What We Mean…Direct Trade

What we mean when we use the word…

For as common as coffee is there are a lot of processes and terms that are cloaked in mystery for the average coffee drinker.  Our hope as Porch Culture, through conversation and things like blog posts, is to pull back the veil, not to make anything more complicated but rather to make coffee more familiar, less intimidating, and more approachable.

A whole lot happens between farm and porch.  Because you have to start somewhere we will start with how Porch Culture goes about getting its coffee and why we go about it that way.

direct trade

“Direct Trade” is not a certification.  Rather it is used in the coffee world to describe a type of relationship between farmers, roasters, and small scale importers.  Where as terms like “Fair Trade” and “Certified Organic” are regulated, there is no governing body over the term Direct Trade.  All that to say there is no set-upon definition for “Direct Trade”.  Opinion varies if this is a good or bad thing.

Gleaning from other direct trade roasters, combined with our own convictions and findings, we have developed a 4 point definition of direct trade so that Porch Culture patrons like yourself understand what we mean when we label our coffee “Direct Trade”.

Price | We value the intensive labor that goes into producing quality coffee and express that in the price we pay for green [un-roasted] coffee.  Our transactions are handled directly with the producers.  We know how much money the producer receives for the coffee we purchase and that purchase price is at least 25% over Fair Trade minimums.  Direct Trade often earns coffee farmers 2 to 3 times more than the market value per pound.  Or better said, the world market value for coffee is typically 2 to 3 times under a sustainable, living wage for farmers.  Direct Trade is not a hand out it is an agreement that pays the true value of coffee with expectation and accountability of a quality crop.

People | Making things personal transforms what could be just another business transaction into a friendship and long-term relationship.  Our goal is to visit every farm that we work with.  Farm visits help to create transparency in both farming practices and worker treatment as well as confirming a commitment from the roaster to the farmer.
As a little guy it will take time for us to be able to build relationships with more producers and visit more farms.  Eventually, we plan to visit each farm once per year.  With this kind of travel, it also means we look to value quality over quantity in terms of how many farms we will source from at any given time.

2012-10-17 13.55.57Quality | Profoundly good does not just mean ethically sourced coffee it also means delicious coffee.  It is a both/and deal.  Quality is the basis of sustainable relationships for everyone involved | producer, roaster, and consumer.  Our coffee offerings are sample roasted and cupped for profoundly good taste before we consider moving ahead with a new farm relationship.

Land | How the land is treated effects every aspect of coffee.  We want our farmers to be in business for a long time, for the communities around them to thrive, and for our customers to have access to profoundly good coffee.  All our coffee is shade grown (coffee is naturally a shade plant) and cultivated with practices that consider the longevity of the farm and the health of surrounding communities.  This means some of our offerings will be certified organic but ALL our coffees are sustainable.

Our anchor coffee and very first Direct Trade relationship comes from Spirit Mountain in the Dominican Republic.  Our relationship with these guys goes back 8 years.  They not only meet but exceed all four of our direct trade criteria.

Next up on the blog | What We Mean…Relational Trade