On our previous entry we looked at some global trends in the production of coffee as reported by the USDA, as well as some of the issues around what various coffee certifications mean. In this entry we are going to focus a bit more on the people who grow our favorite beverage and the implications of working in a global market.
Coffee growers around the world are an integral part of our family. Their skill dedication and hard work are the reason why companies like ours can deliver you amazing, fresh coffee year round. However, and in-spite of, the diligent work these people do to deliver us coffee beans that are full of delicious flavor, it is also true that an alarming proportion of them still live in poverty and without access to education and a decent quality of life.
Here at Love My Cup we are as conscious as any other American about the way in which our buying habits affect communities of real people which is why we chose very early on in our journey to support both our local community here in Texas (by roasting and packaging our products her) and to help the sustainability of coffee production by choosing Fair Trade grown raw beans for our blends.
The growers of coffee are often small, family run, farms that rely on their crops to make money to survive. They are also the ones taking all the risk in the supply chain. Imagine this, a particularly hot or dry summer often means their crops are decimated without any financial restitution possible. If however, during particularly good summer, they plant a few more trees as and where they can, the increased production can also mean decreasing prices in future due to supply levels being higher. This means that price volatility is also the enemy of the small grower.
The problem with intensive coffee farming demands around the globe and indeed intensely farming coffee is a bit more complex though. As a statement of fact the increased competition for coffee, explained above, means increased price volatility which in turn is exploited by big corporation to drive the price down. This in principle is neither right nor is it clever for a free economy. Simply because if the corporations keep driving the price of beans down, eventually there will be no one left to produce the stuff!
One way to move that agenda forward is to make farming operations more intense. This involves modifying crops and other agriculutral practices such as the use of radiation, fertilizers and so on. Guess what? This isn't very clever either. Growing coffee, a sun shy plant as we discussed in previous entries, in big open sun drenched fields not only decreases the quality of the final product. It also wreaks havoc with the ecology. The increased demands on the soil means vast areas of intensely farmed coffee trees eventually may become unusable. Sun grown coffee is also responsible for deforestation and the loss of many species of birds and insects in areas that where previously teaming with life. Unsurprisingly, there is an enormous amount of waste that is also generated as part of these processes with reports suggesting that millions of tons of pulp and polluted water are generated each year.
To mitigate such circumstances and ensure sustainability a number of foundations around the world have cropped up over the years who appear to want to help coffee growers earn more money. In fact, every major retailer of coffee these days seems to have followed this popular trend of setting up a foundation to "help the poor farmers" of the world. In most cases though this seems to be an exercise in vanity when considering that, according to some sources, the grower only receives 10% of the price you pay for a pound of coffee. All, is not however lost. Companies like ours who have a vision to do the right thing and help both the people of lesser fortunate countries, as well as our own communities here in America, are not as far and few between as you might think.
Our model of selecting the finest quality beans from ethically sourced plantations that help communities prosper and thrive was something we decided on very early and at the point of setting up our company. Love My Cup wants to go even further though and we plan in the future, as discussed in our previous blog posts, to include programs that help our community here in Texas too. We aim to develop a corporate responsibility portfolio that uses part of the profits of our company to directly influence the quality of life of the people of Texas, those same people who find themselves in need right here at home. Our model of working and retailing is all about understanding that by getting engaged with the community right here at home is the best, and possibly only way, to ensure that our brand is not just another mass produced effort, but rather a truly bespoke product that affect the lives of those we care most about.
We hope you enjoyed the blog entries this week and hope you will find the time to comment and subscribe to our blog!