Fair-trade and shade-grown: good words for impressing your tree-hugging, java-loving friends. But do you know enough to convince the co-worker who's sold on Starbucks? The world coffee economy is worth $50 billion, second only to oil in the commodities market. The United States consumes one-fifth of those beans, and less than 1 percent of the country's coffee is certified fair-trade. But watch out: Big business is catching on and co-opting the socially minded lingo. So if you're going to preach the shade-grown gospel, it's smart to learn the story behind your cup of coffee.
Economically just. Good coffee is fair-trade. Standard importers pay growers less than 50 cents per pound for their beans; fair-trade importers guarantee $1.26, with a 5 cent premium if the market price rises above the baseline. In addition, fair trade importers establish direct, long-term partnerships with democratically organized small-farmer cooperatives—both to bring stability to a volatile economy and to cut out "coyotes," middlemen who take advantage of market fluctuations to defraud isolated farmers. Pura Vida's fair-trade line is certified by TransFair USA (www.transfairusa.org).