Segments in this Video

Coffee Tasters (00:56)


Tasters grade coffees from around the world at the International Cupping Competition, sponsored by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Ethiopia, the Birthplace of Coffee (03:16)

Coffee provides 67% of Ethiopia's export revenue. Fifteen million Ethiopians depend on coffee for their livelihoods. Our film crew visits a warehouse in Addis Ababa.

Collapsed Supply Agreement (02:28)

Coffee prices paid to farmers plunge following collapse of the International Coffee Agreement in 1989. Cooperative manager Tadesse Meskela travels to southern Ethiopia.

Farmers Talk Price (02:31)

Meskela, manager of Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, discusses prices with farmers in Kilenso Mokonisa. He pledges to get farmers a fair price.

Consumers (01:14)

Worldwide, consumers drink about 2 billion cups of coffee per day. Retail sales exceed $80 billion per year. A few companies dominate the world market.

World Markets (02:42)

New York and London commodity exchanges establish world coffee prices. Major coffee companies offset risk though futures markets.

Pride in Their Work (03:05)

Rosa Meskela lauds her husband's efforts to help Ethiopian coffee farmers. A barista in Trieste, Italy, describes the importance of coffee in Italian daily life.

Shortening the Supply Chain (03:10)

At the government coffee auction in Addis Ababa, Meskela explains how he sells directly to roasters, cutting out middlemen, thereby benefiting farmers.

Fifty Perfect Beans (03:20)

Illy Coffee Company, Italy, markets pure arabica blends. Perfect beans produce a special coffee. Illy's president claims Illy is not "commodity coffee."

Culling Beans (01:26)

Women earn less than $0.50 per day picking out inferior coffee beans at the Coffee Export Processing Center in Addis Ababa.

World Barista Championship (02:16)

In Seattle, at the final round of the World Barista Championship, contestants from all over the world vie for the coveted title.

Good Life For Farmers (02:32)

Meskela displays retail coffees made from his union's beans. He describes the humble elements of a "good life" to which Ethiopian coffee farmers aspire.

Pleading for God's Help (01:31)

Farmers in Yirgacheffe, southern Ethiopia, pray for better lives and better prices for their coffee.

Coffee Farmers Live in Poverty (04:00)

Farmer Burte Arba in Bule Hora, Ethiopia, explains coffee growing and how a fair price of only $0.57 per kilogram could radically improve life for his family, such as make school possible for his children.

School in Coffee Country (03:26)

A young man's aspirations depend on an education. A school struggles to pay teachers and buy essential equipment.

First Starbucks Store (02:04)

Viewers join a Seattle Coffee House Tour to Starbucks' first store in Pike Place Market. The manager says she's "in the people business serving coffee."

Famine Strikes Sidama (02:34)

Viewers visit a therapeutic feeding center in the region that supplies Ethopian coffee to Starbucks. Low coffee prices prevent farmers from buying needed food.

Hunger Hits Very Young First (02:11)

Strict guidelines at a therapeutic feeding center in Ethiopia mean only the most severely malnourished will be admitted. Health workers must turn away marginally malnourished children.

Courting New Coffee Markets (03:05)

Meskela travels to London seeking British customers. Bypassing New York commodities markets may mean better prices for farmers and roasters.

Solution: Consumer Pressure? (03:44)

Meskela visits a London grocery searching for his coffees. He believes consumers can help Third World producers by demanding fair prices for farmers.

Farmers Pushed to Plant Drugs (02:14)

Because coffee prices remain depressed, some desperate farmers plant chat, an amphetamine-like stimulant.

More Income from Chat (02:16)

Meskela notes European countries subsidize many popular commodities. Without subsidies, Ethiopian farmers resort to growing chat alongside coffee.

Unfair Trade Rules? (02:14)

At World Trade Organization talks in Cancun, representatives from Chad and Malawi seek trade rules that will improve their economies.

WTO Talks Unfair to Developing Nations (02:01)

Huge delegations from Western nations participate fully in trade talks. Small delegations from developing nations cannot possibly cover multiple, simultaneous negotiations.

Trade Talks Collapse (01:40)

African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries walk out on WTO negotiations because Western nations refuse to listen to their concerns. Western farm subsidies particularly gall Africans.

Emergency Food Aid (02:20)

Seven million people depend on emergency food aid in Ethiopia every year. An aid worker says better ways are needed to help people.

Specialty Coffee Trade Show (02:54)

Meskela mans a booth at a trade show to promote his cooperative union's coffees.

Farmers Appreciate the Importance of Education (02:44)

At the Kilenso Mokonisa Cooperative, members vote to use profits and reserves to invest in a new school.

Fair Trade Could Solve Africa's Food Crisis (03:34)

Africa's share of world trade totals 1%. A 1% increase would generate $70 billion, more than 5 times the value of annual emergency food aid to the continent.

Credits: Black Gold (03:13)

Credits: Black Gold

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3-Year Streaming Price: $199.95



Coffee is the second-most actively traded commodity on the planet, reaping billions in annual retail sales. But farmers make as little as three cents for each cup sold, with most of the rest going to giant food conglomerates that control the coffee market. This highly acclaimed documentary follows a manager from an Ethiopian coffee-farmers cooperative as he tries to negotiate a living wage for the growers he represents. The film explores issues of globalization, fair trade, and the impact of Western consumerism on the rest of the world as it makes the provocative point that international commodities markets are deliberately rigged against developing countries. (77 minutes)

Length: 78 minutes

Item#: BVL49771

Copyright date: ©2006

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“This passionate film makes a cogent case for bringing the basic principles of fair trade to bear on a decidedly unfair business environment.”  Video Librarian


“Riveting and jaw-dropping.”  Los Angeles Times


“Goes beyond giving Starbucks-sippers guilt trips. It gives a fascinating and nearly forgotten history of coffee in Ethiopia.”  San Francisco Chronicle


“This passionate little film is here to convince you that educated consumers can decide who wins.”  The Boston Globe


“For a deep, wide-ranging account of today’s global relationships, from the misery within enclaves of production to the slightly smoggy good times in the lands of consumption, you will need to watch of the strongest documentaries I’ve seen.”  The Nation


“Poetic and hard-hitting critique of the global coffee industry....Beautifully shot and edited.”  The Washington Post


“As coffee drinkers know, not all beans are equal, but the meaning of inequality gets an entirely different spin in [this] handsome and astute documentary.”


“Excellent. Angry, good-humored, and essential.”  The Observer (London)


“Remarkable. A moving but scandalous story. It has extraordinary power.”  The Daily Telegraph (London)


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