The Fair Trade certification label found on many agricultural products ensures conscientious consumers that every product bearing its label is purchased at a base price that is above the farmer’s cost of production. There are numerous third party certifications (organic, bird friendly, etc.) that are often applied to Fair Trade certified coffees. While the Fair Trade certification is beneficial in some contexts, its downside is it does not indicate a level of quality or give incentives for higher quality. Additionally, the Fair Trade certification only applies to democratically run cooperatives, not private farms or estates. Another buying option is buying directly from the farmer, also known as Direct Trade. While consumers will often see the Fair Trade certification as a major selling point, Direct Trade is another option that also proves beneficial for the farmer and for quality.
Some of the benefits of a Direct Trade model include higher premiums for better farming and processing practices as well as producing higher quality coffee. Direct Trade allows roasters to deal directly with farmers to negotiate prices and allows for more incentive to produce higher quality coffee. Under this model a roaster will work closely with private and family farms, receiving fresh crops directly from the farmer.
Some of the most common criteria direct trade coffee roasters abide by:
• The Coffee must meet the minimum cupping score of 85 points to be considered specialty coffee.
• The minimum paid to the farmer must exceed both the ‘C’ Market price and the published Fair Trade price by a certain amount designated by the company.
• Representatives from the roaster must personally visit each farm or cooperative bi-annually to inspect, document, and communicate with farm partners that Direct Trade Criteria are being met.
“The advantage of direct trade for roasters is that it helps identify the artisan farmers who are committed to producing exceptional coffee—a relationship that often pays off well into the future, as the farmer learns exactly what qualities the roaster values in a coffee. The farmer, however, also receives other benefits much of the time. Coffee Klatch’s contract with Finca Las Mercedes, for instance, includes a clause that requires the farm to reinvest 10 percent of the price of the coffee into an agreed upon community project…”It’s particularly important because farms like Las Mercedes can’t qualify for Fair Trade, as they’re not part of a democratically elected co-op,” explains Perry. “But Las Mercedes takes their commitment seriously as a major employer in the area. So by paying them a premium well above the fair-trade price, we can really help them give back to the community.” [Micro Roaster of the Year, published in the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of Roast Magazine]
Often, we are quick to recognize the artisan behind the roaster, but we ignore that the coffee farmer and producer is himself an artisan who must have an extreme passion and years of practiced knowledge to provide the roaster with the green coffee bean he can work with and bring proudly to the cupping table.
Each new coffee added to the brewed coffee menu at Kettle has a story and we’d love to share it with you.