Fair Trade Topics: Coffee

Japan is a land inundated with cans of crappy coffee. It all just seems like different labels to sell the same brown water with artificial sugars and coffee dust added so it can still be called coffee. And the uncountable varieties are mass-produced by corporate giants with an eye to profit and little more. Okay, Starbucks deserves some credit for producing high-quality products and instituting some real corporate responsibility, but those new portable coffee cans and cups, at least, are not Fair Trade.

Fair Trade has only gained traction in Japan in recent years, and Fair Trade coffee has done rather well. It has earned fairly wide acceptance among all Fair Trade products due in part to the efforts of NPOs like Wakachiai and businesses like Slow Coffee. And, of course, there are more than a few coffee drinkers in Japan. While Fair Trade beans and brewed coffee is becoming fairly common in retail stores, those cans of crappy coffee still dominate the portable coffee market.

Thank goodness for Eco Black. Tahara, based in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, now markets two varieties of Fair Trade coffee (regular and sweet) under this name. Rather than package their coffee in cans, they have gone with environmentally friendly can-like cartons. The coffee itself comes from Mexico and Ecuador. It is not only Fair Trade, but also organic and grown through agroforestry; coffee crops are integrated with indigenous vegetation and animals (which means no razing of habitats). The sugar for the sweet variety is natural. Finally, a small portion of profits from each carton goes to supporting an Ecuadorian tribe in the region and to reforestation projects.

The cartons are only 150 yen a unit (tax included) and available in packs of 6, 30 and 48. You can order on-line from the Tahara site, or buy directly from retailers like South Wind. Drink the good stuff, the really good stuff.





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