Amto a flourish ofmedia attention and bustling of television camera crews, the UK's first Fairtrade café opened on the streets of central London last week. Coffee Matters, adjacent to Holborn station, is the country's first coffee house to sell solely brands that carry the Fairtrade label that which ensures third world workers harvesting the product receive a decent wage, better conditions and a fairer deal all round. Phil Wells, Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, said that there is both a market and sound ethical reasonings for embarking on such a venture: "There are a lot of people who have been concerned for a long time about the third world and people living in poverty in the third world. A lot of products we buy, things like tea and coffee and cocoa are produced by small farmers and state workers in the south. And for them its really good news that the Fairtrade market exists, because that's the actual guarantee consumers have, that the product that's being sold has been bought from small farmers in the states where people are actually getting an improved life as a result. What's exciting about today is that we've got the first example of a café in London selling only Fairtrade coffee and tea." The Fairtrade Foundation, the body that offers the guarantee that certifies the products, is backed by Christian Aid, Cafod, Oxfam and other charities. Phil Wells paid tribute to the Christian ethic behind the movement: "Inevitably any Christian with a social concern is going to be interested in the Fairtrade mark. And Fairtrade since the 70s has been very much backed by the Christian community. It's only really in the last ten years or so that its broken out of the Christian ghetto into the mainstream, so we've got a big vote of thanks for Chris
tians who've backed us all this time".
Such an emphasis on "ethical" products is by no means novel, and the coffee house in central London faces strong competition from a plethora of competitors in the vicinity. "A lot of the coffee companies, certainly the American ones, have tried to take some kind of ethical stance, but none of them are doing a Fairtrade coffee", commented Wells. "Hopefully it pressures them to change. But it's a great market. There's about 200 coffee shops around the UK at the moment and people in the business are predicting about 1,500 in two years so there's plenty of room for Fairtrade ones." Another campaigner for the organisation, Julia Powell, stressed that beyond being a soley ethical venture, Coffee Matters was financially viable. "This is a purely commerical venture by those who've decided that all of their coffees are going to be Fairtrade, with everything from Cafe Latte to Mona, Espresso, cappuccino, and they also have the choices of decaffeinated or organic, and all of that is Fairtrade".