I'm certainly not a green wienie by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe in being a good steward of God's green earth! So when it comes to the fair trade, organic, shade grown & direct trade debate I struggle to find balance among the many agendas and power grabs that live behind the political correct terms.
As far as fair trade is concerned I have often wondered what is fair and who decides? I don't trust our government to decide fairness for me or anyone else and I certainly don't trust the unstable governments in the third world to make those decisions. The idea behind the fair trade movement is to guarantee a "fair" wage to the farmer and to cut costs by eliminating the middle man. However, a fair trade bureaucracy has been set up in place of the middle man and it doesn't necessarily benefit the farmer or the roaster retailer. And generally speaking fair trade brings a higher price, so who really benefits from the so-called fair trade coffee? Lots of folks walk around thinking they are doing good and patting themselves on the back for purchasing fair trade products, when the sad fact of the matter is that there simply are no guarantees that the farmer is benefiting.
Certified organic is supposed to mean chemical or pesticide free. But again, when you are dealing with third world countries there simply are no guarantees. Plus critters don't really like coffee, so coffee is not generally sprayed with pesticides to begin with. Coffee doesn't really need a certification to be organic.
Shade grown simply means that the shorter coffee trees grow amidst the taller trees and that the rain forest is not being cut down for coffee planting. This is certainly the preferred method of growing and is being encouraged and adopted among the coffee growing community. It is a win-win situation for everyone from the trees to the birds to the people and the planet.
Direct trade is a newer concept that is supposed to put the grower in "direct" contact with the retailer - a difficult task at best. First of all, as a small business retail store owner, I don't have the time, money, or wherewith-all to travel to the third world and make deals with farmers. I am not fluent in any particular foreign language & I don't have the funds to purchase an entire container or crop of coffee which is what is required in a direct trade deal.
I do however, work with a number of independent coffee brokers who also work directly with farmers. These brokers are working hard to improve the lives of the farmers, to teach them better farming techniques, and to insure that they get a fair wage for their product. In many cases these brokers work with or as missionaries providing education and health care to the community of farmers and their families. Direct trade, in my opinion is the best option for the future of the coffee business and I am pleased to be a part of it.
Our Peruvian Coffee is an example of a recently purchased direct trade which has made it's way to us from it's origin in Cococho, Peru. The coffee has been purchased directly from the farmers to insure they are receiving the fairest price. Our broker shared with us that he was told by these farmers that it is the highest price they have ever been paid for their coffee. Through the dealings of Direct Trade coffee we can provide significant contributions to the farming communities from which we purchase.
Additionally, the coffee is one of the best I've ever tasted. My husband David, our micro-roaster is absolutely hooked on the new Peru beans. They roast up beautifully at a nice light roast level leaving the mild sweet smooth & mellow nuances in tact. Good quality tasty coffee for us and improved quality of life for the farmers - who could ask for more.
Our broker is planning to do 10 countries over the next 2 years, we will be getting a new high grown Mexican coffee by the end of this month via the direct trade method and we have already had a sample tasting of it. We'll let you know when it's in & what our next direct trade coffee will be. Meanwhile stop in or order some of our direct trade Peruvian coffee from the Cococho community of farmers!
So, I'm not a tree hugger, but I do believe in improving the lives of people & maintaining the integrity of our planet. I believe that free market capitalism is the best way to accomplish this goal and direct trade is a key component.