THE PERFECT CUP, heralds what some coffee experts have called "the romantic age of coffee". North Americans re-discover what their European counterparts have known all along; coffee is better when it's quality coffee, and the best place to find it is in the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the café.
A quirky collection of vagabond hippies emerge from the 70’s to create mega-chains like Starbuck's and Second Cup in the 80’s. Coffee becomes the first global industry to experiment with Fair Trade practices (defined as coffee grown by co-operatives without the use of wage labourers and with respect for the environment) and a new breed of co-operative farmer is born in Central America.
Activists wake-up to the fact that a pound of designer coffee in North America represents a full week's wage to coffee growers in the producing countries. They organize under the banner of "Fair Trade" and start to pressure the mega-chains to share their new wealth with producing countries.
The new coffee consumers expect social justice in their morning cup. Consequently, marketing executives begin to realize that "fair trade" is more than ethics, it's good business. Consumers feel better knowing that drinking coffee is contributing to sustainable agricultural practices and increased profit for the small grower.
As we enter the new millennium, the fair trade coffee bean remains a small part of the overall coffee market. But, with consumer consciousness on the rise, coffee represents the best hope for modeling a new relationship between the "have" and "have not" hemispheres. And in Cyber-cafés around the world, enlightened coffee drinkers and activists are making sure that the fair trade model continues to grow.