Magic Bean Water: A Recollection

My love affair with coffee began with heat stroke. I was on an aid trip, painting window frames in 35C degree heat. The lead-based paint was ancient had to be cut with thinner to make it into a spreadable sludge instead of a solid one. The fumes were practically visible. By the middle of the day, I felt a wobble in my brain. I was carried first to a dinner bench, and when I fell off of that, to a cool bedroom.

The room spun like a centrifuge. I could feel the irate nerve endings in my skull. So I escaped to sleep for a few hours. When I woke up to a room that was finally still, a sweet little elderly lady came in with a glass half full of hot dark coffee.

As I sipped the blend of arabica and cane sugar I immediately understood why billions of people swore by the nearly magical qualities of this drink. It was smoky and sweet and rich. I cobbled together my best Spanish to relate my feelings, and the lady nodded with a smile. We sat there, separated by language and geography and culture, sharing the love of a wonderful drink that could beat back the unpleasantness of any day.

Shortly after I came home, I worked as a Barista, in a coffee house that imported, roasted, and blended its’ own beans. I came to cherish the smell of burnt sugar and smoke while we sold various blends to weary customers. There was a peace to a coffee house that was not detectable elsewhere.

I learned the myriad of ways to turn boring beans into ambrosia. There was the ‘coffee sock’ of Latin America; the French coffee press; and the much disputed Italian Moka pot. There was also the manual espresso press; the humble pour over cone; and the ultra scientific coffee siphon (invented by the Germans, of course). Each had its fans and detractors.

But it was not the various brewing methods, roasts, or preparations that made me love coffee. It was how it gave me the ability to transform someone’s day from rotten to tolerable. Like handing out a cup of psycho-social first aid. Not bad for a lowly, back-mountain, bean.

A few years into my bean romance, accusations of worker exploitation surfaced, and were quickly confirmed. Being a young, idealistic college student, I was immediately horrified that my daily concentration elixir had blood in it. I went cold turkey for two weeks. Not able to bring myself to drink the product of farmer ill treatment, my knee-jerk response was to immediately cut contact with the whole bean-consuming system.

Ya, that worked for about 2 weeks. I didn’t cave, but my fiancé did. Apparently, I was unpleasant to be around.

For the first time in my life, I set aside time to research HOW a product was produced, and what impacts it had from bean to cup. I had the privilege of visiting Costa Rica, and observing what an organic, worker-owned coffee farm looked like. I made it a priority to read about a company’s conduct, BEFORE I looked at product specs and price. WHAT I consumed, WHO I bought it from, and HOW they conducted themselves, MATTERED. I knew I was only one little drop in an ocean of coffee, but I wanted to be a drop that mattered. After approximately 5 years, I observed that many coffee distributers were bowing to consumer pressure to only buy from ethical coffee producers. This only happened because buyers chose to tell coffee companies they had to do better, or lose business.

I am reminded of this issue again as the abhorrent actions of the Russian Federation pour into our newsfeeds by the hour. I thank and commend the choices that the civil and corporate leaders have made to stop trading with this genocidal regime. But I am still disgusted that some companies CONTINUE to trade with and buy from a government that tacitly approves rape, murder and looting.

There are many journalists and scholars that have taken up the task of calling these companies to account, and by doing so, have pushed many to abandon business relations with Russia. I am extremely grateful, as a consumer, that these people have done such excellent work in tracking these activities. I realize that I am only one person, but I have committed to checking the companies I buy from against the current trade list, composed by the Yale School Of Management. This list is updated regularly, and can be browsed by company and can be sorted and filtered to narrow inquiry results quickly. It only takes a couple of minutes, and it helps me to not give ANY money to organizations cooperating with murder. I want to encourage every person in the Free World to please ALWAYS check this list below, BEFORE buying anything.

If we, as consumers, can pressure coffee companies to pay fair prices to coffee workers, we can strangle the flow of capital to a murderous régime.




Bleeding Heart or Misanthrope. Depends on the day. Book hoarder. Coffee snob. Loves animals, plants, and at least 9 people.

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Asha Alaric

Asha Alaric

Bleeding Heart or Misanthrope. Depends on the day. Book hoarder. Coffee snob. Loves animals, plants, and at least 9 people.

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