IVP - Strangely Dim - Six Beans A-Roasting

December 19, 2010

Six Beans A-Roasting

So, we talk a lot about fair trade and social justice stuff here at Strangely Dim. And, since I'm writing this post, I'll own up (again) to talking a lot about coffee. I did it in my previous post, and it's even in my little bio on the sidebar to this blog. (If you can solve the mystery of how I can read a book while holding a pen in one hand and a mug of hot coffee in the other, I'll give you a high-five.) But recently I had an experience with coffee that made me start thinking differently about the whole thing.

I usually feel like I'm doing very well buying coffee that is either organic or fair trade. If I find coffee that is both organic and fair trade, I feel like I've just found the end of a rainbow. If it tastes good too, well, you can just imagine how wonderful that is. To be sure, I don't always drink fair trade, organic, palate-pleasing coffee. But I'll admit to being enough of a coffee snob that I'll take the good-tasting stuff over the bad-tasting non-organic/fair-trade varieties.

The most excellent cup of coffee I recently sipped (yesterday, in fact) was roasted locally and hand-delivered to my door the same day. It had a heavy, caramelly sweetness, and it was roasted by a local business that hires ex-offenders as part of a vision to prevent recidivism among former offenders. This helps to build stronger families and communities among a group of people regularly forgotten or ostracized. Was this coffee fair trade or organic? Probably not (at least, the blend description did not include that information). But Second Chance Coffee Company of Wheaton, Illinois, "operates under the premise that we can use every part of our business to 'love our neighbor as ourselves' to positively impact the spiritual, social and economic condition of our employees, their families and the communities in which they live." They do roast fair trade and organic beans (and those are labeled as such). But there's another purpose to their company, and their website spells it out pretty clearly:

Over 20,000 prisoners are released from Illinois State corrections facilities into the Chicago area every year. More than 12,000 of those ex-prisoners are re-incarcerated within three years of release. The cycle of recidivism is a ubiquitous tale of wasted lives and victimized communities that is repeated among more than 600,000 ex-prisoners in communities across our nation each year. . . . Recognizing that what we offer only addresses part of the problem, Second Chance Coffee Company also works closely with post-prison support organizations that provide the help that we cannot. These organizations share our faith and provide counseling, mentoring, life skills training and a supportive community for the former offenders that we employ.

Second Chance Coffee Company's premium brand, I Have a Bean, is roasted locally in Wheaton, delivered locally for $1.00 (shipping to everywhere else is easily determined on the website) and has a constantly changing variety of blends to choose from. I've looked on the website three days this week, and there have been new roasts and blends to choose from each day--so there's a good variety for the restless palate to enjoy. They currently roast four days a week, and offer customers the option to pick up their orders onsite. They have several very nice gift packages as well, including several with sample sizes of their coffee.

In addition, 50 percent of the purchase price of their Uganda Kapchorwa Sebei blend (a limited-edition blend) goes to support the People's Resource Center. It's pricey ($25.00 per pound), but proceeds contribute to a great cause, in addition to fulfilling Second Chance's vision to assist ex-offenders and their families.

There are numerous options for buying fair-trade coffee, including Land of a Thousand Hills and brands sold at Ten Thousand Villages, which support fair wages and justice around the globe. But if you're looking to go local (or maybe do something new), get some Sumatra Mandheling Guyo Supreme Fair Trade Organic (whew!) from I Have a Bean to go with your new eco-conscious travel mug.

As Lisa reminded us in her recent post, the people that organizations like IJM and Second Chance Coffee Company seek to help are real, and have names--even if we may never know them or their very real lives. Another great part of supporting companies like these is that it's easy to become involved in the lives of these people in the regular course of our own daily walk. Even as we buy our daily bean throughout the year, we can be reminded of those who grow, process, roast, grind and deliver it, and invite the Spirit of Christ to change our lives as well.   

Posted by Christa Countryman at December 19, 2010 8:00 AM Bookmark and Share | TrackBack

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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