Sustainable Coffee: What's in it for You?

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Being a coffee shop owner puts you in a unique position to make decisions that affect the world beyond your your front door. Consumers are increasingly making their voices heard by having their purchases speak for them, choosing one coffee shop over another because they feel that shop's values are shared with their own. When all things are equal, retailers can further distinguish themselves by investing in causes that will ultimately affect their future.

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Coffee crises occur when an overabundance of bad coffee beans that are low grade and incredibly cheap enter the market. This supply of low-quality beans drives down the price of higher quality beans. Large commercial manufacturers buy these green beans and blend them with other beans and pass their product onto the public at large. What seems to be happening is either people try these coffees and decide they don't like coffee or they search for something else. More often than not the bitter taste drives many new coffee drinkers away.

These lower prices make it extremely difficult for small farmers, many already impoverished, to make a living growing coffee. Many of these farmers have become disenfranchised and either quit growing coffee or put very little effort into growing and harvesting the green beans, often choosing the cheapest means to grow and harvest their beans. It is conceivable that in the near future, enough farmers will quit growing coffee beans or through certain harvesting practices, there will no longer be a supply of specialty grade coffees.

What can we do about it? An ever-increasing group of non-profit organizations is springing up to help impoverished farmers. There are many organizations but, one of the most popular organizations trying to help is TransFair USA.

Because of Fair Trade practices, everyone benefits. Farmers make a living wage, their children can go to school instead of working in the fields, coffee shop owners can increase sales by offering these products to concerned customers, and lastly farmers incorporate a more earth friendly approach to growing and harvesting. These practices maintain biodiversity, provide shelter for migratory birds, and help reduce global warming.

By choosing to sell even one Fair Trade coffee, you are helping to sustain the coffee industry for years to come. If you are already carrying a Fair Trade coffee, let your customers know about it. It could be the one thing people consider when they are deciding where to spend their money.

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