Local coffee shop owners speak on benefits of fair trade


Coffee Illustration

If you are a coffee drinker, you probably have heard about fair trade. From local coffee shops to international corporations, more and more suppliers are providing fair trade coffee.

Fair trade is an independent sustainability certification that manifests as a fair trade logo on coffee. According to Fairtrade America, it is a way to help consumers know farmers are being helped, not harmed, in the process of growing their goods.

Most farmers lack formal contracts, freedom of association and safety precautions and many of them are exposed to human trafficking or debt bondage, according to Fairtrade America. 

Mike Misture, co-owner of Bent Tree Coffee Roasters, said most of the shop’s coffee has the certification of fair trade or is organic. He said fair trade and organic go hand-in-hand. 

“Fair trade coffee is best described as a certification process that coffee goes through and it ensures that the farmers that produce the coffee are paid a minimum price for the coffee that they produce,” Misture said.  

Misture said coffee prices go up and down every year, which doesn’t allow coffee farmers to have a guaranteed earning. By having fair trade prices, farmers can plan for the future better.

“When the price goes up, it’s fine, everyone’s doing well,” Misture said. “But sometimes the price goes below a certain amount and it could ruin farmers financially because they can’t predict what one year is going to be from the next.” 

Evan Bailey, co-owner of Tree City Coffee & Pastry, said direct trade means working directly with farmers. This process allows farmers to take a large cut of the profit. 

“We encourage ourselves and other people to try to produce and buy as much direct trade coffee as possible,” Bailey said. “You pay a little bit more for it, but the quality is good and the farmer gets more money.”

Bailey said many people and coffee shops are interested in getting ethical coffee, but the ethical sourcing of coffee has different aspects and dynamics that need to be taken into consideration.

“The first thing that needs to be in consideration is the quality of the coffee. The second is the economics of the whole exchange between the grower and the consumer,” Bailey said. “What happens is when you’re ethically sourcing coffee, you’re trying to balance that in a way that still produces a good cup of coffee and provides value to the person who buys it.” 

Sara Al Harthi is a general assignment reporter. Contact her at [email protected].