HOW WE BUY COFFEE
How does coffee, grown all over the world in tropical regions, get to Albuquerque, NM? Via a complex system of landowners, pickers, millers, sorters, cuppers, exporters, importers, trucking companies, and financiers, among other factions.
Not everyone involved in this system makes a decent living, or even enough to recover the cost of producing their coffee crop.
We've been buying green coffee for a couple of decades now, and we've learned that there's more than one way to do it right—to get the quality we need to make our customers happy, while delivering the price producers need to make a living.
Most of our coffees are bought from our importers, with whom we have relationships going back decades. They develop partnerships with producers, providing capital and education for quality improvements. We buy some of our coffees directly from producers, negotiating at origin. About half of our coffee offerings are certified Organic and Fair Trade, which we consider the gold standard for environmental and social responsibility.
These varied practices all have a place in our buying strategy. We simply seek to:
1) Do No Harm—Pay a Fair Price
2) Sustain Relationships—Stick By Producer Partners Over Time
3) Be Transparent—Give Credit to Producers and Information to Customers
FARM-TO-CUP, FARM DIRECT
We prefer these descriptors to the phrase "direct trade," as we feel the latter is undermining to the Fair Trade project. Buying directly is not an alternative to certified coffees—it is a different thing altogether. When we use this phrase, we're saying that we have a personal relationship with the producer and have arranged the purchase and import ourselves.
Coffee producers are guaranteed both a minimum price for their goods and a Fair Trade social premium, which is paid on top of the market price for coffee. This model works best for smallholders who would not be able to command a fair price without belonging to a Fair Trade co-op. We've personally seen Fair Trade premiums used to build roads, conduct health screenings, improve coffee processing, and more. Our plant is certified and audited by Fair Trade USA.
Coffee grown without the use of any synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, hormones, or genetically modified crop strains. Studies show Organic coffee cultivation has positive impacts on soil health, and that Organic green coffee is free from the pesticide residues found on conventional coffees. In order to be certified Organic, a coffee producer must show that they are properly filtering coffee wastewater, so Organic also helps keep water clean all over the world. Our facility is certified by the USDA via the NMDA and we get annual plant inspections and a chain-of-custody audit.
Could mean anything from "exporter buying from smallholders and blending together at the mill" to "democratic cooperative comprising 126 farmers" to "our colleague Maria." The person who owns the land is not necessarily the same as the person who picks the coffee, though the two are conflated in the American imagination.
Buying coffee at a higher price actually isn't enough to fix the inequities in the coffee supply chain, though. We believe in partnering with other industry forces and NGOs to develop environmental, social, and educational programming based on what producers say they need.
Read our Statement on Sustainability and Ethics in Sourcing here.