October Simple, Good, and Tasty Bookclub Pick: Javatrekker

In honor of Fair Trade month, October's Simple, Good, and Tasty book club selection is Javatrekker: Dispatches from the World of Fair Trade Coffee. In the book, author Dean Cycon -- founder of Dean's Beans Organic Coffee, activist, and entrepreneur -- describes the many issues and implications around producing fair trade coffee in Africa, Central America, South America, and Asia. Javatrekker is a fantastic mix of travelogue and social commentary, with a healthy dose of history, politics and economics. It also introduces us to some colorful, entertaining, and soulful characters along the way.


"Coffee is more than just a drink. It is about politics, survival, the earth and the lives of indigenous peoples. Dean Cycon has been involved with indigenous rights, in coffee and in the larger sphere, for the twenty-seven years I have known him. He has a rich knowledge of the people and places of coffee, and knows how to tell our stories in a sensitive, insightful and often humorous way. Javatrekker is a great book for anyone who wants to know what is really going on in their morning cup."

--Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Laureate and author of I, Rigoberta Menchu and Crossing Borders

You can also read an in-depth (but balanced) review of Javatrekker here and check out some of Dean's growers here.

As usual, we will gather on the last Thursday of the month, October 28, at Mississippi Market Naturalfrom deansbeans.comfrom Foods Co-op’s Selby location from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. and at the Harmony Co-op in Bemidji from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Here are a few questions to ponder as you read the book:

  • What does "fair trade certified" mean? What does it mean to you? Do you regularly buy products that are fair trade certified? Why or why not?
  • In 2004, Dean's Beans opted out of the "fair trade certified" program, expressing frustration that certification standards and their meanings had been watered down. The company eventually returned (four years later) to support the standards and inspection processes through certification fees. How do you feel about certifications such as fair trade and organic? Do they tend to favor companies that have the funds to pay the fees? Does this dilute the intent of the programs?
  • In an interview, Cycon says that he turned down the opportunity to sell coffee to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's -- the first because he didn't want to triple his business overnight, the latter because he didn't like the way they run their business. Does the desire for some companies to be selective about where they sell fair trade products (like Dean's) help or hurt the "good food" cause?
  • Javatrekker delves into many of the issues facing the coffee industry: war, human rights, globalization, pollution, farming practices, globalization, and more. Do you make your own purchasing choices based on one or more of these issues? Which issues? Which products?

Javatrekker is available at Amazon (Kindle version too!) and Dean's Beans online or at Mississippi Market stores in St. Paul.  We look forward to seeing you on October 28th!



Tracy Morgan is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. She also runs Segnavia Creative, a business development and marketing firm, and serves on the board of directors for the Mississippi Market Natural Food Co-op in St. Paul.