So, first of all let me share with you the new Harry Potter trailer. It looks promising, but really how could it not be awesome? Thank god I don’t have to see it in Russian, an idea that tempted me while I was studying abroad in the motherland. With this film, on 15 July 2011, my childhood will officially end. At the time of the writing of this post, there are only 77 days and 13 hours left until the WORLD PREMIRE.
Now for the complaint of the week. Recently, our lovely dining establishment has switched up some of its food options—adding to the salad bar (WIN), expanding the Lighter Side (WIN), and providing Dean’s Beans coffee (win?). This particular coffee brand is served at Black Sheep and in other restaurants/cafes in Amherst and Hadley, which means that it has made the cut in the capitalist world (unlike most of the food at Val, which would never be purchased by anyone hoping to make money in any capacity at any time).
I recently attended the Trustee dinner, serving on the student advisory table for Val (which is another story entirely), and from this experience I gained the pessimism and skepticism that is due to any Amherst College venture involving reallocation of funds. With this experience in mind, I looked distrustfully at the new Dean’s Beans tag when I first approached the left-hand coffee pots. What sneaky depravity was Amherst up to now? I reached for the label and pressed back the peeling laminate to look at the label. Shark Bite coffee? I have not yet been bitten by a shark (though death by terrible beast is eminent), but I imagine (over and over in my nightmares) that it will not be nearly as awful as the first sip of this coffee that touched my tongue, and reluctantly dribbled down the back of my throat (excuse the sexual imagery, this is a feminist blog after all). How could a brand of coffee that I had previously enjoyed with a nomilicious baguette (though a baguette with very sharp corners) from Black Sheep behave so abbrasively and horrendously?
Dean’s Beans is an A+ company, mainly because they have a good website that is navigable and has many colors and photos (but sadly no sparkly kitten graphics). They are a Fair trade corporation, with growers in Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia (Lord knows they need business), Guatemala, and others, and their coffee is 100% organic. For those of us that knew that Fair trade was “good” but did not know why or how, I offer the Wikidef, but if you want the complete lowdown you should check out
“Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as higher social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers and gold.”
Well, VAL, if you can suddenly afford the free trade coffee, where is the wine? Where are the flowers? Where is the GOLD? BLING ME. I PAY 50 Gs A YEAR, I SHOULD BE BLINGED. The point of this rant is that Val is spending a good deal on this (theoretically) tasty addition, yet it sucks. All this high-quality bean is doing for the Amherst studentry is increasing our CO2 contribution (via tooting). There must be a logistical or administrative problem lying in wait, preparing to be discovered at any moment by someone with an acute awareness of impending disaster, someone with a 6th sense for deceit.
My dearest Friend and Informant, Samuel P., illuminated Dean’s Beans path to disaster for me in a recent conversation over a cup of the culprit. He commented: “During the Eat Local fair over Parents Weekend I talked with a Dean’s Beans representative. He was disappointed with how Val prepared their coffee. He said he was going to call and tell them to treat/prepare the coffee better, or they would no longer sell to us. He can’t have Val destroy their brand because they don’t know how to deal with coffee! He said that they order massive quantities at a time and then just store it in the basement. “They’re foodservice people, and that’s what they like to do!” They don’t understand (contrary to popular belief) that coffee doesn’t keep like a can of tomato sauce. It just gets stale if it sits, already roasted, for weeks on end. Good coffee requires relatively freshly roasted beans. At least they grind the beans right before brewing. Also, you need a relatively precise temperature (just below boiling) and amount of grounds to brew good coffee, and I’m not sure about the temperature of the water or the amount of beans they use.
I frequently see them brewing straight into a pot still a quarter full with coffee that has sat there for hours. Then, when the machine is done brewing, they pour the stale coffee from the bottom of the pot into a carafe and pour it back into the top, mixing the nasty old stuff with the freshly brewed coffee. They really should clean out or at least empty the pots before they brew another batch.”
Val is abusing its coffee privelages, and is harming innocent beans in the process. Beans injected with aromatic genius are tossed aside and left for roasted. The journey from their homeland in South/Latin America/Africa/East Asia must be pretty tough—it takes at least 4 times as long for a bean to walk across a room or a plantation than it does for you or I, and I imagine that they are treated as second or third-class citizens once arriving in our land of “Freedom”. These dear beans are left, dejected, in a sunless room, given no recognition, no love, not even a pencil and paper on which to scribble their dying words. And utimately, they are tossed clumsily into a half-empty pot with their relatives’ dampened ashes, awaiting the lukewarm or scalding hot shower of death that is agonizing, degrading, even murderous. Coffee beans bring to our world, the natural world of which humanity is only a part, delicacy, elegance, pleasure. Their gift is their aroma, their scent, taste, and smooth feel. By depriving the beans of the right to their natural poetry, Val is committing a crime against humanity, against our mother earth, and most importantly for my purposes, against you, my fellow students.
In closing, I ask my readers only to think about the broader implications of “bad food at Val”. In my opinion, the poor quality of food, beverages, and general dining services at our fine educational institution is insulting and wasteful. Starving children in China would treat their beans (probably singular bean) kindly, with respect to the earth, and the indigenous people, from which they came (maybe, but you get the idea). Purchasing fair trade products is much more than an image-shaping policy, it is a way of thinking, a way of engaging productively and sustainably with the globe and its inhabitants. Amherst College needs to take a step away from the panicked pursuit of a “green” image to ensure that every decision is made thoughtfully and thoroughly. And stop fucking with my coffee.
PS: Happy Birthday to Keegan, BK, BT, Coburn, and Allison! In your honor, I will be performing a drunken interpretive dance to a much more silly song than this one:
*Thanks to A Fete for Food blog for the feature image! (http://www.afeteforfood.com/2009_09_01_archive.html)