What’s In Your Cup?

In North America more than 50% of us drink coffee daily. That’s about 250 million cups per day! When talking coffee there’s a lot of lingo: Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Bird Friendly, and Organic. Do you know what’s in your morning cup?

According to TransFair USA, Fair Trade means “more than just fair price.” It also means fair labor practices, community development, and environmental sustainability. To be certified Fair Trade, a coffee must meet specific quality and economic criteria. When these are met, the coffee plantations are guaranteed a minimum price for their beans at auction, which translates to higher wages for the growers. But Fair Trade certification doesn’t guarantee a high quality coffee. Because of this, some roasters have created their own kind of Fair Trade called Direct Trade, also known as Relationship Coffee.

Relationship Coffee involves communication between the buyer and the grower, with the end goal being to grow the best quality coffee possible. This method cuts out the middlemen (buyers and sellers) and the certification organizations, and is used by coffee roasters who buy directly from growers. Typically, a roaster makes several visits to the farm throughout the year to check in on the coffee. In a Direct Trade relationship, the farmer gets a price well above the Fair Trade floor price for his coffee. In return, the roaster receives a consistent, unique and high quality coffee, year after year.

Although neither is perfect, both Fair Trade and Direct Trade are huge improvements over the traditional system of buying coffee. When you buy Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Bird Friendly or Organic coffee, you are showing your support for these global economic and environmental principles. But these certifications are expensive for a farmer, so if you only buy certified coffee you won’t be helping those poor coffee farmers who can’t afford certification. There’s a lot to think about in a cup of coffee.

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