Beans to Mug: A Coffee Story

Beans to Mug: A Coffee Story

Your daily routine may call for caffeine, but have you ever considered the hard work behind that latte?

“Coffee,” you mutter frantically as you toss back your bed sheets and hurriedly prepare for your busy day, rubbing the sleep from your eyes.

“Coffee?” you ask a long lost friend you bump into at the farmer’s market on Saturday, excitedly chatting and catching up on your way.

“Coffee, milk, eggs,” you scribble on your grocery list before heading out the door.

“Coffee,” you exhale as the heat from your mug seeps through your mittens, warming your winter-chilled hands.

And while these acts seem both routine and normal, personal and redundant, what you may not realize is that there’s a whole big world swirling among your creamer in that cup. People you’ve never met from places you’ve never known aided in the production of the sweet caffeine buzz we all take for granted. The coolest part? The people you’ve never met from the places you’ve never been share the same routines as you, and some even rely on it as a way of life.


Over 70,000 farmers grow coffee in Costa Rica and more than half of them belong to cooperatives that are involved with fair trade organizations. Fair trade organizations like Fairtrade International and the Rain Forest Alliance work to secure better rights and salaries for small farmers. Fair trade certification promotes environmental, social and economic sustainability, and often emphasizes shade-grown and organic coffee; meanwhile, cooperatives bring together small farmers to help secure better bargaining prices for their products. Something to think about the next time we get impatient in the Starbucks line.

Maria opens her home to tourists in Punta Cana, showing the process of roasting coffee and cacao

Maria opens her home to tourists in Punta Cana, showing the process of roasting coffee and cacao

Mexico is one of the largest coffee-producing countries in the world, with the largest area of organic coffee crops. The vast majority of Mexican coffee, and particularly organic coffee, is grown by small farmers in the southern-most states of Chiapas and Oaxaca. Coffee is one of Mexico’s most lucrative exports and close to half a million small farmers and their families rely on the crop for their economic survival. While we joke about needing coffee to get through a Monday, many people in Mexico rely on coffee quite literally to make a life for themselves and their families.

Ideal coffee growing conditions require high altitudes, tropical climates and rich soil and there’s only one state in the U.S. that fits the criteria. Hawaii has been producing coffee since the mid-nineteenth century — before it was even a state. If Hawaii as a coffee growing state may surprise you, the term Kona Coffee may ring a bell.

100% pure Kona coffee is a rare commodity exclusively grown in north and south Kona. The high elevation, constant cloud coverage and rich volcanic soil from Hualalai Volcano in the upland slopes of Kona create an ideal environment for harvesting this unique Hawaiian coffee bean. There are hundreds of coffee farms in Kona, from the small art town of Holualoa to Kealakekua, and many offer tours to the public. Coffee plantations serve not only as a source of income to islanders, but as a tourist favorite as well.

When you think about the difference coffee makes in the lives who work to bring it to a coffee shop near you, it’s easy to forget about how annoyed you were that the barista got your order wrong. It’s easy to gain perspective and realize how this one, small cup just connected you to other people in the world.

That’s worth getting out of bed for.

Ali Coates

Ali Coates is a Contributing Writer for Here & Beyond. With a love of pop culture, music and fashion, Ali started writing for various publications while studying journalism, advertising and public relations at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Originally from the upper peninsula of Michigan, she loves the great outdoors and takes advantage of traveling to new places to hike and explore whenever she can. She has visited Riviera Maya and the U.S. Virgin Islands and can’t wait to get some more destinations under her belt.