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Beyond Certifications in Coffee Buying

Three baskets of coffee beans

At Conscious Cup Coffee, we’ve been staunch supporters of Fair Trade since we first began roasting coffee in 2006. The spirit of the Fair Trade movement has been instrumental in shaping the specialty coffee sector’s ethical and quality-focused approach to buying beans. Often, this means paying premiums that are two to three times the prevailing Fair Trade prices. In 2023 alone, we imported and roasted 48,509 pounds of Fair Trade certified coffee—about twice the weight of a school bus. This represents nearly half of our total volume.

The Fair Trade floor price saw a significant increase of 29% in mid-2023, rising to $1.80 per pound, with additional bonuses based on organic certification and quality assessment. However, we believe in going beyond the basics. With quality premiums, we paid more than double the floor plus organic premium for the two Fair Trade certified coffees we imported in January 2024. This commitment to paying higher prices reflects our dedication to sourcing only the highest quality beans, ensuring that farmers receive fair compensation for their hard work.

Transparency in pricing is crucial to us, though it can be challenging to achieve. Let’s take a look at four recent purchases where price transparency is available:

  • Rwanda Kinini Village: The farmgate price exceeded the Fair Trade base by $2.24 per pound and was still $1.84 per pound above the Fair Trade plus $0.30 per pound organic premium.
  • Ethiopia Nguisse Nare Bombe: The farmgate price exceeded the Fair Trade base by $2.95 per pound.
  • Ethiopia Layo Teraga Boye: The farmgate price exceeded the Fair Trade base by $2.30 per pound.
  • Sumatra Pantan Musara Natural: The farmgate price exceeded the Fair Trade base by $2.91 per pound.

Our focus on high-grade coffees ensures that farmers earn significant premiums, regardless of whether Fair Trade, organic, or other environmental certifications apply. Adhering strictly to certifications alone would exclude remarkable coffees like the 2017 Bukonzo Women’s Cooperative coffee, which earned our first global Top 30 roast citation, or our current Rwanda Kinini coffee, which supports local farmers, a school, and community projects.

At Conscious Cup, our commitment to ethical sourcing goes beyond just certifications. We aim to support the entire community from farm to cup. By purchasing our coffees, you’re not just enjoying a great cup; you’re also contributing to the betterment of farmers’ lives and their communities. Check out our online store for our currently available, great single-origin and blended coffees, and join us in doing well by doing good.