Organic. Fair Trade. Direct Trade. What do these terms really mean for coffee and coffee producers? What kind of coffee does Peritus Coffee source?
Unfortunately, we feel that despite organic and fair trade having great ideas behind them, as they say, “not all that glitters is gold.” USDA Organic is a very expensive certification that many coffee producers (and even American farmers!) cannot afford or doesn’t give them a high enough price difference to pay to get certified even if they already practice organic methods…their money is sometimes better used to pay workers or reinvest in the farms. Many, many, many coffee farms use organic methods and for many, anything else isn’t really affordable anyways. A smaller farm is more likely to be this way- using organic methods by nature. Some common exceptions would be American coffees like Puerto Rico or Hawaii where there are farm subsidies and a chemical culture or coffee coming from huge farms or plantations. A good, easy-to-relate-to example is your local CSA or farms…many use organic methods (or even stricter!) but either choose not to get the certification or choose to spend that money in other ways like more kale (yay!). The organic movement has been fantastic in many ways, making that term common knowledge, but we do still think it’s important as consumers to do your research and delve a little deeper. We haven’t offered any certified organic coffees yet to date but I’m sure they’ll make their appearance in due time! Avoiding chemicals and pesticides is important.
The even bigger one for us is Fair Trade. Coffee is grown in many poor countries by incredibly passionate people who deserve a fair price and a livable wage from hard work. Did you know that much like the Organic certification, Fair Trade not only costs a lot of money but is confined to co-ops? While some co-ops are fantastic…some are not so much and the Fair Trade program doesn’t guarantee the workers get paid, just that the co-op does. In another sense, it treats coffee as a commodity which doesn’t encourage or reward high quality beans. One of the best programs we’ve found is through Coffee Shrub where most of our beans come from. They have a direct trade program called Farm Gate Coffee where they skip the middleman and work directly with small farmers, paying 50-100% over Fair Trade pricing. The program doesn’t work in some areas due to how coffee is sold, but we think it’s a super special program that is worth celebrating where they have implemented it and we’re proud buyers where possible!
Our guiding sourcing principles at Peritus Coffee is to do our research and purchase beans through importers we trust who in turn put a lot of care into not just on where the beans are from and how good they taste, but also on the people who grow them. With mind to the planet, we like to look deeper than the organic label and also support those who practice mindful farming even if the organic label is not a realistic option.