By HEATHER MALLICK
Saturday, July 9, 2005
Café Malongo is the brand of excellent fresh-ground coffee beans sold by Les Galeries Lafayette in Paris for tourists like me who learn that good French hotels don't have coffee-making facilities in the room. This, to the French, would be barbaric. One rises and goes to a local café, or orders room service.
But I cannot rise without my coffee. So I bought a Bodum French Press coffee maker, a tiny kettle and half a kilo of beans just to get me into the shower each morning. It was Fair Trade coffee from Zimbabwe.
Take note: The Fair Trade label means that Third World coffee growers are paid a fair price for their beans. This is as opposed to multinationals, which tell helpless peasants, "Here's your 12 cents, that should get you through the next six months."
The difference between what you pay for coffee and what the grower gets would make you gasp. Fair Trade narrows this. Even Starbucks (which sells bitter corporate coffee at a huge markup) sells Fair Trade beans, though, mysteriously, the coffee of the day is never Fair Trade and finding the beans would mean a search around the store, if I shopped at Starbucks any more, which I don't.
Anyway, in my effort to replicate my Paris mornings, I resolved to find Café Malongo coffee come what may. In the end, I bought two 250-gram cans of an overfine grind on-line from a B.C. company for $38 including shipping.
Yes, it was mad. But not for the reasons you think. The coffee was grown in Central America, probably shipped to France for packing and sale or export, then shipped to B.C. and then shipped across the country to me in Central Canada. It's very much like the "3,000-mile Caesar salad" that will no longer be affordable as oil soars in price.
I may have the details slightly off. If only these beans could talk. All I know is they came to me jet-lagged and possibly with blood clots from sitting in hospitality class.
My point is -- and you knew I had a shimmering one -- that you should purchase only Fair Trade coffee. It will help Third World farmers more than the G8 will. You can buy it here, at reasonable prices, in good small stores. I'm currently looking for a replacement for my Café Malongo, which is not available locally. I'll try Ten Thousand Villages.