Global coffee, local problems

If you're someone who tries to "think global, act local," then coffee has long been a problem: Cheap stuff for us (lattes!) thanks to far-away exploitation. 

And if you wanted to support a charity working on this problem, then you might either sign up with an African NGO like Technoserve or go for the local grassroots and mentor someone at the unemployment charity Pro Baristas.

Still, it's not actualy an either-or — over there or right here. What does an imported commodity like coffee really have to do with local problems like youth unemployment and depleted landscapes?

All news is local

The answer is that all of these are really "local," though the layers of global trade tend to obscure this. A huge global industry serving one of the most popular drinks in the world can really be boiled down to local pickers, local growers, local coffee mills, local roasters, all with their own local issues. 

Many of these atomised problems can be communicated through coffee, and the sheer power of coffee drinkers collectively can pull some crucial levers. For example, if you believe our stories about the Aponte tribe producing Inga Honey coffee, then this coffee influences land use and indigenous rights. It can give and take away political power, as in Mexico, and has a lot to do with wildlife and wild spaces. It's only logical, then, to think similarly about local rewilding and perhaps support the nature charity Knepp Wildland Foundation.

Credibility is key

The key, though, is that you probably need to believe us first. This might be the trickiest part. Perhaps the only way we can figure to convince you that these are the real stories is to publish everything

You definitely shouldn't believe tidy tales of social transformation through buying more stuff. But perhaps you could believe transparent financial reports, and ask for the proof when someone tells you they're doing something radically ethical. 

We're not a non-profit because we use profits to lavishly pay an executive, and we're not a massively profitable company claiming to be for the "social good." The money really does go where we say it does, and you can check us on that in our transparency report. The 2022 edition is landing soon. 

Ben Szobody is a former U.S. journalist who has written and edited several coffee publications. He now develops food and drink projects aimed at centering the marginalised.