Even though most coffee is consumed in developed countries, 90% of coffee originates in countries that are still developing. On International Coffee Day, it’s important to take a moment to think about where your coffee comes from and how farmers are affected by the trade system in place.
It’s important to take care in your choice of coffee brand in order to support fair wages, good working conditions, and environmental sustainability for coffee farmers and their land.
Coffee culture is more popular now than ever. Chains are popping up in every town. We see photos of celebrities walking the streets with their paper cups in hand. Latte art is appearing on every Instagram profile. And the title of “barista” is becoming not just a profession, but a way of life. It’s probably safe to say that the average person is familiar with all the standard coffee drinks. You know the difference between a cappuccino and a latte. You know which flavored syrups are your favorites. But do you pay attention to which country the beans are shipped from?
Even though it makes sense to buy locally sourced produce, it’s a somewhat different story with coffee. Coffee may be locally roasted, but the fact of the matter is that the best beans grow in South American or African climates. (And every region’s beans holds a distinct flavor profile.) Therefore, international trade is necessary if you want to find the best quality coffee. It’s no surprise that coffee is the second-most valuable trading commodity globally after oil.
With so much trading going on, it’s important to learn how the coffee trading system works. As with so many goods in the 1800’s, coffee production was largely controlled by wealthy Europeans who ran plantations and practiced forced labor. But in 1946, Edna Ruth Byler founded Ten Thousand Villages, the first ever fair trade organization. Her business model helped establish the groundwork for coffee farmers to learn their rights and eventually gain access to those rights with the help of organized groups, such as Equal Exchange Coffee, which made tremendous strides in the attainment of fair wages for small independently operated farms in developing countries.
Because not every coffee producer embraces the fundamental principles of fair trade, it’s important to take care in your choice of brand in order to support fair wages, good working conditions, and environmental sustainability for coffee farmers and their land.
This year, spend International Coffee Day sitting at home or at your favorite café. Share the principles of fair trade with a friend over a cup of hot coffee.
Top Ten Fair Trade Coffee Principles
1. Create opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers through long-term, direct relationships with democratically run small farmer co-ops based on dialogue, transparency, and respect.
2. Establish fair trading practices by establishing a mutually agreed-upon minimum payment price per pound of coffee which is always higher than the international market price.
3. Ensure advance credit is given when needed (up to 60% of the contract price).
4. Pay social premium for community projects.
5. Commit to transparent finance and business practices. Open communication is key! Eliminating the middle-man is a vital aspect in the success of fair trade.
6. Respect the environment by practicing sustainable agricultural practices.
7. Ensure no child labor or faced labor.
8. Commit to non-discrimination, gender-equality, and freedom of association.
9. Ensure good working conditions.
10. Improve the skills and capabilities of employees or members, encouraging a forward momentum in the development and growth of the producers. Otherwise known as “capacity building.”
Ten Thousand Villages is proud to support our allies in fair trade, Equal Exchange, by selling some of their delicious coffees at our stores. Indulge in the smooth, chocolaty notes of the Mind, Body, and Soul roast. Or wake up with a bright and bold Breakfast Blend. The Love Buzz roast is for the true coffee-lover with a smoky blend of French and Full-City roasts. Available in whole bean or convenient pre-ground.