Noble Brews: Coffee with a Cause

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Heather McPherson, FOOD

Fair trade offers a feel-good vibe about many things we eat and drink. Simply put, it refers to items that are purchased from farmers “who are justly compensated,” according to Fair Trade USA, a leading certifier of these products.

The approach ensures farmers are paid fair prices, workers operate in safe conditions and the place of origin takes advantage of sustainable practices.

If you think all is fair in food economics, think again. Low prices sometimes come with ethically challenging price tags. If this is a lot to take in with your morning paper, grab a cup of coffee and Google yourself silly to discover more about fair-trade chocolate, grains, spices, teas and much more. (A good place to start is

Fair-trade coffee is widely available in Central Florida supermarkets and coffee shops. For me, it’s the smaller independent places that have the most appeal. Most of these shops donate all or a large part of their profits to social and environmental causes — locally and globally.

For example, Renaut and Brooke Renaut van der Riet, the owners of Winter Garden’s Axum Coffee, worked in Ethiopia, the location most food historians peg as the motherland of the first coffee beans. From their experience in the impoverished city of Axum came the idea for the west Orange County coffee shop. After the expenses of doing business are covered, all of the profits are used to help faraway needs in Ethiopia and closer to home such as Relay for Life runs for cancer research.

In College Park, Downtown Credo has a similar mission with more profits staying in the community and an interesting twist in pricing. You pay what you think is the fair value of the coffee, yummy homemade PB&J Bar or other baked goods. There are suggested prices to help first-timers. But before you think of shortchanging Credo, consider that the owners actively help the Boys and Girls Clubs and BETA Center and other local organizations.

Sometimes coffee is just liquid jet propulsion to jump-start your day. But for many local purveyors that cup of Joe is much, much more.

Where to grab a cup of fair-trade coffee

Big bean players such as Starbucks as well as many restaurants serve java with an ethical edge as well. Here is a sampling of local coffee shops that offer fair-trade brews.

Austin’s Coffee: open 24/7; 929 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park; 407-975-3364;

Axum Coffee: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday; 146 W. Plant St., Suite 110, Winter Garden; 407-654-7900;

Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Co.: hours vary; locations include Altamonte Mall, 451 E. Altamonte Drive. Altamonte Springs (321-397-4769), Baldwin Park, 4846 New Broad St., Orlando, (407-895-4187), Phillips Crossing, 8015 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando (407-354-3184), Waterford Lakes Town Center, 417 N. Alafaya Trail, Orlando (407-207-2323) and 118 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, (407-629-0042);

Downtown Credo: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday; 706 W. Smith St., Orlando; 407-371-2925;

Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-midnight Friday, 8 a.m.-midnight Saturday and 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday; 444 N. Bumby Ave., Orlando; 407-893-4994;

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