Some of you may recall just how much the zombie children of the Fair Trade cult scare the bejeezus outta me. Ritual Coffee Roasters barista, Gabriel Boscana, wrote a much more tactful and civil approach to these single-issue customers in this month’s issue of Barista Magazine: FebMarch 07 – Certified Coffee Pusher. It was oddly reassuring to read that Gabe, while similarly appreciating their concern for creating a better world, also found many of them to be close-minded to a fault.

IMO, the faux transparency of the “look for the Fair Trade label” mantra is as much an over-simplified, denial-laden cop-out as the person who wants to believe that all their meat originates from sanitized cellophane and styrofoam packaging. This month’s issue of the industry rag Coffee Talk discusses the murky world of coffee certification programs, such as Fair Trade, and the difficulty of knowing if they are really achieving their stated intentions: Certified Coffees: Who Really Benefits? [p8 of the PDF file].

On a related topic, this month’s Barista Magazine also published a primer on organic coffee: FebMarch 07 – An Organic Primer. Of course, seeing how Fair Trade was co-opted (and, to some degree, subverted) by the big coffee producers it originally intended to counteract, organic probably won’t trail far behind. Mark my words: Organic Coca-Cola is ultimately coming to a supermarket near you. Then what? Are we ready for the implications? What was once an alternative is now becoming co-opted and industrialized in the name of product marketing — for all the good and bad that represents.

Btw, Gabe and his partner in Ritual crime, Ryan Brown, will be judging at the 2007 Western Regional Barista Competition (WRBC) next month in Petaluma (March 16-18). I probably won’t make the trek this time around. But this year, as at last year’s event, they promise to stage the 4th Machine (arguably my favorite part) in addition to some educational seminars for both industry pros and the home geeks.