— Jenny Neill

Coffee and Indonesia: A New Chapter for Fair Trade?

I write therefore I drink coffee. Yes, yes, many fellow wordsmiths manage to face down the blank page through sheer determination or with the aid of other caffeinated beverages. But me? I prefer the rich, dark flavors of a good cuppa joe to start my day.

Seattle skyline at sunset

Photo courtesy of Mike Russell, all rights reserved.

One country known for producing the green beans from which roasters coax earthy complex flavors is Indonesia. Political intrigue and conflict persist in this island nation, once known as the Dutch East Indies. The people and commerce there inspired a revolutionary 19th century Dutch novelist whose work later catalyzed an international trade movement. Whether you believe, as some have claimed, that this book incited the systemic changes to end colonialism, one result is certain: the fair trade movement is linked idealogically to Max-Havelaar-the-book and commercially to Max-Havelaar-the-label.

While much has changed in the scale of coffee production since then, many farmers and farm workers still struggle to earn enough to be able to eat all year. Discussions about how to solve this problem continue to make it onto trade meeting agendas. And, Indonesia may well be where the next chapter of this story takes place. My article in STiR Tea & Coffee Industry Bi-Monthly reports on what Fair Trade USA is doing to explore how to expand fair trade there.