Ethical Coffee – Does it matter how you satisfy your caffeine needs?


Cup of cappuccino

Let’s make this disclaimer right away – I am not pro any particular race, religion, nation, or political party*. Haven’t we learned from The Hunger Games, Divergent or even The Selection** that districts, factions and castes just lead to restlessness, rebellion and revolution? I am pro-humanity, pro-ethics, pro-simply-doing-the-right-thing, whatever that may be.

Recent or shall I say very-old-but-perhaps-waiting-for-the-social-media-movement-to-bring-it-to-light news has got me thinking about my everyday influence. I am not privileged to be a hunter or a gatherer, leaving me no option but to be a consumer. As a consumer, what power do I have? What do I base my purchases on? I started questioning the simplest and most frequent of my daily purchases – my much-needed afternoon coffee run. Are they based on price, quality, popularity, or hmm is ethics even a criteria when satisfying my daily caffeine needs? What am I actually supporting when I buy a cup of coffee?

This is my personal struggle and journey on the hunt for ethical coffee. In a simple field study of Toronto’s Financial District where I undoubtedly spend at least 40 hours per week, I am faced with nasty truths, uninvited disappointments and revelations that make me question whether I actually put my money where my mouth is.

Every morning I pass by the glazed-eyed victims being lured into the green siren, and I battle against my will like Odysseus to look away and tread forward. Once the hypnosis wears off, I can’t help but shudder at the ridiculous social movement (herd mentality alert). These victims are willingly giving their money to a company whose owner is proudly awarded for supporting the destruction of a race.

If you are one of those people who think, the company is a separate entity from the owner, so the company should not be paying the price for an individual’s ignorance, then think again consumer – Who do you think is filling up the owner’s pocket?

At lunch time, I pass by the trendy red espresso bar which offers busy suits a chance to comfortably sit down for a quick lunch meeting. The rich aroma of coffee roasted in the promise land is deceptively innocent. With the daily coffee order, the barista provides a peace-offering of excessively sweet milk chocolate in exchange for the continued support of a business that profits on stolen land and a controversial racist co-owner.

During my afternoon stretch away from my painfully ergonomical desk, I wander by the nondescript direct-trade indie coffee bar tucked away in a low-medium traffic corridor. I can’t help but get giddy and think I’m getting Hot. So the owner is charged with one count of assault and two counts of mischief for confronting anti-abortion protesters. Is it better that I support a local quazi-”criminal” than an international corp(se)oration? I mean it is in line with Toronto’s quirky character, so why not make this barista a hero?***

It is the end of the day, on my way home in the Quiet Zone, still relapsing from the lack of conscious coffee. I slump down in my seat trying not to play footsies with the stranger across from me. I sigh. I reflect on all the conflict and controversy locally and globally surrounding the coffee craze. Why am I so unwilling to spend a few loonies and toonies on a non-organic, non-fair trade, non-environmentally-friendly, and downright non-humane caffeine fix? When it boils down to it, my typical coffee purchase is based on short-term self-satisfying incentives. If I let my conscience get the better of me, my spending is haunted by the long-term moral incentive of standing up for higher principles.

This is not a call to boycott your favourite controversial company. It is a plea to start questioning your actions and reflect on their repercussions, as I decide to forgo a cup of coffee for the symbolic support of humanity.

*Ha…in fact, the thought of political parties (pl.) makes me laugh.

**There goes my dignity…

***Thank you very much Mayor Ford for setting the precedent in Toronto.

Magnum Pleasure Store – We all scream for Icecream

My custom Magnum bar - dark chocolate dipped vanilla bean Icecream topped with sea salt, hazelnut, rose petals, coconut flakes and a drizzle of white chocolate

After very little convincing, I organized a team ice cream break to the Magnum Pleasure Store on Bloor Street. Luckily, they extended their summer stay until August 30th, for stragglers like us who have yet to try the latest ice … Continue reading

Morning Routine

Checking my personal email, scanning through worthy status updates, and laughing to myself while chatting with the girls in the innocently named “Disney Princesses” chat group – I haven’t even reached Union Station yet, but I have managed to catch up with family and friends from San Diego, Chicago, New York, Manchester, Dhaka, Wattala, Georgetown and oh can’t forget Markham and Ajax. The train comes to a jerking halt, and the imagery of “Woman Falls In Mall Fountain While Texting” pops into my mind, and I quickly put away my iPhone in order to prevent the next viral video from happening.

Just when I think the construction can’t get any worse at Union station, I am welcomed by new additions to the existing convoluted makeshift drywall labyrinth. I force myself to muster a bit of resolve and follow the school of fish into the TTC sardine can, thankful they were able to squeeze in one more. Then I channel all my energy to remain balanced and not let physics get the best of me. After what seems to be an eternity of taking in the friendly and the not-so-friendly scents of the sandwiching natives, the lady announces “Arriving at Interchange station”. I gasp for air, thread through the tunnel and surface back to earth. Aah, I breathe in the city air. The sun is shining down on me as I walk down Bloor St. I bask in delight as I resume my daily routine of people-watching on my 10 minute walk to work.

I arrive at my cozy nook by the window, log on to the network, double-click on Outlook to be welcomed with bolded messages. It always amazes me how there are so many fresh emails waiting for me before the day even starts. Take a deep breath, I’m not completely ready to go full force just yet. I reach for my fashion-friendly Rachel Ray lunchbag and pull out the breakfast I prepared the night before. Yes, I’m one of those people who would rather get a few more minutes of Zs, than leave the next morning’s breakfast to chance. I reach in and pull out the glass mason jar from my bag. I shake the daunting green smoothie really well, twist and snap the lids off. I take in a long, slow sip and allow myself to take in the fresh ginger aroma, and the cucumber & celery aftertaste that completely masks the taste of nutrition-rich kale. I silently rejoice as I refresh and nourish myself with the best part of my morning, until a colleague comes by and exclaims, “What are you drinking?!” and I snap back into reality.

***

After experimenting with a few different green smoothie recipes (like that one time I thought banana and cilantro would work well together in a smoothie), I’ve come to love this combination below. It allows me to intake amazing nutritional content from my greens, while playing with my palate. It tantalizes the tongue with familiar tropical fruits and then kicks you with aromatic ginger and celery before cooling down with cucumber. Kale passes by in clandestine. Try it and perfect your own morning routine.

Morning Routine Green Smoothie

IMG_9288

store in a mason jar for fresh and easy storage

Ingredients:

  • Bunches of kale
  • A small stalk of celery
  • One-third of a cucumber
  • Frozen mangoes and/or pineapple (handful of each)
  • A small piece of ginger

Apparatus:

Unperfected but Equally Satisfying Process:

  • Tear kale leaves into blender (with stalks if you are using a powerful blender).
  • Add sliced cucumbers and celery.
  • Drop in a handful of frozen mangoes and/or pineapples.
  • Add a small piece of ginger.
  • Add cold water.
  • Blend really well for a minute and a half.
  • Check for taste and consistency. Add more water if it looks too thick. I like mine blended really well and more juice-like than smoothie-like.
  • Add more mangoes/pineapple if you want a sweeter/fruitier flavour. Skip or cut down the ginger if it doesn’t suit your palate.
  • Drink right away or pack in a glass mason jar (slows down oxidation) but drink in the next 24 to 48 hours.
  • Share your healthy breakfast smoothie with everyone you know and get them on the green smoothie bandwagon.
  • It’s an amazingly efficient way to get your veggies in for the day. Personally I LOVE the flavour, but if you’re just starting off you are better off opting for a higher fruit:vegetable ratio.

Drink with all your senses! Enjoy!

-FROM ONE UNRULY KITCHEN TO YOURS

$5 for that Tall Iced Green Tea Lemonade?

Walking down the bustling downtown streets, trying to hold my skirt down from the blistering wind, the natives walk by not taking notice of the only people-watcher in their midst. It’s bewildering how many business men and women, students, and tourists are effectively sipping on their green straws while texting with one hand, as they maneuver through the sidewalks and flashing traffic signs. I observe and sigh in envy, as I too want that ice-cold, tangy, fragrant thirst-quencher. Alas, I relentlessly give in, as I approach the newly renovated and all-the-more enticing establishment at the corner of Bloor and Jarvis. I go in and feign my proficiency in the art of ordering to the best of my ability. “Tall Tazo Shaken Iced Green Tea Lemonade, please”. I give up my newly registered cash card, and once returned back to the rightful owner, I quickly move off to the side. After what seems to be a perfected process, I get the product of my $5 investment. I proudly pick up my oasis, head out the front door with my head held high, shake my leg as I wait for the lights to change, carefully cross the street, and just as I arrive at the entrance of my office building, I slurp, but all I get is air and drops of melted ice water. My $5 summer drink, didn’t even last 5 minutes. Sigh. I look at the residual value of my investment, a cup half full of ice with distinguished calligraphy on the side. At least they spelled my name right…

***

Upon reflection, I decided it’s time to make my own satisfying homemade iced green tea lemonade. It requires some time and effort, but it’s a great refreshing treat for your family and friends at your next BBQ.

Berry-Infused Iced Green Tea Lemonade

Homemade Iced Tea Lemonade

Ingredients:

  • green tea leaves (I use Jasmine green tea leaves from TenRen, so lovely and fragrant)
  • your favourite organic unpasteurized honey
  • freshly squeezed lemon/lime juice
  • optional add-ins for flavour and presentation: mint leaves, frozen mixed berries, your favourite frozen fruits
  • lots and lots of ice
  • and of course water

Unperfected but Equally Satisfying Process:

  • Boil hot water (quantity depends on number of servings required)
  • Drop in some green tea leaves into a teapot with infuser, and pour hot water in
  • Steep for at least 5 minutes or as desired (I like my tea to come out strong)
  • Let the tea cool a little
  • Pour tea into pitcher or drink dispenser (if you’re having a big party)
  • Add in some cold water (you can try 70% hot tea, 30% cold water)
  • Squeeze in lemon/lime juice as desired
  • Mix in some honey as desired
  • Stir well
  • Drop in in your optional add-ins (I like to stir my frozen mixed berries into the cold water I add to the tea in the step above, and mix it well, so that the tea gets infused with a nice berry flavour)
  • Now comes the tricky part, add in lots of ice to the pitcher/dispenser itself, you want the drink to be cold, but not dilute the awesome flavour
  • Keep on playing with the ingredients until you achieve your desired taste
  • Display your homemade oasis to your guests
  • Add ice to the individual serving cups and pour out the goodness
  • Sip right off the rim or add a straw
  • Breathe in the aroma of the jasmine and mint, and allow all your senses to appreciate the product of your hard work

There’s something so satisfying about homemade, and best of all it’s made from all-natural ingredients. Enjoy!

-FROM ONE UNRULY KITCHEN TO YOURS