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Jonathan and Shelly Spirit Mountain Coffee  - Dominican RepublicThe past year has been an adventure, a wild ride we could not have planned for.  We are so grateful to our hometown Tyler and our online patrons that have given legs to Porch Culture. On our own we are just an idea or a good concept.  With you we are a business.  Bit by bit the word is spreading and Porch Culture is growing.

We are learning as we grow, working to honor both the farmers who grow our coffee and ,you, our PC Patrons.

our giving | finding sustainability 

We believe all of us have the opportunity to tell a better story through the way we live and the choices we make.  For us that means keeping people at the center of what we do.  This is why we source, roast, and deliver the way we do.  This is also why we give a portion of online sales to redemptive work.

In terms of giving we decided early on that we would rather start big and pull back than always be in a posture of waiting until we had enough to give. Our giving structure thus far has been $3/bag from online sales to one of our non-profit partners.  Over this past year we have been able to support some great redemptive work, in the DR and right here in Tyler.

However, it seems we let out the reigns on our idealism a little too much.  Our current giving model is not sustainable for the operational costs of the business.  And, in the end we want sustainability from farm to porch.  We want it for the farmers.  We want it for Tyler.  And as business owners we want it for ourselves.

Do not fear, we are not abandoning ship.  We have simply gone back to the drawing board,  We’ve come up with what we believe is sustainable for us as a business while still giving to redemptive work.  We feel both are an important part of telling a better story through coffee.

Impacting globally | Starting March 1, $1 from every bag sold online will be given to the Doulos Discovery School.

Impacting locally | We have been plotting how to let goodness run wild with our local non-profit partners. We have a few ideas up our sleeves.We need to do a little more collaborating to make sure the final decision works for everyone involved.  Stay tuned for the details.

Thank you for choosing Porch Culture Coffee and allowing us to be a part of redemptive work from farm to porch.  We will continue with our current giving structure through the end of February.  If you have any questions we would be happy to answer them:

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Live Local

choice | our story of building community 

character | creating personality and prosperity
Communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage.

well-being | creating vibrant town centers
Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighborhoods in a web of economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes.

backyard mentality | local decision-making
Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.

 circular | keeping dollars in the local economy
Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.

opportunity | jobs and wages
Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.

innovation | promoting entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship fuels America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.

minimalism | public benefits and costs
Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls.

sustainability | thinking of the long-haul
Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers-which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.

balance | promoting accountability through competition
A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

diversity | meeting needs locally
A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based, not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

Information gathered from Institute for local self-reliance,

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Beyond measure | Thankfulness

Thanks to the Intrepid Radicals who inspire us to dream and to act

Its been about 1 year since PC Coffee became an official business.  We’ve come a long way in a year’s time and it has been a group effort for sure.

These thanks are by no means exhaustive but a start to a very long, ever growing list…

To the ones we do know

Chad and Krista who daringly and trustingly jump off one cliff after another.

Josh and Stacy who took us into their home while we learned the business.

Jim and Rafael who volunteered to teach two total strangers everything they know.

Our Parents and siblings who love and support us despite our crazy antics.

The farmers and harvesters who do the hardest, most overlooked part of coffee work.

The Doulos Discovery Family who equip and serve and impact everyday.

The early adopters whose support put legs on our business.

And the newest member of our family business.

Owner's of the Spirit Mountain coffee farm in the Dominican Republic

To the ones we have yet to meet

Shane who opened our eyes that another world is possible.

Don who helped us to tell a better story.

Michael, Eric, and Joel who taught us that our choices reflect our beliefs.

Wendell who loves his community with a fiery passion

To The One who knows us best

You lead the way.  We can only follow.

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What we mean | Fair Trade

what we mean when we say…

“Fair Trade” is perhaps a term you are more familiar with but still uncertain exactly what it means.  Unlike our definitions of Direct Trade or Relational Trade, Fair Trade is a certification with set standards determined by a few different governing bodies like, Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade International, or Fair Trade Federation.  Fair Trade covers a multitude of products not just coffee.

fair trade

The Fair Trade Federation’s simple definition of Fair Trade is this

Fair trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system.

Fair trade supports farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized. These producers lack economic opportunity and often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods.

Fair trade is much more than just trade. At the core of the fair trade model is a direct, cooperative, and in-depth relationship between buyers and sellers that keeps all of the principles of fair trade at the forefront.

There is A LOT more to be said on the subject and I recommend you dive in to learning more about the good work of organizations like the Fair Trade Federation.

Here is how Fair Trade fits into our 4 point filter

Price | Fair Trade governing bodies set the price and we pay no less than current fair trade minimum for all our Fair Trade coffee.

People | Fair Trade works with cooperatives of small family farms.  The cultivation and harvesting is done by the grower and his or her family.

Quality | Although Fair Trade works with growers to improve their crop, quality is not a requirement for a farm to be a part of a fair trade cooperative.  For Porch Culture that means we request samples of green coffee before making a larger purchase to ensure the taste meets with our standards.

Land | Fair Trade coffee by its requirements is sustainably grown in the shade.  Some Fair Trade coffee is certified organic and some is not.  At Porch Culture we choose to only buy Fair Trade Organic (FTO).

There are differing opinions on the benefits and adverse effects of Fair Trade certification.  Our opinion at Porch Culture is that Fair Trade is a good thing with positive outcomes for small farmers and artisans in developing countries.  It is also our opinion that, like all good intentioned efforts, it has its limitations and shortcomings which is why we are notexclusively a Fair Trade roaster.

Coffee cherries ready for picking

In terms of coffee, Fair Trade certification was created for the benefit of small scale farmers working on just a few acres of land or less.  This eliminates larger estate farms like Spirit Mountain, located on 350 acres, from applying for certification despite following (and often exceeding) all fair trade standards for labor and sustainability.  Fair Trade certification establishes a minimum selling prices to protect farmers from “the race to the bottom” that the world coffee market creates.  In the simplest explanation, “the race to the bottom” forces farmers to sell their coffee at a price far below the value of their crop in order to earn something.  The short coming of the Fair Trade established minimum is that it is a global one.  Since cost of living varies greatly between coffee growing regions the minimum Fair Trade price that helps a farmer in Africa thrive is often insufficient for the needs of a farmer in the Dominican Republic.  This is where Direct and Relational trade come into play in a valuable way working directly with farmers to establish the true price of coffee coming off their farm.

Bottom line for Porch Culture, we want farmers and communities to thrive.  Sometimes that will mean choosing Fair Trade certified coffees.  As much as possible it will mean working directly with farms.  It will always mean choosing coffee that tells a better story from farm to porch.

Currently our Papua New Guinea Swiss Water Decaf is Fair Trade Organic.

Next up on the blog…Thankfulness

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What we mean…Relational Trade

What we mean when we use the word… 

When we started this adventure of profoundly good coffee Porch Culture had one direct trade connection from our time spent living in the Dominican Republic.  We knew that we would want to and need to expand our offerings from there which quickly brought up the questions of “How?” and “Where do we begin?”

relational trade

“Relational Coffee” is another ambiguous term in the coffee world.  Like Direct Trade it is not a certification but a subjective phrase that can vary in meaning.  For us relational coffee is the bridge that helps us cross over into more direct trade relationships.  You will notice a lot of overlap from our direct trade definition.  The primary difference being the relationship in “relational trade” involves a go-between.

Our 4 point definition is as follows.

Price | We pay above fair trade minimums and work through smaller importers or other direct trade roasters to establish price.

People | We communicate with those that have direct trade relationships with farms and ask specific questions to know both the people and the land connected to the coffee are cared for.

Quality | Its still gotta be profoundly good.  We look at cupping scores and talk with other roasters already using the bean.  In most cases a sample is requested before making a larger scale purchase.

Land | Shade grown with sustainable growing practices already in place.

Our goal is to build new farm relationships by creating connections with other roasters that have their own direct trade relationships.  Until all four of the direct trade criteria are met these coffees will be labeled as “Relational” rather than “Direct”.  Our current hope is to build 3 to 4 Direct Trade relationships, farms and/or cooperatives that we look to partner with for the long haul.  This means that only some of our Relational Trade coffees will make the transition to Direct Trade.

Those that don’t make the transition will come and go for various reasons but will always fill an important role for our business.  Before it is anything else, coffee is a crop that grows from the earth.  This means a couple different things for us as roasters.  One, there is a finite supply from each farm each season.  Two, coffee is subject to the unpredictabilities and risks of anything cultivated | drought, flood, cold snaps, bugs.  It is for these reasons that our relational trade offerings fill such an important role for us as roasters and you as Porch Culture patrons.  In addition to providing fun and variety in our Porch Culture offerings, relational trade coffees are farms/importers we can look to as trusted pinch hitters, special features, substitutes when other coffees become unavailable for whatever reason.

Spirit Mountain drying and storage from above

Our current Relational Trade offering is our Ethiopian Harrar.  The small importer we work through is committed to providing a viable, vibrant sales market to Ethiopian farmers, all small cooperative growers.  There is an established mutual commitment between these farms and the importer that is creating a great cup of coffee for you and a living wage for growers.  Profoundly good from farm to porch.

Next up on the blog | What we mean…Fair Trade