Made In The U.S.A.

Coffee with a Conscience

In Adventures on January 25, 2009 at 9:52 am

Last night I hit the Oregon Trail. It was difficult. I didn’t love it. Many died.

My hopes and dreams for buying locally-made American coffee died.

The Oregon Trail Roasting Co. you may recall is the local coffee roaster in Belleville—my hometown a mere 20 miles from where I sit. Not only is the coffee they sell locally made, but they offer a 100% Kona coffee. That’s a bean grown in Hawaii, delivered to Belleville and roasted here. In terms of coffee, buying a locally roasted Kona is about as American as you’re gonna get.

So I made a special trip to go get some.

Of course, the bedredlocked young skinny man behind the counter was unaware and apparently unconcerned if they had any Kona beans. “I guess we don’t have any roasted up right now.” He was also unaware what it cost or if/when they would have it again. The look in his eyes said, “They don’t tell me much.” So I stopped asking too much.

I think the only appropriate fix is to email them and ask if they’ll hold some for me. Or I can ask Dan and Crystal (who live in Belleville) if they’ll keep an eye out for Kona when they’re in there.

So no Kona for me. But it again got me thinking: what constitutes MITUSA coffee? If I apply the same standards as I do for shampoo and clothing, it’s “made” in the states even if it comes from imported parts (or beans). So even Starbucks coffee, assuming that it’s roasted on these shores, passes muster.

And yet…

There’s so much more responsible consumerism that can be done with coffee. Based on that, it seems that my obligation is to aspire to the most liberal American coffee I can find. That coffee would be:

Grown in America – Hawaiian Kona
Roasted locally – At Oregon Trail or any number of other local roasters

The problem with buying Kona is that it’s difficult. The grocery store sells a Kona blend (10%, and mixed with coffee from who knows where produced who knows how) and my Starbucks doesn’t stock it. I appear to be at the mercy of local roasters who choose to offer the expensive bean. Or don’t. Failing that availability of a very specific American bean, the ideal coffee would be:

Grown as close to America as possible. Maybe Mexico? (Canada’s coffee output is surprisingly low.)
Shade-grown. These coffees grow slower in the shade of a canopy of trees. Many coffee farms increase output with sun-grown coffee. That is accomplished by deforestation to thin out the trees. This has negative effects on the surrounding flora and fauna—specifically the birds who are disappearing because of it.
Organic. Just like organic tomatoes or lettuce, organic coffee is produced without use of pesticides and other nasty chemicals.
Fair Trade. This is the biggen. Fair Trade coffee beans are purchased at a “fair” price; i.e. not the bottom dollar price that has presumably been paid to poor coffee growers in third world countries for generations. In exchange for this fair price, growers are encouraged to operate in sustainable and environmentally friendly ways.

So, no Kona at Oregon Trail. But they did have others. So I bought one: A Mexican-grown, Belleville-roasted, shade-grown, organic, Fair Trade coffee. And I’m drinking it now, and it tastes good.

Even if it’s not 100% MITUSA, it feels good to consume coffee with a conscience.


  1. Riley’s Coffee and Fudge (a place in Belleville that I adore) roasts Kona coffee. According to their website they recently had some on hand…

    12 Dec 08 — New crop Kona has arrived! The first batch just came out of the roaster. $22.50 per 1/2 pound. Get it while you can!

    • Thanks for the tip, Crystal. Dan sent me to Oregon Trail with a five dollar off coupon. It was 40 bucks a pound! I’d need a better job to drink 40-dollar coffee. I did just hit the grocery store on the way home. I got a fair trade organic coffee from Kaldi’s, roasted right here in The Lou. Fingers are crossed that it will be tasty. I am intrigued, though, by the “fudge” part of this place you mention…

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