If you’re a regular coffee drinker, chances are you’ve run into certification jargon—whether it be on the front of the bags you purchase, or from the mouth of the barista who has just pulled your espresso shot. Terms like “sustainable,” “certified,” “organic,” “fair trade,” and more are often tossed around in the coffee community, and although they may all sound more or less the same, there are important distinctions between them. As roasters, we tend to use these terms as well. Therefore, it’s our duty to explain what they mean and the impact you have when purchasing one of these coffees.
Direct Trade vs. Fair Trade
Direct trade vs. fair trade is perhaps one of the most important distinctions to make; as they are the two most often confused for the each other. Fair trade coffees are a fairly simple association to remember—they come from farms regulated by the Fair Trade Organization. These farms must uphold a few basic principles: workers must be paid a living wage, strategies for environmental sustainability must be implemented on the property, and ethical business practices must be employed. Upholding the rigorous standards in these categories allows certified farms to sell their coffee at a higher price. When you purchase fair trade certified coffees, you are ensuring better wages and a more desirable work environment for the farmers who produce the coffee you love. Some of our fair trade options include our Guatemala Huehuetenango, Ethiopian Idido, and Honduran Finca Villa Esther.
Direct trade is a practice rather than a certification. Direct trade simply means that, rather than going through a third-party green bean importer, the roaster purchases the beans directly from the source. This results in more money in the pockets of producers and stronger relationships within the coffee community. Purchasing direct trade coffee is a great way to support farmers and feel safe and knowledgeable about where your coffee is coming from and the farmers who grew it! One of our direct trade offerings is our Nicaraguan Finca San Jose de las Nubes; which is also from a fair trade farm (the two terms aren’t mutually exclusive.)
More than likely the term you are most familiar with, organic has become a bit of a blanket term for any product that is environmentally conscious in any way. So, what does organic really mean when it comes to coffees like our Mexican Chiapas or Indonesian Flores Komodo Dragon? At its core, organic coffee is grown without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides. Not only does this prevent the possibility of chemical presences in your morning cup of joe, but it results in a cleaner environment at the source; combatting climate change through the lack of toxins released into the air and water. Purchasing organic coffee is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint; something we all need to be conscious of.
The Rainforest Alliance is an organization focused on human rights and the health of the ecosystem; upholding many of the same ideals as the fair trade organization. It strictly regulates both the supply chain and the source on subjects like conserving biodiversity, prohibition of deforestation, and a focus on human rights. The Rainforest Alliance specifically encourages farm owners to accept accountability for human rights violations and work to correct them; rather than try to hide them. Buying coffee, such as our Rainforest Alliance certified Indonesian Bali Blue Moon, contributes to a cycle of protecting our environment and our coffee producers.
Purchasing coffees with any of these certifications or practices being implemented means feeling good about the coffee you drink. Not only does your cup taste amazing, you are helping to promote fair wages, healthy living and working conditions, and having a positive environmental impact with each bag you order. Try one of our fair trade, organic, Rainforest Alliance certified, or direct trade coffees today and taste the difference in a cup that you can feel good about!