Sustainable coffee is coffee that requires two levels of filtering.
Coffee that is grown with organic practices where the crop is not destroying the earth but cycling out the crops so that different nutrients are replenished and no pesticides are used and heirloom varietals are produced.
In panama there are not many coffee farms that are organic certified because it costs money for the certification. Money they don’t have. Yet they use sustainable practices, there are free range cows eating the grass and fertilizing the trees. There is an entire ecosystem that we benefit from when we let nature do its work. This is how the most expensive coffee in the world is grown. It’s the most expensive because it’s the most delicious. It’s auctioned off and there are record prices every year because the coffee keeps getting better and everyone wants some of it.
The other filter is coffee that is traded where there is an agreement on price.
Most farmers have to sell their coffee to their government and the government decides what they will pay them for it. They decide based on what they can get for it, not based on quality.
Fair trade programs work with cooperatives of farmers and pay them more than this. Yet it still isn’t based on quality so much as it is on charity.
Direct trade is where an importer makes a deal with a farmer pre or post crop to and it’s entirely based on quality. We call this specialty coffee.
There are a lot of other places calling there coffee that is a higher grade, specialty coffee. But there’s more than just producing coffee without defects for it to be deemed specialty coffee.
Specialty coffee is produced with love, passion and commitment.
Specialty coffee is not a commodity.
Every single hear the coffee comes out different, it tastes different. It could be processed different, it could have new flavor characteristics that deem it worthy of a higher price.
The quality of the coffee is what determines the price.
Having quality being the determining factor, it allows farmers to not only grow better coffee but also to allow them to continue what they are doing.
There have been tons of farmers out of work or choose to use children on farms because they don’t get paid for what their coffee is worth. But if that’s your skill, in these coffee producing countries, it’s very difficult to find a different job. It’s nothing like the United States where we can be anything we want to.
Support the companies who support the farmers that deserve it. Support specialty coffee.