Eating Some (Fair-Trade) Humble Pie

Lord knows that in my time I’ve said some mean things about fair-trade coffee. I’ve tried to like it, but every time I go buying it on my own I end up with something that tastes bad. Since my super power is the ability to generalize a single instance of disappointment into a scathing indictment of an entire industry, this led to some enjoyable ranting where I prove, using logic, that all fair trade coffee everywhere, by the immutable laws of the universe, must taste horrible.

The Green LA Girl, however, called my bluff. So now I will publically recant my earlier statements and say, without reservation, fair-trade coffee is awesome.

Monkey and Son

Monkey and Son

The way in which she called my bluff was to send me and psu a package of Monkey & Son Krakatoa. It is without a doubt superb coffee, and I enjoyed every cup I’ve had of it. I’m getting more. Enough introduction: let me tell you a bit about the coffee.

Despite the super-cool logo, I was initially worried when I opened the package. The beans are a glossy, unearthly black, as if they are made from licorice, or obsidian. The smell – in the bag – is also terribly unappetizing. It’s a bit of a mix between burnt rubber and new car leather. But coffee beans are not potpourri, and the real test is in how they smell after you brew them, not before. On these terms, the Monkey & Son Krakatoa succeeds perfectly.

This is a strong, dark roast, but not unpleasantly burnt or overroasted, despite the appearance. It is, in fact, one of the most perfectly balanced dark roasts I’ve had. It is medium-bodied. There’s none of the unpleasant, medicinal aftertaste I found with CafÈ Estima. The flavor is complex without being overbearing along any one dimension. If I was forced, at gunpoint, to come up with a criticism, it might be that it might work better with just a tiny touch more sourness. But, seriously, I’m not sitting there thinking “Gee, I wish this was more sour.” I’m sitting there thinking “Where did all my coffee go?” because it tastes good enough that if I’m not careful I find that I don’t drink it, I gulp it.

So, barring some unexpected news item revealing that this coffee was actually picked by heroin-addicted sex slave orphans in the mountains of Myanmar: I was wrong, and I’m glad to admit it. There is indeed yummy, reasonably priced fair-trade coffee out there. Thanks for sending me the sample to find out. I will cease badmouthing fair-trade coffee posthaste. I have seen the light.

But I stand by all the mean things I’ve said about vegans. A man has to draw the line somewhere.