Thursday, October 06, 2005

Taking the Starbucks Challenge

October it turns out is Fair Trade month. Thanks to a post on Green Thinkers I found out about the Starbucks challenge started by green LA girl and CityHippy. The aim:
According to its own policy (PDF), Starbucks will make fair trade coffee for you, any day of the week, in the 23 countries it is licensed to including: Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.K. and the U.S.

But just how easy is it to get a fair trade coffee in a Starbucks in one of those countries?

We aim to find out.
I think it is a great idea. I tried it out at the Starbucks here in downtown State College yesterday. Here is how it turned out...

me: Can I have a tall small fair trade coffee please?
barista: Tall coffee? ( gets a small cup and goes to the coffee machine...pauses and returns) What kind of coffee did you want sir?
me: Fair trade coffee please.
barista: (Takes a look at the tags on the coffee machines) We don't have any fair trade brewing right now sir. Would you like a regular one?
me: I was looking for the fair trade. Do you brew it a particular time everyday?
barista: Let me check the schedule. (Goes and checks bunch of papers at the back of the counter). We used to have a monthly schedule but I don't see it here.
me: (Relenting to looks from bunch of people behind me in the line) um... OK, can I have the regular one then?

I am going to try it again when its not so crowded and just to see if a different person behind the counter would react differently.

If you want to read more about fair trade products this site would be a good start. Also this wikipedia page has good information about the fair trade movement.

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Siel said...

Cool! I tagged it. I think you handled the situation really well, considering that the place was crowded and stuff :) If you have the chance next time, you might ask if they would French-press a cup for you, even if it's not brewing as the coffee of the day. If not, that's cool -- not the barista's fault that management didn't tell them about the policy -- but at least we know.

In any case, thanks for joining in :) Hope things are nice way over there on the East Coast --

Point 5 said...

Doesnt the Star Bucks brochure scream that 70% of their coffee is free trade
...whats the deal at Seattle's Best and other joints...

Seinfeld calls Starbucks... "FourBucks"..cos thats how much a coffee costs....he did a very nice piece of stand up on it in Penn State

Transmogrifier said...

I don't know what the deal is with Seattle's best and other coffee joints. I checked out the starbucks brochure and it says that last year "fair trade certified" (meaning certified by independent agencies) coffee accounted for 1.6% of their total coffee purchase. They have their own C.A.F.E (coffee and farmer equity) practices which accounted for 14.5%. So I don't think fair trade accounts for much of their coffee. Although due to their size even that 1.6% is enough to make them biggest purchaser of fairtrade coffee in North America.

Anyway, more important point I guess is to see if they actually live up to their promise of serving fair trade coffee.

Siel said...

Forgot to ask this earlier -- What's the address for this location? Do you remember? Trying to compile a comprehensive list --

Transmogrifier said...

It is at College Ave & Burrowes St. in State College, PA 16801. There is only one Starbucks in State college. There is a B&N near state college but haven't tried it out yet.