Vanilla Iced Coffee

There are many ways to drink coffee and it doesn't always need to0 be hot. This idea of iced coffee with a vanilla twist is a great one that is worth a try. But before I give you the recipe, I want to head off at a tangent that encapsulates the similarities of different business strategies related to out main subject here that you might want to grab a cup of the greatest brew on earth to sit down and read first.

A Miraculous Business Idea

By the end of the 1940's, two brothers, Richard and Maurice, built up a business they could be proud of. The idea was not original, serve fresh burgers and fries to hungry families and travelers quickly and inexpensively. Still, they persevered and helped to change the face of Southern California forever.

Like most food businesses, the ultimate drive is to reap profit, acquired by new technology, faster service, and low prices. But, sometimes the end result does not always tell you how it got there. Low prices are usually a reality due to the initial low cost of the product.

A high turnover rate with a young, unskilled workforce and lack of benefits helps to assure not only the ability to keep prices low, but to rake in the profits. As in the case of Richard and Maurice, well, their McDonald's hamburgers hold many secrets; not unlike coffee.

Like fast food, coffee has been the business ticket for many eager business men and women. It is a "fast" commodity, easily acquired, simple to make, and desired by many. The attraction often goes beyond the sinful charm of the actual coffee bean and straight to the apex--money.

Coffee can be inexpensive to purchase and brew, but reaps a hefty profit for many. Add on some specialty touches like cream and ice and suddenly the coffee gets knocked up to the level above "fast food"...gourmet. Yet, coffee and burgers share even more in common than that, they also have some well kept secrets that makes "gourmet" corporate.

Farmers of the Crop

Coffee farmers are some of the hardest workers there are. Most coffee plantations still require a lot of manual labor. The plants must be carefully grown in specific climactic conditions. The beans must be harvested and sorted before either packed or roasted.

With coffee prices extremely low in recent years, the farmers often suffer. They maintain their schedules, but most farmers do not deal directly with the company that will ultimately sell the beans. More often than not, middle men purchase the coffee by the pound directly from the farmers for half of what the beans are worth.

This means that farmers grow their coffee, sell it at a loss, and are forced to either abandon their farms, suffer from sped-up production, or have their children assist in harvesting in what can be exploitative measures. Workers are paid less and work longer hours in order to survive.

In the meantime, the middle men sell their wares to the corporate or business buyers for a profit and the process takes on a new life.

Fair Trade: Helping in Ways You May Not Realize

The exploitation of farmers and their families is not a new tale. Yet, there are small ways in which the average consumer can help to assure the proper working conditions of coffee farmers/workers and the shut-down of aggressive middle men determined to save money in order to make money.

The Fair Trade certified system debuted in the United States in 1999 in an effort to sign on coffee companies to buy from plantations where middle men are a forgotten presence, children are protected, and the farmers are guaranteed a minimum price per pound for their beans (the price hovers at about $1.26 at the time of this article, .26 cents above the average world coffee price). Additionally, many companies invest their time to know their buyers well and establish long-term commitments and relationships with coffee growers in various regions.

There are shade-grown coffees that not only help to protect the farmers and their workers, but also the environment and wildlife populations. All of these means of purchasing guilt-free coffee are available and growing in popularity as people become aware to the secret side of coffee.

Like fast-food, coffee is the quick, cheap way to satisfy a craving. And like fast-food, coffee has its dark side that few of us consider when sitting down in our favorite coffeehouse for a Frappe.

But, corporate coffee companies such as Starbucks, which earned more than $164 million dollars in profits in 1999, greatly profit from a product that pays farmers as little as 50 cents a pound. Coffee is a business like any other, victim to the greed of men and women who use a product as a vehicle for their own gain.

Coffee isn't the enemy and it doesn't have to be "fast" food. Awareness combined with keen buying mind can take you, and coffee, a long way.

Vanilla Iced Coffee

So let's get to our recipe that sparked off this article. Itís a cold cup of wonder that is refreshing and stimulating while being immensely satisfying as well.

Ingredients

Method

Combine the coffee, milk and syrup in a pitcher, mixing well. In two tall glasses, place a few pieces of ice each. Add the coffee mixture and finish with freshly whipped cream. Serve immediately, ice cold.

Serves 2