We don't pretend to understand the full spectrum of complexity given the size of the coffee industry and the dynamics of global economic change. With the information we do have we have developed some simple ways of understanding where our coffee has been sourced and how money has been distributed. This starts with your purchase back through the multiple people who have interacted with the coffee right back to the farmers at origin.
Below are a variety of topics important to us that we persistently investigate, learn about and value with our time and resource. If you have more questions or insights, we'd love to chat! Contact us at hello[at]thecolab.coffee and lets start a dialogue.
- Supply Chain
It is said that many coffees have up to 40 steps in their supply chain from grower to consumer. This means that each person along the way is needing a degree of compensation, and also should be adding value to that bean until it lands in your hand in the form of roasted coffee or a delicious latte.
Unfortunately, due to corruption throughout the coffee industry, these people along the supply chain aren't necessarily adding value - and therefore are taking a cut of the final price - leaving the growers at origin with significantly lower prices than they should be receiving. We aim to source coffee with as few people in the supply chain to increase profits for the hard working farmers at various origins.
- Fair Trade vs. Ethical Trade
For us at The Co.Lab we strive to only roast coffee that only fits into two categories: Relationship Coffee & Direct Trade Coffee. The Fairtrade Certification in coffee emerged in 1973, with a Dutch organisation importing the first certified fair trade coffee from Guatemala.
Since then the certifcation and ethos behind this movement has grown and become naturally more complex. Fairtrade provides farmers with a higher price for their coffee and helps to consult around other social and economic use of funds.
At the Co.Lab we believe that there are new alternatives to Fairtrade Certification, that definitely build upon the good foundation they initiated. Ethical trade is much more complex than a simple certification process and as roasters we believe it is our responsibility to work tirelessly to find more ethical ways of considering and implementing trade with coffee farmers and co-operatives.
- Relationship Coffee
Relationship coffee is a terminology that helps to articulate the complexity of the coffee industry. We want to be honest with you in what we are striving for, and labels tend to oversimplify things.
Relationship coffee means that we have sourced a particularly coffee through a coffee importer who we trust. Trust is important and based upon facts, not feelings. We work hard to thoroughly understand the details of how the coffee we purchase has been produced and traded.
This has resulted in partnerships with Fiebre Coffee, Kis Coffee Importers, Minas Hill, Melbourne Coffee Merchants, MTC & others through whom we purchase coffee that meets a strict criteria to ensure we are doing all we can for growers.
Initially this does mean we purchase our coffee for a higher prices, ensuring farmers do receive a premium well above the standard commodity price and fairtrade premium.
We believe that this isnt enough and have therefore partnered with other third party organisations who are able to enact the ethics and sustainability issues we are passionate about. If you would like more information about how we source our relationship coffee drop us a line - we'd love to show you how we are making small, but significant change.
- Direct Trade
Direct Trade is a beautiful and necessary move to reduce unnecessary resource being distributed to middle men in the supply chain. More importantly it is an opportunity to connect with and work together with farmers at origin. At the heart of our relationship is a respectful commitment to producing exceptional coffee together. Helping farmers improve the quality of their crop is a win-win situation for everyone. A farmer can charge more for a bag of great quality beans that will be used for specialty coffee, and you can enjoy some exceptional coffee.
Direct Trade at The Co.Lab.
We have been exceptionally lucky to have several farmers who we buy coffee directly from. In early 2014 we met Mauricio Velasquez, who is the international sales person for the co-operative Asprounion. Mauricio explained clearly the corruption in the Colombian coffee industry, with larger companies, and excessive middlemen taking desperately needed funds from poor farmers. His passion to see justice and hospitality meet has been a huge inspiration to us.
The coffee we buy from Asprounion we pay $8.70/kg, with every cent being distributed amongst the 273 families, and staff at Asprounion. As a cooperative there are no CEO's or individuals deciding where money is spent. Instead they meet regularly to work for the common goals of all the small lot holding families. In comparison, other importers of Colombian coffee have offered us coffee of the same grade (SCAA 84 points) for $7.50/kg. Unfortunately the majority of that money is being distributed to people along the way - resulting in farmers often only receiving a fraction of what their coffee is actually worth.
Whilst this is an isolated case and not all coffee farming and distribution can work as well as this we believe that unless consumers, roasters and importers work hard to build new economic and social structures the coffee industry will continue to support injustice.