I’ve gotten to the point in my college career where it would be wholly more efficient and cost effective if I just kept a constant intravenous flow of caffeine straight into my bloodstream. I mean I have a Keurig coffee machine on the nightstand next to my bed (highly recommended). Call me a coffee snob, even though I’m really not, but there are some things I just can’t tolerate. Aside from refusing to buy coffee at certain on campus locales (ahem, Mark’s Cafe) I really don’t tolerate lines and indecisiveness. I especially dislike when people who clearly don’t know much, or anything, about coffee make a gigantic fuss at what always seems like the absolute worst time.

The other day I witnessed one of the more heinous acts I’ve seen. Whilst standing in line in between classes at Williams Cafe, the one glimmer of hope for on–campus recharge stations, a middle–aged woman peskily asked the barista whether the coffee they were brewing was “fair trade.” The barista wasn’t sure, but answered that they used La Colombe coffee beans, which she knew were local. The woman proceeded to yell at the barista for not knowing whether La Colombe uses fair trade beans, then ranted about fair-trade beans or something for a few minutes and finally settled for a cup of decaf coffee.

Here’s my beef. This woman goes to grab coffee during one of the busiest times of the day, carping ensues and she gets a cup anyways. I would count her as just another mindless complainer. Her earth–saving cup o’ joe came in a lovely paper cup with a plastic top and the cardboard outside. Why wouldn’t she also have a reusable travel mug? Those paper cups really add up.

Look, I’m all for fair trade coffee. Coffee is one of the most lucrative and corrupt trading schemes in the world (maybe second only to blood diamonds), and we can certainly do our part as consumers to demand fair trading practices. But why accost an innocent undergrad just trying to fill her work study hours by filling cups for over-tired college kids? If she cared so much about it, she might know that La Colombe has supported fair trade coffee organizations since they started here in Philadelphia.

If you’re reading this ma’am, they state this: “We recognize that as coffee roasters we occupy a unique place in the world, a spot on the narrow bridge between the developing world and some of the most affluent consumers on the planet. To us, this role is more than a responsibility, more than a popular philanthropic logo but a rare privilege seldom afforded. At La Colombe, we intend to make the most out of this opportunity.”

I don’t pretend to know everything about, say, the coffee trade, but I think I know when to keep my mouth shut until the delicious java soothes my tired soul. So again, while we can do our part to support fair trading, we can also do our part to use common sense, treat workers here with respect and try every other way to help the planet.


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