Responsible coffee sourcing: Making it fair for the farmer
The very first step to developing your own unique coffee roast is sourcing your beans. Coffee is grown between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, also known as the ‘bean belt’. Nearly all commercially grown coffee come out of three primary regions: a) Africa and the Middle East b) Central and South America and c) Southeast Asia. Each region produces distinctively different coffee that is reflective of the climate and soil qualities. Therefore, the first decision to make is which region to source coffee from? Once the region has been decided, one needs to get to know the various coffee farmers and learn about their growing practices to make an informed decision. But all of these are business decisions. Coffee sourcing shouldn’t be treated as a mere business decision. Ethics need to be an integral part of this process.
It’s the responsibility of the buyer to not only assess and analyze the conditions where the coffee is grown but also work hand in hand with the farmers to produce beans in a sustainable fashion. The growing practices should be evaluated keeping various factors in mind such as economic, social and environmental. After all, it is at the farm level that the quality of your coffee is decided. From ensuring plant health to picking the cherries at correct ripeness. Even a tiny error in executing the growing & picking process will alter the taste of the coffee that cannot be rectified even in the roasting stage.
Coffee growers face a variety of challenges from climate change to market shifts that pose a threat to the viability of their farm. In order to maintain or improve the quality of their coffee plantation, the growers need access to substantial capital that can be invested in bettering the practices and combating environmental challenges. Besides paying fair prices for the coffee, it is also important to invest in research and share the information & resources with the farming communities. Coffee sourcing needs to be a partnership rather than a barter process.
At Victoria House, we pride ourselves on our ethos of ethically traded coffee. We personally ensure that our importers are paying the farmers and coffee-growing communities a significant margin above the fair trade price for the premium product that we source. The substantial profit that is earned by the farmers is, in turn, reinvested in their farms, resulting in further quality improvement of the produce. As a result, the farmers are not only able to lead a better life but also continue supplying coffee of premium quality – meaning better coffee all around!