Fair Trade Coffee
Speciality coffee by nature is fairly traded. Rather than being treated as a commodity on the futures market, it is traded on its quality, which in turn demands a premium price for the farmer.
For example, in May 2006, ‘Hacienda la Esmeralda Geisha’ coffee from Panama set a record of USD50.25 per pound at an online auction. This award winning coffee now retails for over USD100 per pound. It is important to remember that it is not only third world countries which grow coffee, as developed nations such as Australia and the United States (Hawaii) also have established industries.
Many people imagine coffee to be grown in large plantations akin to vineyards, with row upon row of coffee bushes. This may be the case for the beans that are sold to make your jar of instant coffee, but speciality coffee tends to be grown in smallholdings by the indigenous people of the land. In contrast to the monoculture of plantations, these smallholdings are bio-diverse. The farmers cultivate the land with self-sufficiency in mind. They have to feed their family and their livestock as well as growing coffee and other produce they can sell.
This approach has great benefit for both the quality of the coffee and the sustainability of the land. The bio-diversity of the smallholding attracts natural predators to eat the pests, so chemicals are not needed. The nutrients of the soil are not drained as the different species of plants require and produce different nutrients. And so, although most farmers choose not to pay to be certified, their produce is organic and therefore better for us.
So you should feel good when you buy speciality coffee. Not only is it fairly traded, but it is grown in a sustainable and organic manner. You get great tasting coffee which is ethically sound.
You can always alter speciality coffee to your tastes by home roasting.