Have You Heard of Coffee Leaf Tea?

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Consumed in Ethiopia for more than 200 years, coffee leaf tea is exactly what it sounds―the leaves of coffee plants roasted and then brewed into tea. While coffee leaves barely contain any caffeine at all, they are believed to be more nutritious than both coffee and many blends of tea. They also have “…a clean and smooth flavour without the bitterness associated with conventional green and black teas.”

Wize Monkey is one of the companies currently popularizing the blend, and their goal is “to improve the livelihoods of coffee-dependent communities by harvesting a sustainable & healthy product.” Wize Monkey was founded by Max Rivest and Arnaud Petitvallet, who are both business school graduates from France with a focus on ethical practices and international sustainable development.

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Other than oil, coffee is the second largest industry in the world, worth approximately $15.4 billion in 2009/10. Even still, the coffee business is incredibly seasonal; coffee beans can only be harvested for 3 months out of the entire year. As a result, most workers cannot be kept on year-round. According to Wize Monkey’s site:

“In the last few years, the coffee market has become flooded and revenues have been plummeting for all coffee farmers worldwide. We figured that if the farmers could also sell coffee leaves, they could create a second source of income and help make ends meet. After three months of searching and meeting with dozens of organic farmers, we have come home to Vancouver BC with a one-of-a-kind revolutionary tea. Not only does it do your body some good, it does the farmers some awesome.”

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The good thing about coffee leaves is that they can be harvested year-round. Wize Monkey sources their leaves from one of the top coffee growers in Northern Nicaragua, who has over 18 years experience in the industry. This particular farm “pays workers 80% more than the industry average, which means more funds in the worker’s pockets to support their families…” If Wize Monkey is successful, coffee leaf tea could potentially provide long-lasting benefits to families and communities around the world that normally make a living selling coffee beans.

Curious about how you can try Wize Monkey’s coffee leaf tea for yourself? Their online shop has a preorder bundle available with shipment due for spring of 2015 (soon!), or a two sample pack.

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What is Fair Trade?

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In your time spent as a consumer, you’ve probably seen items labeled ‘fair trade,’ or ‘fair trade certified.’ You likely have a general idea of what this means; that one thing is being traded for another, and the terms of doing so are fair for everyone involved. What is it specifically, though, that makes something fair trade?

At its core, fair trade is an idea. It allows producers in developing countries to sell their products at a fair price, helps to keep their products sustainable, and makes sure their workers are being treated fairly. It’s a sort of partnership which aims to make sure that no one is being taken advantage of.

One of the main groups supporting this idea is the World Fair Trade Organization. Here are their 10 Principles of Fair Trade:

  • Create opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers, which helps to increase quality of life and reduce poverty in their region
  • Transparency and accountability with management, commercial dealings, employees, and producers.
  • Fair trading practices, always keeping in mind the well-being of the producers (socially, economically, and environmentally).
  • Payment of a fair price, which has been agreed upon mutually.
  • Ensuring no child and/or forced labor.
  • Non discrimination in regards to things such as race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.
  • Good working conditions; the producer must maintain a healthy and safe environment for its workers.
  • Providing capacity building (helping employees, management, etc. to develop their skills).
  • Promoting fair trade.
  • Respect for the environment, maximizing the use of sustainable materials, buying locally, reducing energy consumption, and more.

In addition to fair trade being an idea, products can also be fair trade certified by groups such as Fairtrade International (a non-profit organization). There are different sorts of standards which vary depending upon your role in the process (if you are a producer, you are subject to different standards than the buyer).

In order to obtain certification, there is a list of mandatory criteria that needs to be met and upheld, such as purchasing at a minimum price and keeping their dealings transparent. If the company meets all of the necessary standards, they may apply for a license. This allows them to put the fairtrade certification mark on their product. Companies using this mark will be audited annually, making sure they are still in compliance with all fair trade standards.

Products that can be fair trade certified include: bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, flowers, fresh fruit, honey, gold, juices, rice, spices and herbs, sports balls, sugar, tea, wine, and certain composite products (products that contain more than one ingredient).

*Some people take issue with fairtrade in practice; this topic will be covered at a later date.