Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What does Fair-trade coffee mean? Does it really matter if you buy it?

What Is Fair-trade?

There are so many options when you are purchasing food and beverages. There are confusing terms on the labels. You may not know what they really mean. I have wondered what Fair Trade meant for a while. Fair Trade means that the producers in developing countries are paid a fair wage. I would like to think everyone is paid fairly but unfortunately, they aren't. 

Fair Trade also means that they support the local farmer and help them support their families. It also prevents children from hard labor when they should be playing. It's very important to purchase products that are fair trade. When you support the Fair-trade movement, you are showing the people who make that product that they are important and they matter. Purchasing from companies that don't value the workers who harvest the crops; that help produce their product is wrong. We need to stand up for the people that provide those ingredients. 

What exactly is Fair-trade coffee?

The Fair Trade movement first started with coffee, and concerning this specific topic, coffee is indeed a good and easy example to make it understandable. The reason is that coffee is considered to be the second most-traded product worldwide, mainly produced by 3rd world countries, but highly consumed by 1st world countries.

So as a consumer, decisions that are made on a daily basis, have definitely a decisive influence on the market. The United States is one of the largest coffee importers in the world, and as a buyer, you have a bigger impact on how the coffee market will change in the future.

Have you ever sat down and thought about how your coffee is made? I don't mean how to use a coffee maker, but how it ends up in our cups? It's actually huge process. You can't just find coffee beans on a plant and make a cup of coffee with the beans. Honestly, I had no idea it was such a lengthy process. First someone must plant the seeds. Yes, it comes from seeds. You can't plant a coffee bean and get coffee. The roasting and processing prevents it. 

Next the cherries must be harvested. Most countries harvest them by hand. That's a very hard job. I detasseled corn one summer and I lasted one day. I was on a truck with lots of water. I can't imagine having to pick coffee cherries by hand for days on end. 

After the coffee cherries are picked, they should be processed. Depending on the method of wet or dry and the country's resources it can be done two ways.. Wet is where they use water to remove the pulp for it to be dried. This is done with a machine usually. If it's a country that doesn't have a lot of water, they use the dry method. Imagine a bunch of coffee cherries on a tarp and let them dry in the sun while hoping their entire crop doesn't spoil. After the wet method, it goes in a big fermenting tank until they feel rough when you touch them. 

If they used the wet method, they have to dry. It's commonly done in the sun. Once they are dried it's called parchment coffee.  It's still not ready for you to grind and drink yet. There's still a long way to go. Next comes the milling. They have to be hulled where the machine removes the parchment from the wet method. In the dry method, it removes the entire husk.. Sometimes it is polished. I guess there's not a lot of difference between polished and unpolished beans. 

Should you buy Fair-trade coffee and does Fair-trade really works?

Here are a few conclusions I have come to:

The Fair-trade movement isn’t considered perfect but it’s a start. There may be flaws within the system and many argue that the farmers or land owners obtain all the profits, instead of  the very poor migrant that works in the fields. Nevertheless, workers are paid fair wages, with the additional returns being invested into the farming community.

Most companies have recognized that fair farming matters, and they have made their own way, forming partnerships with farmers and truly making a difference in coffee-growing communities. Unfortunately, not all of them always do it for the greater good of “Fair-trade.” A really good example of a company that seems to be willing to make a difference here is Gourmesso, which started to offer the largest selection of Fair-trade coffee capsules in the market, as well as working closely with their producers. If you want to learn more about their relationship with Fair-trade, read about their perspective on What is Fair-trade Coffee and Should You Buy It? 

Last but not least, everyone’s purchasing decision is vital to whether and how the economy changes! “Every dollar you spend can help or hurt someone, somewhere”.

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