For many college students, myself included, caffeinated drinks are an essential part of our daily routine. If I don’t have coffee in the morning, my entire day is a struggle. Lucky for us, Berkeley is full of cafes that offer a wide variety of teas, coffees and other beverages. When sipping a creamy latte or soothing tea, you probably aren’t thinking about where the beans or tea leaves are sourced—but maybe you should be.

The coffee industry is unfortunately plagued by labor trafficking and unjust and unsustainable business practices. Knowing which products are sustainable and ethical can be extremely difficult, and figuring out where to buy them can be even harder. Luckily, there is now an easy way to both enjoy your morning coffee and ensure that it is ethically sourced.

The Coffee Project at Berkeley is a student group dedicated to raising awareness about the issue of labor trafficking in the coffee industry by promoting businesses that try to diminish unethical practices. As a student, ethical and sustainable products are something that I care about but often have trouble finding time to do the research on. The Coffee Project understands that and wants to empower students to consume consciously by making this information more easily accessible.

Anna Chang

This may seem like a great idea, but how exactly are they doing this? Well, a few ways include the recent Coffee Festival they hosted on Lower Sproul on Wednesday, April 3rd and an app that launched the same day.

The event was sponsored by both the Anti-Trafficking Coalition at Berkeley and the Blum Center of Developing Economies. The Festival featured a wide range of business participants, such as Peet’s, Guayaki, COBA and REBBL. These businesses offered information about ethical sourcing, as well as some dope free samples for everyone in need of a hump day pick-me-up.

Conscious Coffee App

Anna Chang

The app is called Conscious Coffee, and it launched the same day as the Fest. Its goal is to make finding ethically-sourced coffee easy, so it includes cafes in the Bay Area whose practices are verified by the Coffee Project. When you open up the app, it tells you where to find the closest cafe with ethical caffeine. Not only does it provide information on the cafe’s sourcing, but also includes photos and a description of the place's vibe. 

Now, you may be wondering just how the Coffee Project ensures that each business has ethically sourced coffee. Well, they first check to see if the business has any official certifications like Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance. If not, they ask to see transparency reports about their processes, because paid certifications are not the only way to be socially responsible. The Coffee Project is also quite critical of “greenwashing”—when a company brands itself as sustainable but fails to practice what they preach.

Anna Chang

If you’re a coffee or tea fanatic, make sure you download the Conscious Coffee App to find information on sustainable and ethical businesses and maybe even your new favorite cafe. The app is available on Google Play or the Apple App Store.