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British Expat Newsletter:
5 October 2005

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Coffee
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Joke and quotation

This week

Do you like coffee? Are you a coffee addict? I love the stuff but it makes me too hyper so I have to drink the decaffeinated stuff. For me this is an embarrassing admission – equivalent to having to say that I only drink non-alcoholic beer or smoke nicotine-free cigarettes. Yeah, right. Oh well, I have enough vices without imbibing extra caffeine too.

It’s interesting to think about where your cup of coffee comes from and how it is produced. Apparently all the world’s coffee is grown within a thousand miles of the Equator, and from a bewildering range of countries – some familiar, like Brazil, Kenya, Jamaica and Indonesia (Java), others less expected. For instance, how many of you would think of India as a coffee-growing country? They drink tea there, don’t they? Well, yes, they do, but the biggest tea-growing areas are in the North-East – Assam State, and Darjeeling in West Bengal. In Southern India coffee rivals tea’s popularity – and Indian coffee’s really not bad at all. More recently – in the last fifteen years or so – Vietnam has emerged as a major coffee producer, growing and selling large quantities of the Robusta variety of coffee bean on the world market.

This has caused something of a problem for coffee producers. Historically, coffee has been the second most important commodity in terms of the total monetary value traded worldwide – it’s the world’s most popular drink. In 1997, it traded at over US $3.00 a pound. But the flood of cheap coffee has driven the price down so far that in 2002 it was less than $0.50 a pound. Yet at the same time companies such as Starbucks were selling trendy blends of coffee for higher and higher prices. Where were all the rapidly expanding profits going? Not to the 20 million or so small producers worldwide, that’s for sure.

Enter the fair trade campaigners. Charities, development experts and others argue that one way of helping people in the Third World out of poverty would be to cut out profiteering and pay the producers a fair price for their product, rather than the cheapest price which the large international traders could force on them through monopoly power. As a widely traded commodity and one which the West cannot grow for itself, coffee was an obvious candidate for fair trade action and is now perhaps the best-known and most widely available Fair Trade product. In the UK it’s even spawned its own chain of Fair Trade coffee shops to rival Starbucks – Progreso – which returns the profits to the growers. Actor Colin Firth is a director and has been passionately committed to the venture, including taking turns at serving in the chain’s Portobello Road branch in London.
Do you have anything to say about this topic, or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us about it?

Virtual Snacks

While looking for a site with some coffee-related content I stumbled across the wonderful TruthOrFiction.com – full of urban myths that may be true, contain an element of truth or be completely made up. Here’s the one that brought me there: “Kopi Luwak is a rare and gourmet coffee from Indonesia that is made from beans passed through the digestive system of monkeys.” Yuk!
TruthOrFiction.com: Kopi Luwak

If you’re in the UK and want to check out the fair trade coffee market for what’s on offer, how fair to the growers each brand really is and how good it tastes, the Guardian‘s “Ethical Shopper” has a handy summary of the leading brands:
Guardian: Fair Trade Coffee

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • cat poop grass
  • underground shoe man thailand
  • dogknot women
  • obscene european gesture
  • male and female body armour throughout the century
  • pictures of a perfect school
  • popular party games in 1968
  • psychology running hands through hair
  • paxo stuffing recipes
  • male tattoos dragons british
  • gay photoes
  • fisher scone mix

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay
Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.”
– Alex Levine, author

Joke

Margaret is the world’s worst at getting instructions mixed up. When she got married her husband bought her one of those fancy electric coffee makers. It had all the latest gadgets on it.

Jim the salesman carefully explained how everything worked; how to plug it in, set the timer, go to bed, and upon getting up, the coffee would be ready.

A few weeks later Margaret was back in the shop and Jim asked her how she liked the coffee maker.

“Wonderful!” she replied. “There’s just one thing I don’t understand. Why do I have to go to bed every time I want to make coffee?”

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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