Sourcing is a broad term used to describe how coffee companies procure their coffees. Sourcing is more complicated than it seems like it should be, and definitely more complicated than it is often made out to be.
Some say coffee should only be purchased if it is Fair Trade Certified. Others say Fair Trade Certification can actually lead to lower quality coffee and lower prices paid to farmers, particularly farmers who produce specialty coffee. Still others contend the only ethical way to purchase coffee is a method called direct trade, which most of the time implies, but does not always mean, developing relationships with farmers and buying the coffee directly from them. Then there are those who argue the only thing that really matters is transparency, because if coffee companies are required to show the prices being paid to farmers the prices will be fair regardless of Fair Trade Certification or direct trade philosophies. There are yet others who say the most important thing is for coffee to be Certified Organic, because that means the purchase price will be higher and the coffee will be grown using sustainable practices. The counterpoint is then often made that Certified Organic is great for large farms, but small farms cannot afford the certification even though their growing practices are the same or even exceed Certified Organic standards. We take all of these points into consideration when purchasing our coffee because we care deeply about offering magnificent coffee sourced as ethically as possible. We wish this was easier to do than it is in reality, but there are some ways we can and will make sure people on every level are benefiting from our sourcing practices:
1) We can make sure the coffee we purchase has an intelligible story. This means traceability that goes beyond country of origin is a priority. Knowing what region, co-op, and even what farm our coffee comes from is at least a gateway to ensuring nobody is mistreated or taken advantage of prior to our coffee arriving in our roasting studio.
2) We can sample coffee before we purchase it so we know it meets our standards in terms of quality.
3) We can do business exclusively with importers who share our values.
4) We can purchase Fair Trade Certified coffee, which is often also Certified Organic. We think it is inadequate to rely on this method alone, but as long as the quality of the coffee meets our standards it is a reasonable option. Here’s a video that offers an important perspective that closely resembles our own. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7zvSO43SOtk
5) We can purchase coffee from unique co-ops such as those run exclusively by women.
6) We can procure coffee from co-ops that have special programs designed to ensure both quality and fair wages, such as programs that pay farmers a premium for delivering only ripe cherries to the mill.
7) We can purchase coffee from well-established and well-known co-ops and farmers because they set their own prices based on the quality of their coffee and their reputation.
As our company grows we will be able to more fully align our sourcing practice with our imagination and ambition, which includes one day developing legitimate direct buying relationships with farmers around the world.