How many of us think about where our food comes from? Ignorance is bliss. Like that one time, years back, when I ate veal and later discovered how veal was actually raised. Needless to say, I haven’t eaten it ever since. More and more, I find myself questioning the origins of the food on my plate. Recently, I read a book called “The Ethical Gourmet: How to Enjoy Great Food That Is Humanely Raised, Sustainable, Nonendangered, and That Replenishes the Earth” by Jay Weinstein.
I flipped to the part of the book about coffee. P and I get our coffee from Hawaiian farms that supply to local grocery stores, so we don’t think about where it comes from very often. When we do go to Starbucks, we see “fair-trade” coffee, which sounds great, but I never really took the time to do extra research on the subject until now.
Americans drink A LOT of coffee. According to the National Coffee Association‘s 2009 survey, about 54% of Americans drink coffee. Coffee drinkers ages 18-24 gulp down about 2.9 cups per day! I don’t think I ever drank that much, even while pulling an all-nighter before my college finals!
If you think about it, with the exception of coffee farms in Hawaii, the United States doesn’t have that tropical climate that will support coffee farming. It’s grown in Central America, Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Indonesia, Vietnam, and more. Fair trade coffee ensures that coffee farms comply with strict regulations, such as prohibiting child labor, practicing farming methods that support environmental sustainability, and ensuring farms fair prices. I feel good knowing that my Starbucks cup o’ joe did not originate from farms that employed child slave labor, but from ethical practices accepted by Fair Trade Certification (TransFair USA). Cocoa, tea, sugar, vanilla, and more can also be fair trade certified. You can purchase fair trade items at Trader Joe’s (oh how I miss thee! Come plant a store in Hawaii!), Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Target, and more.
In addition to Fair Trade coffee, you’ve also got organic and shade-grown coffees. All three are sustainable methods of growing coffee. Organic ensures your coffee isn’t sprayed with pesticides or chemicals, and shade-grown coffee is grown underneath shade trees that have not been bulldozed down as part of rainforest destruction. Shade-grown coffee ensures that migratory birds still have a home and supports biodiversity by conserving the canopy above and allowing birds and other animals to still live in their environment.
Here’s a recipe from my dog-eared cookbook, The Gourmet Cookbook. I actually cut down the sugar to 1/4 cup because I used strong coffee instead of espresso, and I don’t like really sweet coffees anyways. You can tailor the sweetness to your liking before putting it in the freezer. Also, the recipe calls for whipped cream, but I didn’t have any whipping cream on hand, so just work with what you have!
adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, by Ruth Reichl
makes about 3 3/4 cups
2 cups hot espresso or very strong coffee
1/4 cup sugar (the cookbook uses 1/2 cup sugar; I don’t like my coffee that sweet so I cut that in half)
2 tsp vanilla extract
accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream (optional)
Stir together coffee and sugar in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved, then stir in the vanilla. Pour into an 8-inch square baking pan, let cool, then freeze, stirring every 30 minutes, until slushy, about 1 1/2 hours.
Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir vigorously with a fork until slightly smoother and more uniform in texture, about 30 seconds. Freeze until firm enough to scoop, about 30 minutes more.
Serve in bowls, topped with whipped cream (or not!).