, like Italian Carlos la Vecchia, suggested that coffee reduces the risks of cirrhosis of the liver by 60-80 per cent.

Quoting epidemiologic research, Bertil Fredholm of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said coffee consumption can protect people from Parkinson's disease.

Some scientists even said coffee is more efficient than fruits and vegetables to counteract DNA oxidation, which causes several serious diseases, among them Neoplasia.

This was originally posted on the net by a Paris based publication, Bureau Report on Sept 14, 2006. We would have loved to have credited the writer, but none was given in the original.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Farmers in protest over coffee money

By Mutinda Mwanzia

More than 2,000 farmers have protested over poor management of a giant coffee estate in Machakos District.

Waving twigs and placards, the farmers paralysed business in Tala town as they demonstrated in the streets, demanding the dissolution of the board of directors at Kyanzabe Coffee Estate.

The farmers demanded an urgent special annual general meeting to deliberate on the woes facing the estate.

They accused the directors led by their chairman, Mr Isaac Nzioka, of running down the estate and failing to pay members dividends in the last three years.

Through their spokesman Mr Jacob Mulei, the farmers told journalists on Sunday that operations at the estate have been paralysed due to alleged poor management, leading to poor returns.

Kangundo MP Mr Moffat Maitha assured the farmers that he would intervene and facilitate a meeting to enable them to air their grievances to the Government.

This article was originally posted on 23 October 2006 – eastandard is published from Nairobi-Kenya.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

USAID gives Uganda’s coffee industry a boost

October 19, 2006

By www.andnetwork .com

THE coffee industry in Uganda will receive a $6.5 million (about Shs12 billion) boost from the United States Agency for International Development, a top official has said.

The support, that includes direct grants and strengthening of producer organisations, technical staff, training, depot committees and input suppliers, will be spent over the five-year programme through the Agricultural Productivity Enhancement Programme (APEP).

Usaid's Mission Director Margot Ellis said on October 13 that the move is part of Usaid's mission to partner with the government to improve the coffee industry and overcome the challenges that coffee wilt disease is currently posing to the industry.

“We believe that the best way to reverse the trends in the coffee industry is to increase productivity and quality at the farm level,” Ellis said.

“Although we know that profits are down, the only way to increase those profits is if more and better quality coffee can be produced at the farmer level. This will take some investment.”

Ellis was handing over equipment and inputs worth over Shs135 million to coffee farmer groups at the APEP offices on Lumumba Avenue, Kampala.

The farmer groups include Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd. OLAM, Kapchorwa Coffee Farmers Association and Bushenyi cooperatives among others.

APEP's Managing Director Clive Drew, said the equipment is part of their continued support to farmers to promote increase of productivity and quality of coffee.

USAID is currently operating in the districts of Kamuli, Masaka, Rakai, Bushenyi, Ibanda and Mubende and will roll out to other districts such as Nakaseke, Mukono, Mbale, Sironko, Kapchorwa, Arua and Nebbi.

originally posted on Africa's Daily Monitor October 19, 2006

Essayist Reflects on America's Coffee Fixation

The National Coffee Association found in 2000 that 54 per cent of the adult population of the United States drinks coffee daily and that among coffee drinkers the average consumption is 3.1 cups of coffee per day. Essayist Julia Keller reflects on America's coffee culture.

Julia Keller.

JIM LEHRER: And finally tonight, guest essayist Julia Keller of the Chicago Tribune talks about the great American coffee fix.

JULIA KELLER, NewsHour Essayist: In the opening chapter of the John Steinbeck novel "In Dubious Battle," a drifter named Jim makes his way to a dingy apartment. And there, Steinbeck writes, "a little tin coffee pot bubbled and steamed."

This is a pivotal moment for Jim. We know that because there's coffee, lots of it. In fact, in just about every chapter of Steinbeck's gut-punch of a novel, first published in 1936, there's coffee. You can almost smell the bitter, black stuff as you turn the pages.

It had to be coffee. Coffee's the only choice for a book about manual laborers and their fight for a living wage, because in American culture coffee is the drink of the tough-minded dreamer. It's the beverage of the dispossessed, of the poet, the lone traveler, the bruised idealist.

We've drifted away from that pitch-black signifier in recent years. Chains such as Starbucks and Caribou -- and, here in Chicago, Intelligentsia -- have watered down coffee's bare-knuckled basics with their lattes and their decaf, half-soy cappuccinos.

But some recent news from the beverage industry is cause for hope, hope that coffee may finally be getting back to its rough-and-tumble roots, back to something that even Steinbeck's callused, blue-collar bums wouldn't be embarrassed to drink.

Dunkin' Donuts, with about half the number of outlets nationwide as Starbucks, has announced a huge expansion. It's going to add 10,000 stores in the next decade and a half, not to push pastries. The focus, say company executives, is coffee.

This comes just after McDonalds and Burger King beefed up their coffee, not with fancy-pants, foam-flecked offerings, featuring caramel swirls and cinnamon sprinkles, but simply with a better cup of the old familiar. McDonalds calls theirs "Premium Roast." Burger King goes with the nickname "B.K. Joe," which ought to come with complimentary chin stubble.

Coffee means truck stops at midnight and kitchens at dawn. It means that iconic 1942 painting by Edward Hopper "Nighthawks at the Diner," with its white ceramic coffee mugs, its gray coffee urns. Hopper was a New Yorker, but "Nighthawks" seems steeped in an especially Midwestern sort of lonesomeness in large, empty spaces, in a sense of desolation held at arm's length by the promise of a free refill.

Coffee is the philosophical opposite of tea, that delicate laced doily of a drink. Lipton just began selling a newfangled kind of teabag, a pyramid-shaped thing, that's so lovely and precious looking that you wonder if it belongs in a mug or an art museum.

But there's a fundamental difference between coffee people and tea people, a cultural divide that cuts across movies, and TV, and literature, and life. Even though tea can pack as much or more caffeine as coffee, and even though tea drinking predates coffee drinking by at least four centuries, their images belie those realities. Coffee is scraped knuckles and bum luck; tea is an extended pinkie and inherited wealth.

It's true that coffee has been muted and tamed in recent years. It's been tricked out with cute new names. For a time, it seemed to lose its beautifully bitter edge. But coffee is making a comeback, real coffee, that is.

So it's out with the lattes and in with the lunch counters, counters at which working stiffs sit, hunched over their battered mugs of Joe. Not a cafe mocha; just a cup of mud. Not Starbucks; Steinbeck.

I'm Julia Keller.

This originally aired on PBS TV's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on October 18, 2006 and is also posted at

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Coffee, cocoa flatter red wine

The Pairing: 2003 Crooked Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, $30, with Cocoa Coffee Braised Short Ribs.

by Jolene Thym
Contra Costa Times
18 October 2006

THIS BIG Livermore Valley red is deep enough to serve with a main course, full enough to be sipped with anything chocolate. But the real beauty of this small-batch boutique wine is most apparent when it is served alongside a rich braise that is layered with cabernet-friendly flavors. The slight bitterness of the coffee in the braise underscores the tannins, and the fruity earthiness of the cocoa draws out the berry flavors of the cabernet grapes. A saucy dish like this begs for a creamy, simple side dish such as risotto or potatoes.


Serves 8

4 pounds boneless short ribs, trimmed

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

4 ribs celery, diced

6 cloves garlic, chopped fine

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 cups cabernet

2 cups strong coffee

Vegetable oil

Salt and black pepper

1. Season ribs with cocoa, salt and pepper. Heat a heavy, oven-proof saute pan or Dutch oven on high; add 1-2 tablespoons oil. Working in batches if necessary, brown ribs on all sides; remove from pan.

2. Add vegetables and garlic to the pan; saute over medium heat until vegetables begin to soften. Add thyme and bay leaves and continue to saute until garlic begins to brown. Stir in red wine and coffee.

3. Return ribs to the pan. Add enough water to almost cover the meat, but make sure the liquid does not cover the meat entirely. Cover the pan and braise in a 325-degree oven for 1 hour. Remove pan and check liquid level. Add water if needed.

4. Return pan to the oven for another hour. After 2 hours, begin checking the ribs to see if they are tender. The ribs are done when the meat is fork-tender. When the ribs are done, remove them to a separate dish and cover.

5. Pour juices into a gravy separator and allow to sit for several minutes. Return juices to a saucepan, leaving the bulk of the fat behind. Reduce the liquid until it begins to thicken into a sauce. Season sauce with salt and pepper, and serve with the ribs.

-- Courtesy Neil Marquis, Pleasanton Hotel

Per serving:

580 calories, 25 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 46 g fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 2 g fiber. Calories from fat: 72 percent

For more information visit http://www.contracostatimes .com

Friday, October 13, 2006

Grounds for Change

photograph by ann labate

There’s a growing trend to help the world’s poor coffee growers earn a fair return for their beans

By John Lux

Gasoline is the most common international product you and I must make decisions about buying, but don’t ask the clerk at your local station if the workers who pumped the oil got a fair wage for their labor, or if the Earth was treated right when the oil was extracted.

But coffee, the second biggest commodity in international trade, has a face the consumer can really see. Most of the world’s coffee is grown by family farmers. And most of them can’t make a decent living because most of the profits from green coffee — the unroasted beans — go to wholesalers.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and the picture is slowly changing. Change is coming from movements such as Fair Trade Certification, an international program that ensures farmers are paid a fair price for their coffee, and from individual companies, such as Chicago’s Intelligentsia.

Geoff Watts, the head buyer for Intelligentsia, said that while Fair Trade has certainly helped many farmers, it doesn’t address quality issues and has limited scope in regard to environmental concerns. “It is basically a price support mechanism,” he said.

Watts makes regular trips to coffee-growing areas to find the best coffee and the best farming practices. “We buy 50 percent of our coffee from small farmers, who produce 500 or 600 pounds a year on small plots of land, also growing much of their own food. Most of them are in co-ops,” he said.

Watts said there’s nothing wrong with larger farms if they do things the right way. He cites the Finca Malacara operation in El Salvador’s Santa Ana area, one of the producers Intelligentsia buys from. The owner pays good wages and has built a health clinic and day-care center. “I pay one guy but the money supports a lot of people,” Watts said.

Watts believes Fair Trade Certification also has helped the quality of the coffee. “When buyers squeeze growers on price, they’re hurting themselves because quality suffers when growers are in debt and can’t pay people to do the job right.”

Coffee Economics

Most coffee is grown in the tropical areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America. While there are major commercial plantations, notably in Brazil, most of the world’s coffee is grown by family farmers scratching out a living on small plots of land in poor countries. The International Coffee Organization estimates that Colombia, for example, has 560,000 coffee growers and the industry accounts for 30 percent of total rural employment.

Because it takes about four years for a coffee tree to bear fruit, it isn’t easy for these small farmers to adjust their production to changing market prices. So when prices are high, farmers plant more trees, but by the time the trees bear fruit, supplies are rising and market prices fall. Because the current price might not even cover the cost of production, coffee farming families — both those who own their own land and those who labor for others — suffer. With no real social safety net, some of these farmers are in real danger of starving to death.

Fair Trade Coffee

Fair Trade Certification, begun in Europe 16 years ago and growing in importance in the United States, is a way for coffee drinkers to channel more dollars to coffee farmers, as well as to encourage sound environmental and social practices. Fair Trade coffee is bought from farmer cooperatives at $1.26 a pound ($1.41 for organic coffee), with individual farmers and cooperative social programs sharing the premium.

More than 85 percent of Fair Trade coffee sold in the U.S. is certified organic.

Fair Trade Certification proved a godsend to small farmers as coffee prices fell to an all-time low of 45 cents a pound in 2002. While prices have more than doubled since then, a bumper crop this year could send them down again.

TransFair USA is the third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States, and the non-profit organization makes sure farmers and farm workers are paid a fair, above-market price and that sound socioeconomic criteria are met, using increased Fair Trade revenues.

TransFair, based in Oakland, Calif., says that in addition to providing price support, Fair Trade Certification ensures fair labor conditions for all workers on the farms; freedom of association for farmers and workers; lines of credit for cooperatives and environmental standards that restrict use of agrochemicals.

Higher Grounds Coffee

Small companies with a conscience, such as Higher Grounds Trading Co. of Leland, Mich., have found Fair Trade Certification a good way to go. Jody Treter, 30, and husband Chris, 31, founded the company in 2002, not so much to make money but to make the world a little better.

“We would shut our doors before selling anything but Fair Trade coffee,” Jody Treter said. “Our model is that of a non-profit. We pay living wages and we donate a lot of money” to the community, both their own in the Traverse Bay area and places where their coffee is grown.

The Higher Grounds operation is small — Jody Treter estimates it will gross less than $300,000 this year — and some months are profitable while some are not. While that may limit their donations, it doesn’t dampen their spirits.

“We are in an importing cooperative called Cooperative Coffees,” Jody Treter said. “The cooperative gives small roasters like us the opportunity to meet with small farmers.”

They buy coffee from Mut Vitz and Maya Vinic, two cooperatives in Chiapas, one of Mexico’s poorest states, and visit them each year. In addition, Higher Grounds is partnering with Catholic Relief Services in Nicaragua and also buys Fair Trade coffee from Sumatra, Ethiopia, Colombia and Peru.

While Higher Grounds sells 90 percent of its coffee in Michigan, much of it to churches, the company has its eye on the Chicago market, especially since the Fair Trade Futures conference will be held here in October. Higher Grounds’ main outlet in Chicago is the Wellington Cooperative in Lincoln Park.

Certification Red Tape

Intelligentsia’s Watts, while praising the goals of Fair Trade Certification, said the biggest problem with the program is the expense of certification and the time it takes to achieve it. And, he said, there are other ways to help the farmers.

Intelligentsia expects to contribute about $20,000 this year to a cooperative in Nicaragua that grows the Flor Azul coffee Intelligentsia sells. That is in addition to the money the co-op gets for the beans.

The cooperative is called Las Brumas (The Mists) and its 52 families benefit from a fund to build schools in the community.

But for the vast majority of Americans who don’t take the time to learn the policies of their favorite coffee roaster, Fair Trade Certification is useful shorthand for coffee that is good for workers and the Earth.

Mainstream Trade

Even Starbucks seems to be moving in that direction, although it will take a while to persuade its critics that the Godzilla of coffee shops isn’t just blowing PR smoke. Starbucks said it increased purchases of Fair Trade coffee in 2003 to 2.1 million pounds. Whole-bean Fair Trade coffee is sold in all American company-operated stores and the company says its purchasing guidelines give preference to farmers who score high in measurements of economic fairness, socially responsible working conditions, and progressive environmental practices.

Thinking Man’s Java

Michael James, co-owner of Rogers Park’s Heartland Café, has been a leader in healthful eating and progressive politics for 30 years, but he’s a fairly recent convert to the organic and Fair Trade movements.

Since he opened Heartland in 1976, he’s been buying coffee from family-owned Community Coffee of Baton Rouge, La. (“I became addicted,” he said.) “We’re moving in the direction of Fair Trade and organic coffee,” James said. “We sell Fair Trade coffee from Equal Exchange Coffee of Massachusetts both in the store and as a coffee of the day, but you’ve got to ask for it. It costs 25 cents a cup more, but people don’t mind paying it.”

He brews mainly Intelligentsia coffee both in Heartland and the companion No Exit Café, but choices are increasing. The store within the café carries Coalition Café, an organic Fair Trade coffee that benefits the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

“I avoided going organic over price, trying to keep the cost low for consumers,” James said. “I started changing a few years ago.” Health was one of the reasons. “In my 60s I started to have pains I didn’t want to have and shifted to a conscious diet. I find myself feeling very, very good.”

Originally published inn the September issue of Conscience Choice

John Lux is a Chicago-based freelance writer who likes his morning coffee with a shot of social conscience.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Film gives coffee firms a roasting on sustainability

Beverage Technology & Markets

By Chris Mercer

10/16/2006- Buying practices of the world’s biggest coffee companies have come under renewed public scrutiny from a new film which explores the journey of coffee beans from plantation to cup. took an early peek.

The film, called Black Gold, vividly depicts the poverty and uncertainty in the lives of Ethiopian coffee producers, and calls for more commitment to a sustainable coffee supply chain.

Dubbed by some as the next ‘Supersize Me’, Black Gold will launch in the UK at a time when ethical food and drink sales in the country have hit record highs, posing a challenge for producers and retailers.

Tadesse Meskala, head of the Ethiopian Oromia coffee co-operative, takes centre stage in the film as he is shown attempting to get a better price for his 74,000 producers. “Our hope is that one day the consumer will understand what he is drinking,” Meskala says.

In one scene, his farmers are amazed and others almost amused to discover just how much their coffee sells for in developed world coffeehouses and cafes. Producers on average get less than $0.3 for a $3 cup of coffee.

Coffee prices hit a 30-year low between 2001 and 2003, giving producers in developing countries a torrid time. Ethiopia depends on coffee for roughly 67 per cent of its export revenue.

Prices have begun to recover in the last year, leading to hopes that some kind of stability can be found in the supply chain. Proposals for a new International Coffee Agreement, intended to improve market stability, were discussed by the International Coffee Council last month.

The world’s four largest coffee firms, Nestlé, Kraft, Procter & Gamble and Sara Lee, declined an offer to participate in Black Gold. A spokesperson for Nestlé said the firm would prefer to see the film before commenting fully.

“These companies are part of the problem so they should be part of the solution,” Ethiopa’s ambassador to the UK, Berhanu Kebede, told

“The source is drying up. We need a collective approach, where governments, companies and co-operatives sit down and hammer out a price system to find a solution.”

More people than ever before in the UK appear to agree with his sentiments. “One in four adults believe it is down to manufacturers to be more ethical,” says a new ethical food market report from Mintel.

It adds that a similar number want the government and supermarkets to introduce stricter regulations.

Sales of Fairtrade food and drink have more than tripled in the UK since 2002, and should at least double again over the next five years, Mintel has found. Shoppers were set to spend more than £2bn on ethical foods this year, up 62 per cent from 2002.

Some big coffee firms have already attempted to tap into this trend. Nestlé launched a Fairtrade certified coffee brand called Partners’ Blend in the UK last autumn, to the guarded praise of most in the fair-trade movement.

Critics have since pointed out that less than one per cent of Nestlé’s coffee purchases come from certified Fairtrade sources.

Nestlé said in a report also last autumn it had begun a three-year project with Ethiopian coffee growers to help them improve incomes. “The programme is based on giving the farmer the tools to compete successfully in the open market, rather than paying the farmer a minimum price,” the firm said.

Black Gold portrayed signs of desperation among Ethiopia’s coffee farmers, however. Some have started growing Chat, a narcotic plant banned across the US and Europe.

“Chat fares better than coffee in terms of price – that is why we grow it – money is our incentive. We want to avoid death,” one farmer tells the camera.

Greater diversity and a global trade deal are currently the best hopes of turning farmers away from Chat, and all of its social baggage, and producing a sustainable coffee supply chain, according to ambassdor Kebede.

“This year for the first time coffee is not our number one export product,” he told, adding that other products such as lentils, textiles and cut flowers offered workable, alternative income sources for coffee producers.

A global trade deal through the World Trade Organisation would still be essential for long-term change, he said however. “African countries have no means to find subsidies, but if they are given a fair price they can become an important partner in international trade.”

Originally published by Beverage Daily - Montpellier, France

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Brazil May Produce 40 Million Bags of Coffee in Next Harvest

By Carlos Caminada
for Bloomberg Press

Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Brazil, the world's biggest coffee grower, may produce as much as 40 million bags of the beans in the coming crop, almost matching the current harvest, helped by rainfall and investment in fertilizers, an industry leader said.

Rising coffee prices this year prompted farmers to spend more on additives to boost yields next year, Guilherme Braga, general director of Brazil's coffee exporters' council, said in an interview from Sao Paulo. Regular rainfall through March will further increase productivity, he said. Farmers will reap 41.6 million bags in the crop year ending this month, the Agriculture Ministry said Aug. 25.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Earnest coffee expose lacks clarity

By Robert Horton

October 6, 2006

Herald Movie Critic

Yet another thing to be depressed about: coffee. The longtime pick-me-up is just another cog in the dismal machinery of the global economy.

This buzzkill is offered in "Black Gold," an earnest new documentary that traces the unclean trail of who gets rich on the world's favorite legal addiction. The emphasis is on coffee from Ethiopia, the source of some of the finest coffee beans in the world.

British filmmaking brothers Marc and Nick Francis focus on a man named Tadesse Meskela, a sales representative who is trying to help the small coffee farmers in Ethiopia band together to get a fairer price for their product.

In order to follow that, "Black Gold" looks at who is profiting and how they are making their profit. The money isn't going to the Ethiopian coffee farmers, who look extremely surprised when they find out how much is being made at the other end.

The Francis brothers travel to a World Trade Organization meeting, to the floor of a New York commodities exchange, and to the very first Starbucks store in Seattle's Pike Place Market. Also in Seattle, they drop in on an annual competition to determine the world's best barista - something that might be fun, but seems rather trivial in these circumstances.

That's because by this time, the film has also shown how women sitting in a factory in Ethiopia are making about 50 cents a day laboriously hand-picking through coffee beans to weed out the bad ones. That's how gourmet coffee becomes gourmet.

Any casual java drinker will at least consider turning to "Fair Trade" coffee after seeing this movie. Fair Trade seeks to get a more equitable share of the profits into the hands of farmers and growers rather than the vast web of middlemen and the multinational corporations that generally keep the lion's share of the dough.

That seems like a valid cause, although it must be said that "Black Gold" does a less than completely coherent job of explaining the system. It would be nice to connect all the dots so that the uninitiated can see the whole picture. Understandably, with 2 billion cups of coffee consumed every day, that's a big picture.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Coffee, cigars, sex 'behind longevity'

From correspondents in Havana

October 05, 2006 04:33am

Article from: Agence France-Presse

CUBA'S high number of centenarians said their longevity is a result of going easy on alcohol, but indulging in coffee, cigars and sex, according to a survey released today.

Cuba, with a population of 11.2 million, has about 3000 people who have lived more than a century. A study was carried out of 54 of the more than 100 centenarians who live in Santa Clara province, which has Cuba's highest average age, by Professor Nancy Nepomucemo.

The results were reported to the National Geriatrics and Social Work workshop, according to the newspaper Juventud Rebelde. Their lives are disciplined, the study found, yet not austere - none was alcoholic, and they expressed a love for coffee and cigars. They maintained a strong interest in their sex lives and other topics, the study said.

Most of the super-seniors were mentally alert, do manual labour in rural areas, and 60 per cent said their parents also were long-lived.

Ninety-five per cent ate a diet including fish, eggs, milk, white meat, vegetables, and manioc, which they cook with little salt and natural seasonings.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Coffee for the Guys

photography by christopher gilbert


Written By: Chantelle

For Gilkatho Pty Ltd.
An Australian Coffee Co.

How do you take your morning coffee? A dash of milk? A cup of sugar? Maybe even a bit of Irish crème? I bet you’ve never taken it with legs before though… It comes from Chile, and it’s called café con piernas. It essentially means ‘coffee with legs’. Basically a café con piernas is a stand-up coffee bar staffed entirely by stunning, barely-dressed women. Amazingly, despite what you may be thinking, some of the best coffee in Chile can, in fact, be found with a side of legs. Whilst Paris may house the Moulin Rouge, and the US may claim home to the notorious Hooters, the sexy café con piernas appear to be of a purely Chilean phenomenon. However, these sexy Chilean coffee shops possess some surprisingly different characteristics to their foreign counterparts which are scattered across the globe. For example, rule number one for these cafés is no nights, no weekends. Business in these coffee shops is run strictly from 9a.m. until 9p.m. every weekday, only. According to locals the busiest hours are generally in the morning. No real shock factor there, as many customers come in to drink their first coffee of the day…or five…or six… Even more differentiating and stunning is that there is no alcohol. These really are just normal coffee shops, in which every person who serves you just so happens to be absolutely gorgeous and very scantily-clad. Additionally, there’s no cover, no doorman and cheap coffee. Who would have thought that there would be anywhere in the world you could see such a view without burning a lovely deep hole in your change pocket. Likewise, the drinks would cost multiple times more than the affordable 700-900 peso coffees (US $1.50) found in these cafés. So, if you’re looking for a sexy coffee at a cheap price, or if you’re just looking for your husband who left for his morning coffee days ago, Santiago is the place to go!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Colombian coffee growers hurt by chemical spray

Crops sprayed with chemicals meant to destroy cocaine are disrupting coffee farmers.

Many WSU students start out their day with a visit to the coffee stand before class. However, these students may not be thinking about where the coffee they enjoy as a morning wake up comes from.

“We want to focus our presentation in the Northwest, because coffee is such a huge part of the culture,” said Beth Poteet, Northwest regional organizer for Witness for Peace. The group hosted a presentation made through a translator by Freddy Urbano, a Colombian campesino, or farm, leader and coffee grower.

On Thursday evening, a roomful of WSU students in CUE Room 419 listened to Urbano share his own story about the difficulties of growing coffee in Colombia because of crop fumigation by the U.S. government. Fumigation is meant to destroy coca plants – the raw material used in cocaine.

However, the U.S.-funded Plan Colombia program is targeting the smaller scale farms rather than the large areas of coca plants grown by Colombian drug traffickers, Urbano said.

Plan Colombia has provided more than $4.2 million in aid to fight the “War on Drugs,” Urbano said. The fumigations were damaging to 57 families in the area of Cauca, Colombia, in 2005. These families’ coca growing operations are minuscule in comparison to the drug traffickers’.

Urbano said less than

18 percent of the U.S. aid goes to displaced families or to alternative development programs like Cosurca, a small-scale coffee farmer’s organization.

Fumigation is a process of spraying crops with powerful poisonous substance similar to weed killer, Urbano said. Not only does the aerial fumigation kill illegal coca plants, it kills other vegetation such as family crops that are often the only source of food. Often, the major coca plant growers do not receive fumigation, Urbano said.

He said 90 percent of the farms fumigated were not even growing coca plants. These farmers are part of Urbano’s organization, Cosurca.

The average campesino does not produce large amounts of coca plants, unlike illegal drug traffickers, Urbano said. The average harvest for a farming family in Colombia occurs every three months. Usually, about 30 bags of coca weighing 25 pounds each will bring in less than $20 per bag. This comes to around $2,300 a year, which is just enough to sustain a family.

Even though the U.S. has provided money to Colombia to help eradicate the growing of coca plants, there still is no solution to the problem, Urbano said. Poverty and crime continue to increase.

The families growing small amounts of coca are aware they contribute to illegal drug use and trafficking, but often lack an alternative, he said.

Corsuca is a cooperative organization of peasant, indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups in Cauca, Urbano said.

The group’s main goal is to continue eradicating coca plants many farmers depend on for a small source of income. In doing this, the group helps farmers come up with positive alternatives, such as the growing of fair-trade coffee. Urbano said coffee crops provide a stabler economy.

In the seven years leading up to June 2006, about 520,000 coca plants were eradicated and replaced by coffee, he said.

“When legal work is available, people are very willing to stop growing coca,” Urbano said through a translator. “People want to have a dignified life without coca.”

Urbano made the presentation with the help of translator Kath Nygard, who works with Witness for Peace in Bogota, Colombia. This organization supports peace, justice and sustainable economies by promoting change in governmental policies in Latin America.

Corsuca supports a change in the system that makes farmers not just producers of raw materials, but gets them involved in the agricultural-industrial process that includes processing, sales and exporting. So far, Corsuca has increased farmers’ profits by about 45 percent, Urbano said. This money is equally distributed among the Corsuca farmers.

Corsuca also supports fair trade, and all of its members’ coffee production is sold as fair-trade coffee.

Urbano said he hopes to convince as many people as possible to learn about the situation so they can fight policy that has been destructive in Colombia and Latin America.

People can support Corsuca by voting to end U.S. involvement through military aid and to stop fumigation in Latin America, Urbano said.

Originally published in the Daily Evergreen on October 1st, 2006. The Daily Evergreen is a WSU publication