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All About Coffee: Organic, Fair Trade, And The Effects of Caffeine

This week, our podcast is all about breakfast, so to get started, of course we needed to grab that first cup of coffee.

row of bags of coffee on a table

Photo: Alycin Bektesh/WFIU

A row of coffee bags from a local coffeeroaster at the Bloomington Winter Farmer's Market.

This week, our podcast is all about breakfast, so to get started, of course we needed to grab that first cup of coffee.

If you just can’t start your day without a cup of coffee, you’re not alone…In 2000, the National Coffee Association found that 54% of Americans drink coffee everyday. And those people drink an average of 3 cups per day!

There’s Just Something About Coffee

Jamie Shepherd of Bloomington-based coffee roaster B-Town Beans says that there’s just something about coffee that makes it one of life’s simple pleasures.

His shop specializes in organic coffee, meaning that the production process of the coffee has to be inspected every step of the way – from growing to selling. No chemicals, no pesticides.

But can the everyday coffee drinker really tell the difference?

“If you look at whether organic coffee is better tasting,” Shepherd said, “I can’t give you an answer that I’d like to give you. I can’t tell you, yes, organic coffee tastes better than non-organic coffee.”

Not About The Taste

But according to Shepherd, it’s not about the taste. It’s more about the environmental impact of the coffee, especially in the growing regions.

In addition to being certified organic, B-Town Beans also offers fair-trade coffee. Fair-trade is something that’s become increasingly popular in the past ten years.

Fair-trade guarantees farmers a minimum price for their product, but it’s not just a financial thing.

“It also helps to improve working conditions on farms in the various countries,” Shepherd said. “It helps to eliminate some of the middle-men so more of the money returns to the farmers. Fair-trade farmers are given a degree of autonomy to determine how to invest these revenues and turn them back into their business and make it more productive, and they even get rewarded for organic production.”

All About The Bigger Picture

For Shepherd, it’s all about the bigger picture. He tries to keep an eye on the impact his business has on the local community as well as its larger environmental impact.

“The foundation of sustainability is ethics,” Shepherd said, “whether it’s ethics of social practices or environmental practices, we want to be a contributor. We don’t just want to be a taker, and that’s really why we formed the business.”

Learn more about B-Town Beans on their website or follow @btownbeans on twitter.

Gender-Specific Affects of Caffeine on Teenagers

Earth Eats’ News Correspondent Megan Meyer also found a story about scientists from the University of Buffalo who have found that caffeine’s effects seem to be gender-specific.

Neurobiologist Jennifer Temple ran an experiment with about 50 teenagers to study how they respond to caffeine.

She didn’t expect the boys to behave much differently from the girls, but she found that teenage males are willing to work harder and longer to obtain a caffeinated beverage.

Temple’s current theory is that hormones in males at the time of testing affected their desire for caffeine.

Read More: A Generation Hooked on Caffeine (

Video: Does Caffeine Make You More Easily Persuaded?

And finally, does caffeine make you more easily persuaded? Our friends at A Moment of Science have a video that asks just that:

The also have interesting articles about how coffee makes you feel more awake, the interplay of caffeine and alcohol, and (our favorite) health reasons to drink more coffee.

How Do You Take Your Coffee?

Have you found an interesting variety of coffee recently? Leave a comment and let us know what you’re drinking!

Adam Schweigert

Adam Schweigert is the Managing Editor and Senior Producer for Earth Eats. He is also the Online Director for Indiana Public Media (WFIU/WTIU) and has been with WFIU Public Radio since the fall of 2003, previously serving as Director of Multimedia Initiatives, Music Director and Arts Bureau Chief. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana with his dog Sydney.

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  • Curmudgeonly Ad Guy

    As a strong supporter of fair trade coffee I want to thank you for this content. There is a lot to digest here, but I will bookmark it and take it piece by piece.

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  • BodaciousGirl

    Old Crown roasters in FW, IN are a fair trade certified roaster and they have the best, yes, organic coffee I have tasted in a long time. If you are ever over this way you should give them a try.

  • Low Acid Coffee

    I agree on the statistics. Many people including me can't start my day without drinking coffee. By the way too much coffee can harm you so drinking 3 times of coffee a day is quite abusive.

  • Coffee of the Month Clubs

    Great video. Caffeine makes me easily persuaded and it also remove my sleep hangover.

  • lebronjames

    Would you mind if I used some of this for an article I am writing?

  • K Cups

    Good post. I am headed over to that “Generation Hooked on Caffeine” study….

  • remove Antivirus .NET

    Normally I wouldn’t comment on posts but I felt that I had to as your writing style is actually good. You have broken down a tough area so that it easy to understand.

  • Melvin

    I run an Organic cafe, and we are fortunate enough to have a directly traded supply of Biodynamic coffee from a farmer’s co-operative in Brazil. It is amazing, and i know this view is shared by many!
    I absolutely agree – the purpose of supporting Organic agriculture is about supporting a sustainable future, as well as having a far far superior product, not to mention a lack of added chemicals and better animal welfare standards.
    I obviously support ‘Fair trade’, though this has unfortunately been abused by some major companies, a major coffee chain included, being plastered all over the place, without any inspection controlling what is mostly sold.
    It is of course still better, but according to our contact at our coffee supplier, who is directly linked to the co-operative in Brasil, a typical fair trade setup might mean the farmers get 5-10% of the £10-£12 a kilo you pay for organic coffee. In a conventional setup, even less.
    In a direct trade setup, whereby the same people who grow it, also export it and import it (where a lot of the mark up is added) and market/sell it, they are getting 80% of my money.
    What a difference. It also eliminates the similar risk with Organic certification, where standards are lowered by big business or food is mis-labelled as Organic, as you have a direct contact with the growers.
    Many thanks for a great article.

  • Mk0403

    Why is organic coffee so expensive then? I am paying $10.99 for 12oz. That is unbelievable!!

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