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 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.
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