Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fair Trade Coffee: Is It Really Fair?

I love coffee. I mean I really love it. I could and do drink coffee at all hours of the day and night. In my quest to live a greener life, I have had to look at the coffee that I don't seem to be able to live without for long periods of 5 hours or more.

There are a lot of words that are thrown around the "environmental movement" that are Greek to most of us. Fair Trade Coffee is one of them for me. Exactly what is Fair Trade Coffee? Is it the same as organic coffee? Is it readily available for the masses? Is the cost preventing most of us from purchasing it on a regular basis? These are all valid questions that you may be asking yourself. While there is a plethora of information out there, the jury is still out on how beneficial purchasing Fair Trade Coffee actually is for the "common" coffee farmer.

Fair Trade Coffee in a nutshell is coffee "that is certified as having been produced to fair trade standards." Now in theory Fair Trade Coffee sounds like a great idea.If we can use our dollars to purchase items that are helping others to get a decent wage, promote sustainable farming practices and get better import/export conditions for the farmer, that is a good thing right? I would have to answer yes and no. Yes, it is a good thing to help the smaller coffee farmers earn a decent living. It is also a good thing that these organizations help with better farming practices that are short and long term better for the environment. However, there are several organizations within the Fair Trade family but there seems to be little organization.  

Not all organic coffee is Fair Trade coffee. Organic refers to the growing methods used. Fair Trade is more of a social issue than an actual farming method. As most of us know, commercial farmers use harmful pesticides, mass production often using GMOs and destroying land unnecessarily in the process. By buying organic coffee, you can usually be assured that strict rules have been followed to ensure that the above listed issues have been eliminated from the farm(s).

So I know you are wondering about your Venti Mocha Latte with that extra shot of espresso. I mean when you pay upwards of 6 bucks for a cup of coffee, it should be organic AND Fair Trade in my opinion. Well, I went to Starbucks' website to set my mind at ease. This company has their own responsible growing program along with purchasing Fair Trade organic coffee. Starbucks coffee is available at most supermarkets so you can purchase your own to brew at home.

There are several organic coffees that are readily available through websites, grocers and coffee clubs. However, if you are looking for organic and Fair Trade, be prepared to dig a little deeper. Equal Exchange offers a variety of Fair Trade, organic coffees that are available here. For more information on the difference between organic and Fair Trade, you can check out this link.  This site has older data but, it gives you an idea of just how much Fair Trade coffee is being bought by grocers, coffee houses and the like. The latest data is from 2011 so bear that in mind. However, it does list several companies that only buy Fair Trade coffee which can give you a starting point.

Last but not least, your Fair Trade coffee should have the Fair Trade Logo on the bag. Below are the two most common logos that I found. Now if your pocket book cannot not afford Starbucks or Equal Exchange, Sam's Club sell Free Trade coffee and that is readily available at your local Wal Mart!

As always I would love to hear your comments on this issue. Please feel free to comment below!

1 comment:

  1. Well this post is very helpful. It's true that all the words get a bit confusing and when it comes to coffee there's fair trade, free trade, organic, shade grown, etc. Thank you for demystifying the language for us! And I'm thrilled to know that Sam's is selling responsibly grown coffee!