FROM OUR INDUSTRY-LEADING MINIMUM PRICE GUARANTEE TO OUR UNCONVENTIONAL SOURCING MODEL, OUR PURSUIT OF SPECTACULAR COFFEES IS GUIDED BY GRATITUDE FOR COFFEE FARMERS.
In order to find coffees that meet our stringent quality standards and support the future of the farms and producers we work with, we’ve developed a sourcing model that’s one of a kind. We like to call it “sourcing for the collective good.”
While 95% of our coffees are certified organic, and all of our coffees are purchased at a industry-leading minimum price to farmers that’s 80% higher than the Fair Trade minimum and 50% more than Fair Trade Organic prices, we don’t rely on traditional certifications and labels to make our sourcing decisions for us. Instead, when we evaluate any coffee and potential partner we look at three measures: taste experience, ethos & practices, and community impact––the “what,” the “how,” and the “why” of a coffee. Together, this helps us determine the integrity of a coffee.
It’s a very human and imperfect science, but this organic model allows us to center the voices of the smallholder farmers we partner with and remain nimble––staying open to learning and responding to the ever changing realities of coffee farming. For us, that's what sourcing for the collective good is all about.
At the heart of our model is a commitment to equity, transparency, and, above all, integrity. And that starts with fair compensation.
Fair farmer compensation has been an ideal in the world of coffee for more than two decades, and it's been an ideal for us since we opened our doors. While the fair trade movement and direct trade model have both made meaningful progress in addressing poverty at origin and inequity in the supply chain, both have fallen short.
The truth is this: coffee farmers make far less today than they did 40 years ago.
Even as the specialty coffee market has bloomed. Even as roasters like us have been asking farmers for more in terms of quality and expertise. The commodity market of coffee continues to plummet and farmers are now often forced to sell their coffee for less than the cost of production.
In response, in 2017 we announced an unprecedented minimum price guarantee to farmers of $2.75 per pound (FOB). Which means, while many of our coffee producers are paid more than our minimum price, no farmer is ever paid less. Leading the way in the industry, we’ve continued to increase this price, irrespective of the commodity market each year. As of 2020, our minimum minimum price guarantee was $2.90 per pound, compared to a commodity price of $1 per pound.
With a minimum price guarantee to farmers that’s more than 80% above the Fair Trade conventional minimum price and over 50% higher than Fair Trade organic prices, our own standards for equitable compensation go a step beyond fair trade.
We have created a model rooted in farmers’ costs and their wellbeing, rather than in a volatile and often arbitrary market price. And, as a result, we have been able to put farmers, instead of the market, at the center of our exchanges.
But building lasting, equitable farmer partnerships requires more than committing to fair compensation. Throughout the year, we travel to origin to visit with our partnering farmers and cooperatives and learn more about their work and unique histories. Our time here is deliberate and critical. We don’t just taste coffee and tour the fields and facilities during these visits. We work to create enduring relationships.
By investing in long term producer relationships, seeking out innovative new farmer partnerships, funding community-based development and educational opportunities, and supporting buying models that not only sustain the livelihood of one farmer, but of an agricultural community, we can truly create a sourcing network that benefits the collective good. This is the work of building integrity across communities to create a resilient coffee supply chain.
To get even closer to our farmer partners and participate in a more transparent process, we are also members of Cooperative Coffees, a roaster-owned importing cooperative. By being active participants in the importing process, we’re able to bridge the gap that traditionally exists in the coffee market and bring farmers and roasters to the same table.
No one person, organization, or humble coffee roaster, has the answers to how to address the inequity embedded in the story of coffee. But, collectively, we can commit to asking the hard questions and elevating the organizational work and economic autonomy of farmers.
Together we can create a more just and resilient future in coffee, one that truly supports and centers the farming communities it relies upon.