I recently received an email from a man asking why we price our coffee the way we do. He told me that his wife wasn't buying the idea that purchasing direct trade, quality coffee cost more money. As i was writing him a reply about these unique coffees, i realized that I could write at least a twenty page essay on the subject. I had to stop myself. Direct coffee means so many different things to different people.
First of all, there are different names that mean generally the same thing. "Farm to Cup", "Farmer Direct", etc. We like to use the phrase "Farm to Cup, because the word direct is somewhat misleading to describe what Coffee Labs does.
So, what makes a coffee "direct" or "farm to cup"? On the most basic level, the difference is that you have a contact with the farmer, not with a broker or importer. you always need an importer to get the coffee into the U.S, no matter what, but the importer is not the holder of the contract.
You might ask, if there is no middleman, then why would the coffee cost more? Lots of reasons. First we have our travel cost to these countries to visit the farmer year after year to cultivate a relationship and inspect the farm and the mill. We hope to see improvements every year, and we often do.
When we get to a farm and have inspected it, we discuss the prices for the year. We pay well above market prices, because we want quality. The extra money a farmer earns for quality can help pay for improvements on the farm. It improves the lives of their families. The money could help keep their child in school and out of the fields all the time. It could help them purchase a truck or other essential equipment for the farm.
When we set up a relationship with a farmer, we will usually commit to five years with an individual farmer. After 5 years we might stay or we might not depending on a number of factors, but we feel a five year commitment allows farmers the security to know they will have money coming every year in order to make positive change in their lives.
True sustainability is making that commit to each other. We commit to stay with them for 5 years, and they commit to grow the best coffee they can. We feel honored to work with these farmers and roast their beans!