I love coffee. I drink about 4 cups a day. I only french press at home…the way God intended coffee to be brewed. Even though brewing it this way only costs a few pennies a cup, I love coffee enough to pay a few pounds ($4) for a cup of coffee at a good shop.

I also will only buy Fairtrade beans and drink Fairtrade brew…thisworld-fair-trade-day-logo often challenging especially when living in a country where the majority of people, when visiting them in their home, will offer you a cup of coffee, instant that is, and think they are doing you a favor. Instant coffee? Are you kidding me? That’s an abomination for which God should reserve the right to revoke your salvation should you choose to serve instant coffee. It takes months and months to grow the beans, long hours to pick them, dry them, roast them…and then you’re going to brew instant coffee? Blech.

Instant coffee, however, is actually a perfect example of just how little we are willing to pay for a cup of coffee and as a result just how little we think about the people who work so hard to provide us with this heavenly brew. Would you pay just a few pennies a cup for a glass of ‘instant beer’? How about ‘instant wine’? (I guess wine in a box is pretty close). What if they had ‘instant steak’ or ‘instant Ben & Jerry’s’. Ok, taking the thought a bit far.

But the crux of the question is important. How much would you pay coffee_beansfor a cup of coffee? Not because of the quality of the cup of brew…but how much would you be willing to pay to ensure that the person or persons responsible for your beverage were paid a fair wage?

In a article on Fair Trade coffee, that question was posed in a round about way. A woman, who willingly and regularily spent $4.15 on her frappacino was asked if she would be willing to spend $4.50 or even $5.00 to ensure that the coffee grower would end receiving a fair wage for his/her efforts. The answer was “Wow, these days, that’s a tough one.”

It’s a tough one, because in the midst of paying $3.00 or more a gallon to drive our SUVs for every trivial errand, paying $8.00 or more for a theatre/movie ticket, paying $2.75 or more to have each shirt dry-cleaned, and paying $10.00 or more to have our car washed by a machine so we don’t have to get out of our big SUVs, it is hard to pay an extra .50 cents for our coffee to ensure that coffee growers around the world might be able to make more than $2.50 a day…barely above the world poverty line.

From my standpoint, this issue of how much we are willing to pay is fundamentally about justice. It is about how much we value people and their efforts and the services we provide. The tendancy is to want anything we want at the cheapest possible price. In the pursuit of justice and quality, I personally am making a move towards having less, but what I have is of higher quality and exhibits a desire to be about justice for the poor (Proverbs 29:7).

Less truly becomes more when we think and live a little more like this…the more just happens to be in the pockets of people who need it alot more than I do.

How much would you pay for a cup of coffee?

Today I went to the Christian Resource Exhibition…a gathering of anyone with a company that has something to sell to people who work at churches or in ministry. You have people and companies that all across the spectrum: from your traditional Christian publishing house, to Tearfund, to clergy clothing companies, to sound system companies, to ministries who think the occult is everywhere (whoops, is it?), to Christian puppet companies, to the local Christian radio station. I was encouraged to go because the lure of free stuff (pens and post-it note pads) is almost too much to resist.


Within about 10 minutes of arriving I realized that if I did not adopt an intentional strategy for parousing the exhibition I was likely to pound some of the exhibitors in the face and be thrown in jail. I realized quickly that if I appeared remotely interested in anything, or even disinterested, but still made eye contact, all sorts of flyers, pamphlets and brochures would be stuffed in my hands. So my strategy sadly was to look 3 or 4 booths ahead of where I was and avoid contact with any exhibit I wasn’t interested in.

Sadly, this still wasn’t a totally effective strategy. Trying to pass on booth, a woman stepped in front of me and asked me, ‘Can I give you some hope?’

I responded with, ‘Thanks, but I have plenty of that.’ (I was actually being serious, not trying to be a jerk-face)

She then responded with, ‘Well then, let me give you some grace.’ She then stuffed two Christian ‘evangelistic’ tracks into my hand.

Ummmmm….isn’t Jesus the only one who can give hope and grace? And you’re handing out tracks at a Christian Resources Exhibition?! Or is this your strategy for making me think, ‘Wow…these tracks are amazing…I have so much hope and grace…I better order 4000 of them to hand out to everyone in South Croydon!!!’

Wait…it gets even better.

Walking past some other booths, another exhibitor stepped in front of me and asked, ‘Are you interested in Jesus Christ’s return?’

I did my best to politely reply, ‘If I wasn’t, do you think I’d be here and working for a church doing youth ministry?’

She then tried to give me a business card for their website. I wanted to say to her (I recognize this is a bit simplistic) that there are only two things that are really important to know about Christ’s return. They are 1) HE WILL RETURN and 2) No one but the Father knows when. Done. Sorted. Nuff said.

There were alot of great exhibits there. I talked with a really cool RAF Chaplain. I spent some time talking with some cool people involved with the ‘Fresh Expressions’ movement freshwith the Church of
England. And of course I found my way to the Fairtrade Organic coffee booth…with free samples!!! Holler! And Hallelujah!

What caused me to pause often during the day was the thought that this exhibition was supposed to be about making people and ministries more effective at doing ministry, doing the work God wants them to do and serving the wider community. Yet, more often the feeling I got throughout the day was that it was more about convincing people they need stuff, new and better stuff, to do ministry, do the work God ‘needs’ them to do and to make their community wider. Ok, maybe I’m being a little cynical.

But it all caused me to ask myself, ‘What do I need to do ministry?’ ‘What do I need to do the work that God wants me to do, to serve the wider community?’ All I can come up with is: Not much except the willingness to live, love and bend my knees, bend my will and bow before my Lord.

Time to go count my free pens and post-it notes…I think I have both in blue, green, and red.

A few weeks ago, Starbucks tried to earn my respect back. For a long time they’ve been talking about they are the largest buyer of Free Trade Coffee. Not a difficult task when you have no competition…Folgers, Maxwell House etc…don’t buy any free trade coffee. No other coffee company has the buying ability that Starbucks has, but they only have one brand of free trade coffee.

Anyways, despite my frustration with Starbucks over this half-ass attempt at buying free trade coffee, they tried earning, I mean buying my respect back. I walked into a local Starbucks, to talk with an employee I know, not to buy coffee. We talked about the free trade issue that Starbucks has, and my friend Will gave me a plastic wallet thing that had a card inside that entitles me to a free tall cup of Cafe Estima Free Trade coffee every day after 2pm.


While I’m not beneath a free cup of coffee, once and a while, I can’t be bought. While I think it’s a bit of a courageous attempt by Starbucks to convince their customers to buy Estima by the bag to brew at home, it smacks more of an attempt to not loose discerning customers who are willing to sacrifice searching high and low for a decent cup of free trade coffee (coffee houses aren’t as plentiful in England…not the independant ones anyways). I’ll take my freebies, but I’m buying Union.