Monthly Archives: March 2008

No to Starbucks!

Reading Sarah Allen’s piece on Starbucks in Tuesday’s CiF, I was impressed with her style, but angry about the content. On first glimpse, it seemed to be more an promotion of Starbucks rather than being critical of it, although the main point, that a coffee shop worker can not be trained in three hours, is indisputable. However, there are so many other negative points to be made about coffee [ A brain on caffeine ], its production [ Mini Black Gold ] and Starbucks [ Wikipedia]: from the now historic lack of recycling to lack of support for Fairtrade [ commondream ] to the lack of workers rights and trade union sabotage [ Starbucksunion ] as well as its coffee outlet in Guantanamo’s Camp Delta – it seems startling that the quality of training would be the only point of criticism in this article [ Starbucks gossip ] .
Apart from ethical and social concerns, there are other reasons to avoid – or even boycott Starbucks – it’s predictability bonus can well be outweighed by the detailed information and customer reviews independent cafes [ HaveBeenThere ] receive on the Internet; and European, in particular Vienna , coffee (and tea) houses as well as literary cafes boast a far superior gastronomic culture for centuries than Starbucks could ever dream of achieving. [ for example see Cafe Riquet hosts reading events again during Leipzig Bookfair ] .

Here in Edinburgh, we frequently have had protests against Starbucks . Fairtrade initiatives are also getting increasingly popular, such as the recent Fairtrade Christmas Market, or the current efforts for Scotland to become a Fairtrade nation – coinciding with this week’s launch of Fairtrade Forthnight .

Asking for the reasons for some of the protests, Mike of Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group said: “Groups in the UK Zapatista Solidarity Network regularly demonstrate outside Starbucks, distributing free Zapatista coffee to passers-by. Starbucks are complicit in attempts to evict indigenous people from the Montes Azules area in Chiapas, Mexico through their involvement in the greenwash group Conservation International. This fake environmental organisation blames small indigenous villages for destroying the rainforest, and co-operates with and encourages the Mexican state to destroy the local indigenous villages. Hypocritically they themselves promote tourist developments in the area, and ignore the major damage caused by commercial logging, state road building, and by the many Mexican Army camps. “

The group supports one coffee co-operative in particular, Mut Vitz , which produces Coffee Rebeldia . “The Zapatista coffee we distribute is organic and produced by co-operatives such as Mut Vitz. It is served by local cafes such as the Drill Hall in the Out of the Blue Arts Space and the Forest Café . Green City Wholefoods distribute Zapatista coffee throughout Scotland, as do Essential Trading in England and Wales. By supporting the zapatista co-operatives people are also supporting their autonomous health clinics, schools and system of self-management which all run outside the control of government and business.”