Declare your independence from corporate coffee. What independent roasters bring to coffee culture.

Declaration-of-Independence
Declaration-of-Independence

In honor of July 4th, I wanted to take a moment to talk about my personal independence from corporate coffee and why I think it’s important that the benefits of buying independent coffee are understood.What does independence mean in coffee terms?

The retail value of the U.S. coffee market is estimated to be $48 billion dollars, with the Specialty sector comprising more than half that value.

The potential for your morning cup of coffee to support diverse, high-quality jobs all along the production and distribution chain is huge. So, too, is the potential for most of the profit of that cup to be funneled vertically into already-enormous corporate coffers.

Red Rock pays an average hourly wage that’s over twice Albuquerque’s minimum wage. We do this mostly because we have a handful of  jobs that are semi-skilled and turnover costs a lot and slows us down, so it just makes good business sense. But we also do it because that’s a living wage and we can’t see the point of operating a business if you’re not going to provide good jobs for your community.

Starbucks pays well, too, and by all accounts is a great place to work--so why bother supporting local coffee?

When you spend money at our local independent coffee roaster or at one of our partner restaurants and cafes around New Mexico, the vast majority of your money stays right here in New Mexico. Despite being the constant butt of barista jokes, in a state with few job opportunities, especially for workers without degrees, coffee jobs are vital.

Small roasters pay more per pound of coffee than large ones, quality notwithstanding (this is basic, economy-of-scale stuff). The more independent roasters there are, the more brokers, cuppers, millers, and exporters are needed to get coffee to them. The more dock workers and truck drivers are needed to distribute the green coffee all over the country. The more employees are needed to staff the roasters. The more insurance brokers, bookkeepers, and IT people you need to keep everything running.

Basically, buying independent coffee is less efficient than Starbucks buying a farm, importing the whole crop from that farm, roasting at one centralized plant and distributing to outlets via their own logistics, but it’s exactly that inefficiency that lets so many more people get a little piece of that coffee dollar--usually without increasing the price you pay.

Moreover, independent coffee is much, much fresher.

Why not take this opportunity to declare your independence from corporate coffee?