I’ll be honest, I thought I was pretty savvy about coffee taxonomy knowing that there were two kinds, arabica and robusta. Not surprisingly, perhaps, a research paper about “Coffea stenophylla and C. affinis, the Forgotten Coffee Crop Species of West Africa” caught my attention. And of course, as I should have known, there are scores of different coffee species. What is particularly intriguing about C. stenophylla, however, is that in its day people considered it a very fine coffee indeed. A 1925 monograph recorded that “The beans are said, by both the natives and the French merchants, to be superior to those of all other species.”
Walking down the supermarket aisle in search of coffee, I have this warm inner glow. If I choose a pack that boasts the Fair Trade logo, or that of any other third-party certifying agency, I’ll be doing good just by paying a little more for something that I am going to buy anyway. The extra I pay will find its way to the poor farmers who grow the coffee, and together enlightened coffee drinkers can make their lives better. But it seems I’m at least somewhat mistaken. Certified coffee is certainly better than nothing, but it isn’t doing as much good as I fondly imagine. And the price premium I pay could be doing a lot more.
In this episode I hear about coffee that’s more ethical than fair, and about some of the ways in which Fair Trade falls short.
Coffee grounds are a valuable addition to compost and garden soil. Here are ideas for using coffee grounds in your garden, including precautions.