I’ve been reading a book set in the late 2050s. In it, the future of food supply is pretty bleak. People have more or less stopped eating meat. Soy dogs and veggie hash are the norm. And the worst part…real coffee is only available for the rich and the famous. The rest of the world now drinks ‘surrogate’ coffee.

What if I told you this book is non-fiction? That this really could be what the future looks like?

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We often hear about the negative impacts of growing coffee, such as deforestation, non-recyclable paper cups and even enforced labour, and sometimes about the positive benefits that coffee brings to farmers and their communities. But could we do more?

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At Union, we source a lot of coffee (around 75% of all our green coffee) from smallholders coffee farmers, when we source from smallholders we source through cooperatives.

Why is this?

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Did you know that women play an important role in coffee production? They do most of the work and are therefore directly responsible for the quality of the coffee. Their work often goes unrecognized and unpaid. On international women’s day we want to share with you how Union adresses gender equality.

When coffee was first introduced into England in the late 1600s, it was largely drunk by men and only men. In coffeehouses rather than at home. Doctors welcomed this as a substitute for drinking alcohol in taverns, but women were not so happy. In 1674 an unknown author put out “The Women’s Petition Against Coffee”.

English coffee houses in the 17th and 18th century were also called penny houses, referring to the entry fee of a penny. Coffee houses were public, social places where people would meet for conversation and commerce while drinking coffee.

Not all historians agree on whether women were or were not allowed to enter coffeehouses. Yet, conversation certainly revolved around male centered subjects such as politics, business and cultural criticism. These topics were not supposed to concern women. A coffee house was no place for a lady who wished to remain respectable!

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