What is Fair Trade Certified Organic Coffee?

There is a lot of buzz around Fair Trade Certified Organic coffee right now. But what exactly is Fair Trade Certified coffee? What does it take to get fair trade certification? How does it affect the common coffee drinker? Should we even care? Let’s find out!

Fair Trade Certified Organic Coffee

What do you think of when you think of Fair Trade Certified coffee? It is advertised as sustainable for the the planet lucrative for coffee farmers, especially small farms and no child labor.

By definition, Fair Trade organizations create trading partnerships that are based on dialogue, that seek greater equity in international trade. These partnerships contribute to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to coffee bean farmers.Fair Trade coffee

What does that mean? In a nutshell, to be considered fair trade, a fixed price is agreed upon, which is higher than the world price by about 20 cents to 1.50, depending on what kind of coffee it is. They are paying for a specific standard of production and investing in the beans they are buying. Investing in workers, machinery, anything that will improve/increase production, thus delivering a higher quality product. The goal is to match supply with demand and help small farmers gain more access to the market.

This agreement was originally drafted in the 1960’s, then renegotiated in 1976 due to increasing coffee prices and then again in 1984 imposing stricter import/export requirements. The Fair Trade Certification came about in 1988 when coffee supply was greater than demand. Can you imagine? Too much coffee?

The problem is, of course, regulation. The quality standards that are required are rarely checked and enforced. The investments can be a cash investment to the seller, or an agreed upon trade between two people. There is no way to track the investments to ensure that they are using the capital for business improvement.



Fair Trade Organic Coffee-is it worth the price?

Under the premise above, it makes it difficult to determine if the extra dollars you are spending are being used as expected. It’s a nice idea and it would be great to help the small farms that bring us this delicious drink, but are the small farmers actually benefiting, or is it all going to the corporate partners? It is very possible that it is nothing more than an excellent marketing campaign.

It was started with good intentions, however with the lack of regulation and decreased demand, most Fair Trade farmers are now actually taking a loss. Some Fair Trade coffee is actually sold without the label, which means you could actually be drinking “Fair Trade” coffee and not even know it.

If you are interested in helping or making a statement with the coffee you drink, it is important to do your research. Find out where the extra money is actually going, are you paying for improvement for the farmers and the planet? Or are you paying for the executives’ yacht? Are the Fair Trade standards enforced and inspected regularly to ensure that it is actually Fair Trade as intended? Just make sure you are properly informed before you invest in a cause.fair-trade-coffee

Does Fair Trade mean organic?

No. Absolutely not! Sometimes organic doesn’t even mean organic. What does it take to be considered organic? 1). No synthetic fertilizers, or pesticides. 2). There needs to be a sufficient buffer from the closest conventional farm. 3). A sustainable crop rotation plan is in place to prevent erosion, soil depletion and natural pest control. Fair trade coffee was designed to help the small farmer, but most small farmers cannot afford organic fertilizers.

The Organic Food Production Act of 1990 focuses on the production after the harvest, so how are the beans handled during the production process. The regulations are not strict, as a matter of fact the National Organic Standards Board states “organic labels are not statements regarding healthiness, nutritional value, or overall safety of consuming such products”.fair-trade-organic

Should I buy Fair Trade Certified Coffee?

If you are purchasing it because you like the taste of the coffee, go for it! If you are purchasing it because you believe that it is helping people and the planet, do your research! Find out if the extra money you are spending is being used as you expect. You could be spending the extra money to help the small farmer plunge deeper into poverty, and helping the executive increase wealth. Or you could just be buying a great marketing campaign!fair-trade-coffee

As with any charity or “cause” don’t just go on blind faith. Research the company, the source farm, the financial statements, whatever your reason for buying, find out if it fits your standards and make an informed decision. It is pretty easy to print a logo on a bag of coffee. It is just a logo or does it truly encompass that claim?


Cowboy coffee recipe

Cowboy coffee is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to make coffee. The method of brewing coffee this way has been around for hundreds of years and requires very little equipment. This cowboy coffee recipe creates a smooth, rich and caffeinated cup of warm nostalgia. It is black coffee at its cowboy coffee recipepurest and most primitive state which will rival most modern brewing methods.

What is cowboy coffee?

Coffee was first introduced to America in 1603 when John Smith arrived on our shores. As America was settled it was used as a trade commodity, and became a staple on our wagon trains across the west.

Can you just picture the settlers journeying across the plains as they hope to discover new territory? As they move their cattle and horses to their new destination using the sun as the clock and the promise of more as cowboy coffeeencouragement. They rise with the sun and head to the chuck wagon for that morning cup of cowboy coffee brewed over an open campfire.

Obviously there were no Keurig’s or electric coffee makers then, so they used what they had to make that sure they got their morning boost. An old metal coffee pot, or sometimes just a pot over an open flame. That’s where the name comes from, cowboys on the range, or the wagon train settling this great country. Rising before the sun, in the bitter cold sometimes, boiling coffee grounds to get warmed up from the inside out and get, and keep themselves moving. There were no heated cowboy coffee recipecups, or hot plates or microwaves, so they wanted that caffeine to keep them energized as long as possible.

Coffee comfort

The term comfort food was seemingly started in the 1960’s when people would eat to relieve stress. However, I think of how comforting it must have been to come back to the chuck wagon after moving cattle all day, or to wake after sleeping on the cold ground after working all day, and guess what is waiting there? A smooth, hot cup of coffee that you can feel warm you up all the way down. The camaraderie of standing around the fire, sipping on a hot cup of cowboy coffee, working hard to achieve what is now called the American Dream.

Even as I drink my own cowboy coffee, the smell that permeates my house, the hot cup cradled in my cold hands and that feeling of a hug every time I take a drink. That’s is comforting to me. Although coffee isn’t technically considered a comfort food because it doesn’t have a high caloric value or high carbohydrate value, it is definitely reassuring. The smell while its brewing, that first sip, the warm cup in your hands, the warm hug all the way down that gives you the energy to make it through anything. A perfect way to start your day!

Cowboy Coffee recipe

Honestly there really isn’t a recipe, there is a method. Here’s how you make it:

*1 Tablespoon of coffee to 1 cup of water

(If you like it stronger, use more coffee.)
Some will say you need coarse grounds,
but you can use what you have and what you like.

* Add the coffee grounds to the pot of water and bring to a boil.
Once you have a rolling boil-I do mean rolling-let boil to your liking. You can start with 5 minutes and adjust from there.

* Once you have reached your desired strength, pour a little cold water down the sides and in the center of the pot. This will settle the grounds so you won’t drink them.

That’s right! Cowboy Coffee is just boiling coffee grounds and then drinking. Pure unfiltered coffee. Smooth, rich and delicious.

The Cowboy Coffee palate

Of course you can add in cream and sugar, whatever you want really. But the true cowboy coffee is standard black. So if you don’t like the taste of coffee and like to use add-ins to temper the taste, this cowboy coffee recipe is probably not for you. But if you truly like the taste of coffee, this will give you the purest, unfiltered, nostalgic experience.

The boiling water is really what separates cowboy coffee from the rest. The extra heat from boiling it, helps to extract more flavor and caffeine. And you have complete control of how long you boil it, thus having complete control over the taste.

A French press uses an unfiltered method as well, however you add the boiling water to the grounds and let steep. Whereas with this cowboy coffee recipe, the grounds are added before the boiling begins, so it really helps to develop the richness and depth of the coffee flavor, that helps to impart that smooth comfort.

You don’t have to be cowboy to enjoy cowboy coffee, you just have to like coffee!

Try it before you knock it, as the cowboys would say.cowboy coffee recipe

If you have that cowboy palate and enjoy the journey of discovery, I encourage you to try this recipe for cowboy coffee! I’m pretty sure you already have everything you need, a pot, water and some coffee.

Coffee and Nutrition-The Facts

Coffee and nutrition-the facts

Once and for all, what is the truth? Is coffee good for you or bad for you? Yes or no? Just the facts. The nutritional value of coffee is simple, actually. It’s a plant, that goes through minimal processing, why wouldn’t it be good for you? Why is this even a question? Where does the controversy come from regarding coffee and nutrition?

Coffee nutritional information-the health benefits of black coffee

There are a lot of health benefits of coffee and it has a high nutritional value. It’s very high in antioxidants-these inhibit free radicals. Free radicals accumulate in the body causing cell damage and chronic disease. As a matter of fact, many people get more antioxidants from coffee than from fruit and vegetables combined. Antioxidants also help reduce inflammation, which is the cause of a lot of disease. There have been studies that show drinking coffee actually reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia and Parkinson’s just to name a few.

It also contains several vitamins and minerals like B2, B5, B3, potassium and manganese. Most people drink more than one cup per day, thus increasing the amount of vitamin and mineral intake, just by drinking coffee! There is no sugar and no carbohydrates. It is about 95% water and only contains approximately 2 calories per 8 ounces. It is also a natural diuretic, so it does help to lose weight, and aid in the detoxification process.

Of course this information is based on black coffee. It should be no surprise that once you start adding things to it, the nutritional value decreases significantly. Sugar, cream, syrups, whipped cream, and all the “designer” add-ins, take coffee from a very healthy addition to a well-balanced diet, to the equivalent of those chemical laden energy drinks and soda. With all the unhealthy add-ins you can virtually remove or negate all the health benefits of coffee.


Caffeine-the controversy

What are the health risks associated with caffeine? This seems to be where the controversy concerning coffee nutrition began. Coffee is the most consumed psychoactive in the world. Meaning that it has the power to effect mood and physiology. So it can help with mental alertness and physical endurance. It has shown to reduce the risk of liver, mouth and throat cancer, as well as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. And it helps to increase long term memory and improve mood. Sounds pretty healthy, what’s the problem?

Part of the controversy comes from the fact that caffeine is a stimulant. It may lead to insomnia, nervousness, irritability and upset stomach for some people. Because it is a stimulant, it can also be addictive, so there are concerns regarding caffeine withdrawal. The effects of withdrawal are basically the opposite of consumption, fatigue, depression, headache, difficulties concentrating, nausea and vomiting.

When it comes to caffeine, it seems the benefits outweigh the risk. However, because we are all different and react differently to caffeine, it is important to know how your body reacts to it and if you are able to consume caffeine on a regular basis. If you experience the negative effects, you should probably avoid high levels of caffeine. But if you don’t experience those effects, the caffeine in coffee could be very health beneficial for you. With that said, there are many beverages that contain caffeine, but coffee is mostly likely the healthiest.

The add-ins-changing coffee’s nutritional value

With fall on the horizon, I know many of you are salivating for the Pumpkin spice that defines this season. But how does the flavoring effect the coffee’s nutrition? In short, it depends. Do you buy the beans or grounds with the flavor already added? You could essentially being purchasing more than 100 different chemicals added the beans during the roasting process. That takes coffee from a clean and healthy beverage, to a dangerous and toxic drink. The same is true for the creamers and syrups that are added to impart that fall decadence. If you read the ingredients, they are mostly water, combined with numerous chemicals. Of course, the same is true for adding in sweeteners.

There are ways to add flavor to coffee without making it full of chemical toxins. You can add natural sweeteners, like maple syrup, Stevia or honey. Those will sweeten your coffee without adding all the chemicals, but it will add calories and carbs. You can add your favorite milk, again adding calories and carbs, depending on what type of milk you use. For the beloved Pumpkin spice flavor, you can use pure pumpkin puree and some spices to keep clean, healthy and delicious.

So the add-ins will change the coffee and its nutrition. As with most food, the more you do to it, the further from its natural state you take it, the unhealthier it becomes.


Coffee nutrition-is it healthy or not?

As with most food, in its natural state, yes. All the studies and evidence suggest that black coffee is an excellent addition to a healthy, clean diet, even adding health benefits. The problem with coffee and nutrition is the add-ins. All the sugars, flavors and creamers that are made from chemicals are the guilty culprits.  Just like with most food, the more we do to it, the unhealthier it gets.  So if you like the manufactured flavors, there are ways to create those in a healthier manner. But if you are looking for a clean, healthy beverage that can offer many health benefits, take it in its purest form…black.

Choose wisely!

Choose happy!

Drink on!


Light roast vs dark roast-The battle endures!

There are so many different varieties of coffee roasts, light vs dark, French vs Italian, etc., so the questions remains. Which is better? Light roast coffee or dark roast coffee? Today, once and for all, we are going to find out! What really is the difference? Is it honestly so minuscule, that everyone’s opinion is actually based on the placebo effect? Or is it like processing food? The more you cook it, the more of the natural flavor you lose? Do people choose the roast they like based on flavor, or caffeine?

Roasting coffee beans-what it does to the flavor…and the caffeine.

If you have ever seen a raw coffee bean, you know that they are green, sometimes red, soft, and spongy and smell very “grassy”. You can’t walk onto a coffee plantation and smell coffee. The roasting process is what makes them the lovely deliciousness we know and love. Roasting them actually creates the flavor. A chemical and physical process transforms the green beans into the beautiful little brown beans we welcome into our mornings.

fresh coffee beans

Actually, the natural green coffee bean breaks down to the essentially the same thing as the roasted beans, in terms of acidity, sugar, proteins and caffeine. But it’s the chemical change that imparts the flavor, it’s called the Maillard reaction. Not to get too “sciencey”, but it’s a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives food its brown color. So when you are baking cookies, and the edges get a little brown. Or your dinner rolls have a nice tan color. Or your brussel sprouts get caramelized. Or the coffee beans go from green to brown.

The length of the roasting determines the final flavor and caffeine content. There are essentially four different types of roasts, with differences within each type, based on the roaster and any specialized methods. The more it is roasted, the further away from its natural state it becomes. So here’s an easy breakdown:

1. Light roast-light brown in color, high acidity, high caffeine levels, earthy, original flavor

2. Medium roast-slightly darker than light roast, sweeter flavor, less acidity, original flavor detectable but muted

3. Medium Dark roast-rich dark color, bittersweet aftertaste, low acidity, some oil on the surface, original flavor overtaken by roast level

4. Dark roast-shiny, oily and dark surface, bitterness pronounced, acidity virtually eliminated, thin body, original flavor nearly undetectable, lowest amount of caffeine.

Light-medium-dark-roasted coffee beans

The caffeine controversy

Have you been drinking dark roast coffee, because you want a lot of caffeine? Or do you drink light roast coffee because you don’t really like the taste of coffee? As we have learned, the lighter the roast of the beans the more caffeine they contain. It comes down to the processing of the beans, they longer they are processed-roasted-the more of the original nutrients are removed. So, if you like the flavor of coffee and you like caffeine, drink light roast. If you don’t really like the flavor and only want a little caffeine, drink dark roast.

But, is it really that simple? Yes. However, with the brewing method you use, can compensate for some of the caffeine shortcomings of your favorite roast. Basically, it comes down to mass and volume. If you use the same exact amount of light roast and dark roast, for the same size cup, then the light roast will have more caffeine. However, if you added more dark roast, maybe a finer grind, or just more grounds, then you could acquire more caffeine with a dark roast. But then of course the flavor changes as well. Also, additives will dilute or change the flavor as well. Maybe you take your dark roast with a shot of espresso and cream and sugar to help it all go down.

So when it comes to caffeine content, there is the science of the natural bean and the roasting process. However, it really comes down to the taste. If you like the bitter, thin body taste of a dark roast, but want more caffeine, take it with a shot of espresso, or add more in the filter, or grind your beans finer. If you like the flavor of coffee, but can’t take all that caffeine, use less light roast coffee grounds, grind your beans coarser, or trying adding something to knock down the caffeine a little. If you make it to suit your taste, you can have your coffee and drink it too!

Does brewing method matter?

In short, yes. But there are a lot of other factors that work in conjunction with brewing. For example, the grind of the beans. The finer the grind is, the more can be extracted, however the amount of grounds and the temperature of the water also have an impact. So for a French press, you typically use a coarse grind, so less extraction, but you also use extremely hot water, so more extraction. But depending on the ratio of grounds to water, how long you let it steep, and what roast level you have, you can essentially alter the chemical makeup of your own coffee. On a very small level of course, but nonetheless you can add or reduce caffeine based on your brewing method.

If you are a dark roast person, but want more caffeine, or if you are a light roast person and want less caffeine, all you have do is experiment with the way you brew it!




So which is best? Light roast or Dark Roast?

Just like almost everything else, it all comes down to personal preference. Take your coffee however it makes you feel good! Bitter, light, full bodied, highly caffeinated, they are all best. And know where you are starting from-light, medium or dark-and you can go anywhere! For the true coffee connoisseur, the journey is the glory. Experimenting with different roasts, different brewing methods and different measurements, that’s the real fun. The pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee.

I can’t help but think how similar we are to coffee beans. We all start out the same, just like the green coffee beans. Then we are all raised differently, just like the beans being roasted. Once we are raised to optimal levels, we ourselves can alter our content. Just like the beans, they need water temperatures, brewers, different grind levels and altered measurements to alter their destiny. We can make choices that determine our destiny. We can choose to be happy, we can choose where to live, we can chose who resides in our bubble, and we can choose who we are. All we need to know is where we are right now, and where we want to go.

Choose wisely!

Choose happy!

Drink on!

About Me

Welcome to Coffee Connoisseur! A virtual coffee boutique for coffee lovers of all types.

About Me

As a kid when adults have coffee it all seems so “grown up”, like a rite of passage. Can you remember your first cup? I remember mine. I have to say I wasn’t impressed. However, I also remember the day that I knew it would be a permanent fixture in my life.

I was a senior in high school, and I already had “senioritis” on the first day of school. So I wanted to get through my final year quickly and with minimal effort! A few weeks into the school year we had our first history exam. I loved history and always got A’s, but I wanted an easy senior year. So I decided to test out a claim about coffee.

I read that if you drink coffee while you are studying, you will remember whatever you are reading much better than if you don’t drink coffee. So, the night before the test, I made a pot of coffee and read the whole chapter. I didn’t take notes or make note cards, I just read the chapter. To be honest, I didn’t even really pay attention to what I was reading, I literally just relied on the coffee. I wanted to really test out this theory. I went to class, took the test and aced it! The claim was true! And I used that technique for all of my senior year and all through college. I’ve been drinking coffee ever since.

I didn’t totally love that first pot of coffee that I made my senior year, but I didn’t totally hate it either. As I drank more and my taste continued to assimilate, I came to love it. I am a purist. I take it black, no frills, just good and hot! There is a place for cold brews, cream and sugar, flavored beans and syrups, but when I hear coffee, I see a hot cup of black brewed deliciousness!


Coffee Crush

Being a purist, I love finding the best coffee, brewed in the most optimal way. I have specific affinities for roasts and brewing methods, and I love introducing these to others. I also enjoy process of discovery! Learning what other people like, new methods and tools or accessories.

Right now, my favorite method is a good French Press. So smooth and rich! Mmmm delicious! I also love a pour-over. However, I find it difficult to find someone that can actually do a decent pour over, so if I’m not at home, I love a standard hot brew.

To me the roasting of the beans if of utmost importance, as well as good beans of course. I love the taste of coffee, in its most natural state. I also like caffeine! So light roast, for me is the only way to go. It has the most caffeine for me, because of how I measure it. We’ll dive into that topic later! I don’t like the bitter, burnt, been sitting in the pot all day, kind of taste.

I hope to expand your knowledge and affinity as much as I’m sure you will expand mine!


Let’s Brew!

This is a community of people that love coffee as much as I do. No matter how you take it, whether you are a purist like me, or a bells and whistles type. Let’s drink and discover!

If you ever have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I will be more than happy to chat.

All the best,