Drinking coffee: A social movement in times of crisis

08 September 2020
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Updated 09 September 2020

Drinking coffee: A social movement in times of crisis

By Mishkat Hafiz

During this period of social distancing and calls from government leaders to stay at home, I have let go of little luxuries like going to my favorite cafes where I spend hours sipping coffee as I work. Now that I am always at home, in my little apartment, I wake up to make my own cup of coffee. I see it as a very intricate process.

Every morning, I rely on my coffee for a sense of routine as I adapt to my new lifestyle. In this mundane activity, I have found so much power. I admire coffee like I admire artwork, thinking about the satisfaction of the bitterness, the anticipation of the fruity flavors, or the hidden notes of citrus.

I manually grind the beans, enjoying the struggle and the energy I give as I turn the lever on my grinder. The effort I pour onto my coffee makes me savor every sip. A part of me has blended into that coffee. The smell starts to fill my lungs, as I set the grinds on the filter and pour the hot, not quite boiling water. Through my coffee rituals, I reflect on the complexity of the process of how the coffee beans travelled to me.

A simple activity like brewing and drinking coffee ties into a complex economic and trade network that profoundly affects the livelihood of hundreds of people.

My decision to understand the story of my cup of coffee allowed me to see a whole world through it. It also allowed me to connect with people, like the owner of Dispatch Coffee, Chrissy Durcak, who is dedicated to human empowerment through coffee. From Durcak, I learned that the simple act of people opting to buy conscious coffee can alleviate farmers from poverty. I found that to be inspiring.

My cup of coffee tells the story of the earth, the farmers, the roasters, and the transporters. Many of these people are now considered “essential workers” who work together for my cup. How has my cup impacted them? I think of how many of us, coffee drinkers, make the conscious decision to empower people through coffee. 

Farmers can be empowered by getting their fair share of profit and access to improve and develop their work. Roasters who choose to respect the dignity of the trade and the value of the plant by roasting single origin beans that are grown in sustainable methods in the best way to bring out the most wonderful of flavors. The fairly procured and skillfully roasted beans are then packed to resemble the ethics and beauty of this sustainable process.

Their work is giving me, the consumer, a way of contributing to a complex supply chain. Every link of this chain is empowered by the absolute respect of human dignity and environmental sustainability. Drinking this cup of coffee to me, is an act of social justice. Through this cup, I become part of a movement that empowers humans and ensures their rights. I have contributed to the protection of the environment. I have supported local businesses that work to build a sustainable community.

This is the beauty and power of humanity where we can reach each other and impact each other’s lives, transcending boundaries of space. We can utilize resources from nature to create movements that inspire social change instead of exploitation.

It has never been more essential to support conscious business initiatives than now, a time when many of us are re-evaluating our lifestyles and contemplating the social and economic repercussions of a global crisis. Social distancing can still provide us with opportunities for collective action. Making small changes to the way we consume can have much larger global effects.

I envision a better world, in this process, as I sip my coffee.

• Mishkat Hafiz is a Saudi freelance journalist exploring social and cultural issues. She is currently working with non-profit organizations addressing food justice and environmental issues.