Sourcing Our Coffee Responsibly
How do you go about sourcing the coffee you drink each morning? The coffee that’s often available at your local grocery store is shrouded in mystery, and we shouldn’t be ok with that. As a culture, we’ve grown more sensitive to the unknown and, as a result, learned to inquire and uncover. This has had a positive affect upon the entire American economy, from food to finance. Because of this, almost every industry must disclose certain facts to the consumer. “Mystery meat,” for example, is no longer an acceptable product to place between two slices of bread and advertise as a hamburger.
One of the areas that consumers often neglect is the coffee industry. In sourcing their coffee, companies enjoy incredible freedom to import the coffee they wish. Of course, we know exactly what drives these large companies’ decision making: profit. The cheaper they can buy their beans, the more money they can make in retail. I’ve seen it myself: clearance discounts for a wide range of defected coffee: old crops, damaged in transit, poor quality, etc. How would you feel if you found out that scratch and dent coffee found its way into your mug?
You might have heard of the Fair Trade movement. Direct trade is an attempt to take it even further. In essence, the aim of direct trade is to simplify the supply chain of coffee to the benefit of everyone involved. In a perfect world, you could just drive over to your local coffee farm when you needed more. Unfortunately, coffee doesn’t grow well in Corpus Christi or the rest of America for that matter (excluding Hawaii). Consequently, importing coffee is a must. Traditionally, as is the case with most of your average coffee sold at grocery stores, coffee changes hands many times throughout the importing process. This can include the mill, washing station, cooperative, exporter, importer, trading company, roaster, distributor, and finally, the grocery store or coffee shop. Direct trade aims to reduce that amount to two: the producer and the retailer.
The short answer: everyone. The producers benefit in a wide variety of ways. The farm owners make more money since we remove all the “middle men,” and they invest more in their employees and farms. The roaster/retailer benefits by offering a better product and building trust between themselves and their customers. The consumer benefits by getting a better cup of coffee and removing the mystery. I would also say that our culture improves because of the dramatic effect ethics and morality play on our conscience as a whole.
Because we’re such a tiny company, we can’t take trips to several farms and purchase coffee from them directly. We would love to shake hands with the producers, pick coffee with them, and invest in their business! This is an awesome and worthy business plan, and that is certainly a goal of ours! However, we have sought to cut out as many of the hands from origin to cup as possible, and here’s how: We only buy from traders that share our vision of business. The companies that we use to source our coffee are directly trading for their beans. They visit the farms, maintain relationships, taste the coffee, and ensure sustainability on each level. Additionally, they report the production methods, labor conditions, coffee quality, treatment of the environment, etc.
That’s a lot of what this is all about: knowledge. Knowledge removes the mystery and lifts the veil. When you buy mystery coffee, you can’t know whether the producers are treated fairly because roasting companies aren’t held accountable. We give full disclosure of our coffee’s source because we want you to care about the producers.