As much as I like to believe I'm aware of the world's atrocities and doing my part to make things better, I know I'm very much a negative factor in many world struggles that I'm both conscious of and oblivious to. I suppose my hourly efforts go out to world education, but being interested in travel and the world's communities seems to impress the importance of caring about everything.
Where does my clothing come from? Am I supporting local farmers? Did my beer get to me via cargo ship? Man...this coffee tastes delicious.
In terms of these worries, coffee is certainly a big kahuna. It's a safe assumption that young children today associate the Starbucks counter with the origin of coffee. And sadly, I think many adults and consumers think that far into the commerce chain when purchasing their daily jolt. I know I envision lush fields and no faces when I see names like Highland Grog and Java Sumatra, while trying to buy the cheapest concoction possible.
Where does the profit from our caffeine flow? Who benefits from my flavored latte? What is it like to grow coffee for a ravenous global market?
Dean is this dude. He is the founding dude of Deans Beans. He also calls himself a Javatrekker. He's all about organic beans and fair traded coffee, not "fairly" traded, loophole-filled commerce that leaves the farmers out cold and hungry. His book reads like a compilation of travel essays from someone who's had unique, and at times treacherous, experiences in the jungles, arid flatlands, and mountain ranges of the coffee lands.
Though I'm normally attracted to straight narratives, I found the mental globe trotting on the same theme a great overall adventure with an informative pulse, which will resonate with any consumer of any good. Let's check out Javatrekker: Dispatches From the World of Fair Trade Coffee.
Dig your little toesies into the arid soil of Ethiopia, the birthplace of the coffee bean - or at least the location of caffeine's discovery. Dean will walk you through the experience of getting clean, potable water to a region with a serious water paucity. Feel happy and inspired. Now head south to Kenya and get ready to rip the bureaucratic heads off those swindling the coffee farmers out of their money. And so this storyline oscillates from empowering and inspiring accomplishment to unfortunate setback and struggle.
Take a big flying leap over to South America where Dean witnesses incredible feats of guerilla engineering, connects with ailing nature's call, and swallows crippling fear and pain to help a region whose political struggle beheld the demise of his friends. His essays indicate the world's vast array of problems all affect the already difficult task of growing beans: global warming, natural disaster, political uproar, world market prices, foreign aid, and more. It all reminded me of the butterfly effect.
Dean's trips aren't just about agriculture. Officially observing democratic elections and visiting victims of amputation via train wheels are his errands. Tying his product directly to the effects his industry can exacerbate not only reveals a pivotal awareness of the realities related to coffee but those of all products with middlemen and foggy ground between their origin and destiny.
Island-nations of Asia and the South Pacific host Dean's experiences, in locales seldom seen by the likes of any foreign eyes. Regions ripped to shreds by civil war and political corruption work with him to help their caffeinated cash crop industry. Bringing simple machines to villages that lost out on money for lack of regulation and timely output, Dean appears like a savior to these co-ops in need. However, he's always first to mention his own miscalculations and wrongdoings alongside those of his fellow man.
While Dean does focus on the difficulties of coffee growers, he fills the pages with descriptive prose on the rituals of coffee consumption, the cultural nuances of each community meeting, the similar human spirit that unites the world's population, as well as the distinctive differences that remind us the vast spread of the social platter. One doesn't need to be a lover of coffee to appreciate this compilation; travelers and the business-minded alike have great lessons to gain from reading this bad boy.
The Bottom Line
How are we supposed to work eight hours, exercise for one, get seven hours of sleep, chew 25 times per bite, find time for friends and family, visit the doctor, drink eight glasses of water, clean the litter box, and floss three times a day? Our lives are already packed with must-dos and obligations that seemingly cannot go undone. So then, how can we layer on top of our daily checklist complete and utter social responsibility that would accompany hours of research and product comparison?
In other words, how are we supposed to know which thing we eat, drink, or wear is best for the world?
Don't worry; you'll live a long time, long enough to take it all in stride and read books like this to cover each issue at a time. And now, coffee is covered! Deans Beans is standing alongside the farmer, helping him or her pay for their cost of operation, their family's well-being, and enabling their vertical climb in commerce and life. That sounds responsible to me.
Disclaimer: I borrowed this book from a friend, and there are affiliate links in this post. I believe this is a book worth purchasing as well as one worth sharing with your friends.