Coffee Granita and Grounds for Thought


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!

Coffee Granita

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!).

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6 Responses to Coffee Granita and Grounds for Thought

  1. globalfayre says:

    Great blog!
    Global Fayre is a Fair Trade retailer (physical store and online too – based in Springfield, MO.
    I wanted to let you know that the concept of Fair Trade applies to literally thousands of food and non-food products now; sales of Fair Trade products rose globally by 23% in 2008!
    If you want to know more, check out the Fair Trade Federation (, the Fair Trade Resource Network ( or for food specifically, TransfairUSA ( Transfair is the sole labelling organization in the USA, so responsible for that black and white Fair Trade Certified symbol you see on packets of food.

    I also wanted to ask you if you would mind us using that great receipe for Coffee Granita in our next newsletter; we send it out to around 3,500 readers.



    • nutrition to kitchen says:

      Thanks for the comment David,
      I do link to in my blog under “fair trade certification,” but after looking at your site, I had no idea fair trade including things like chili mixes and brazil nut products! Very cool. I now have more resources to learn from. Thanks so much!

  2. Phi says:

    It was over 100 today. This sounds like it would have been perfect for the weather.

  3. This is so interesting. My morning coffee is my of my favorite parts of the day. I am definitely going to look into purchasing fair trade from now on!

  4. Åsa says:

    What a nice blog you have!
    I love this post about FairTrade. It was actually a funny coincident I found it right now. I’m from Sweden and involved in our “Rättvisemärkt” (Fairtrade) organization as a volunteer. We’re just about to start a two week campaign called “Fair Trade Focus”. But now, I was just browsing through my food blog links and bookmarks, looking for some inspiring cooking :-)

    I like Trader Joe’s too :) I worked in Santa Barbara, CA earlier this year and that was one of my favorite stores. There was no Whole Food Market but I got the chance to visit one in LA. I loved it!

    I notice you’ve got some links for more information about Fairtrade and also that you’ve made links in this post to e.g. transfari. FLO – Fairtrade Labelling Organisation ( is the main organisation that coordinates Fairtrade labelling at an international level. So far it is 24 organizations that are members in FLO, trying to make the world a better place.

    Keep drinking your fairtrade coffee :-)

    btw, I’ll never understand that expression “ignorance is bliss” – Why?

  5. nutrition to kitchen says:

    Thanks for letting me know about the FLO! I love learning more about it every day. When I talked about “ignorance is bliss,” I feel that when people don’t know about where their food comes from, it’s easy for them to go about their daily lives and not be affected by what’s really going on in the food industry. That extra knowledge, though it can be painful to swallow, is what drives me to double-check if my fish not on an endangered list, or my meat wasn’t raised unethically. To me, now, that extra knowledge is bliss, because I know I’m doing my part. So I guess I should now change it to say, “ignorance is not bliss!”
    Thanks for visiting!

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