Cat scat coffee and the fair trade mafia


Kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world because it is scarce and it is also the finest. 

The scarcity is because of the method of production.  As the clip shows, the coffee beans are sourced from the droppings of the luwak (civet cat).  Coffee made from these beans does not have the bitterness of ordinary coffee and the aftertaste is not so prolonged.  The flavour is quite distinctive, but pleasant. 

Why does the coffee have these characteristics?  Firstly because coffee grows best in Indonesia (why do you think they call it java?).  Secondly, normal coffee includes some beans which aren’t yet ripe and others which are overripe and still others that are inferior in other ways, yet they’re all processed together. But the luwak will eat only the finest beans, so the quality is consistently high.  Thirdly, although the beans are not digested, some chemical changes occur in the luwak’s digestion which possibly removes the bitterness and alters the overall flavour of the bean.

Despite having the best coffee in the world, Indonesians are strangely incapable of making a good cup.  Usually they just put a few spoonfuls of ground coffee into a glass with a heap of sugar and pour hot water over the lot.  As the grounds aren’t filtered, you have to strain them out with your teeth.

Now for today’s rant:

The Fairtrade movement seeks to ensure that primary producers are paid a ‘fair’ amount for their product.  Apparently the market is not able to properly decide how much an ounce of coffee should cost.  So these experts have taken it upon themselves to increase producer prices.  But not for all producers, of course.  Only for those who are able to pay the license fee to the Fairtrade Foundation.  Then they have to play by the rules set by this first world organisation.  A few decades ago, another worthy organisation, the United Nations, tried fixing coffee prices, resulting in the usual corruption, cronyism and market disruption that always goes with attempts at central planning.  When the whole thing unravelled, there was a boom in production from new, more efficient players entering the market followed by a crash caused by the overproduction.  The Fairtrade movement could cause the same effect if they gain enough market power.

Already, one country dominates this Fairtrade coffee market.  Which famous coffee producing country do you think it would be?  Indonesia?  No.  Ethiopia?  No.  Columbia? Not even.  No, no country in Asia, Africa or even South America gets the meagre benefits of your Fairtrade dollar, but a North American country, Mexico controls 23% of the market.  I guess it’s not so far for the Fairtrade czars to travel and collect their license fees.

If you would like to hear more of the ‘other side of the fair trade story’, watch this video (18mins):

http://www.casttv.com/video/dwwgvh1/worldwrite-the-bitter-aftertaste-video

There is a truely cringeworthy example of racism around the 7 minute mark.  There is also the statement at the end of an admission by the Fairtrade Foundation that it had total sales of $500 million in 2005, of which $50 million went to the growers.  So what about the $450 million remaining?  All being eaten up by administration i.e. salaries and benefits for the first world promoters of this scheme.

This article gives further information, and morelinks (including one to the above clip): http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/dec/12/fair-trade-fairtrade-kitkat-farmers

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