Our Direct Trade Coffee
So, what is direct trade coffee? Is it Fair Trade? Is it not Fair Trade? Does it even matter? This post will give a bit of insight into why we use direct trade coffee and why we think it’s really (REALLY!) important.
Firstly, directly traded coffee is simply where a relationship is made between producer and roaster, and coffee is sold directly through this relationship rather than via an importer, or the commercial coffees sold under the Fair Trade label with little traceability, and so on. Direct Trade means roasters will know the farmer and will communicate with them throughout the year, seeking the best coffee from each origin and building relationships directly.
Direct Trade is not the same as Fair Trade coffee, but it does augment everything that is great about a fair trade process, while leaving out the not so great bits. For example, producers who directly trade coffee with roasters are paid more for their crop than they would be through Fair Trade (over 30% more) and as they have a close relationship with the roasters who buy their coffee, there is more flexibility and often a greater quality of crop produced.
We won’t get into the nitty gritty of why Fair Trade doesn’t really work – for anyone – in speciality coffee, but we will explain why Direct Trade is the way forward for any other ethical warriors out there who truly care about sustainability and traceability of their produce.
The first benefit of direct trade is obvious. Producers maintain autonomy over their crop and practices, and can work with the roaster through frequent communication to continually enhance the quality of the coffee they produce. Producers therefore get paid higher rates for their coffee, and naturally this grows as the quality does, which encourages improvements to practices on a continuing basis.
These improvements mean producers are going back to growing coffee traditionally, where coffee quality is at its best. Growing under canopy shade, the high grade coffee in turn benefits its environment and increases the biodiversity of the area it is grown in. Producers who actively develop and maintain positive agricultural practices like this are creating agricultural improvements at origin, and so the positive circle keeps turning. The livelihoods of producers essentially enhance as the crop and local environment does.
As you know, Far Side Coffee uses direct trade coffee from female producers in Peru and Rwanda. We want to shout about this as these women are making fantastic coffee while being paid well above fair price for their work, which in turn allows us to make really great cold brew. Win win! We won’t ever change this, because great tasting coffee that does as much good for the producer as it does for those who drink it is worth more than any greater profit margin we might benefit from by using lesser coffee.
So maybe next time you pick up a coffee and you don’t know where it’s from because the information isn’t being given to you, it’s worth having a think about why that might be.
**For a much more eloquent explanation of Direct Trade we suggest grabbing yourself a Society Café Magazine - Volume 2, where Michaela Tomchek gives a thorough overview of direct trade and its many benefits.