☕ Coffee Journey - Fairtrade

Welcome back to Blogging from A - Z / Ultimate Blog Challenge. 

F is for Fairtrade and (Coffee) Farmers, and they go hand in hand. 

I'll start off by making the following statement:

Considering the importance that coffee plays in our daily lives, farmers can't be paid enough.

Some see Starbucks as one of the gigantic global rip-off companies that exploits workers and suppliers - and customers for that matter. Why else would prices for "a simple coffee" be that high?

I've been on the inside, and I had the opportunity to meet many contributors along the supply chain and processing plants, and here's what I have learned.

Photo by Reiseuhu on Unsplash

Around 125 million people worldwide depend on coffee for their livelihoods. It is one of the most valuable and widely traded tropical agricultural products and is mainly produced by smallholder farmers. Many of them, however, are unable to earn a reliable living from the coffee they produce, since its production varies from year to year, according to weather conditions, disease and other factors, resulting in a coffee market that is unstable and affected by fluctuations in price.

One of the most impressing encounters was with Carlos I believe his name was. He served as an alliance between farming corporations in Colombia Nariño and Starbucks. 

What comes to your mind when you hear "Colombia"? 

Drug cartels, right? 

Now who makes money on cocaine? Not the small-scale farmer in a remote and rough terrain. He only cultivates his fields to feed his family with the yield.

"What if you traded coca for coffee", Carlos asked them one day. "My client will not only match the price, they will also provide support when it comes to training and providing infrastructure, plus they're interested in a long-term partnership."

What sounded too good to be true, started happening, one farmer, one cooperation at a time.

Now for us in the first world, this sounds like an easy choice to make, right? Same money, more honorable way to make a living. 

Fo the people affected, it was not. They had been through so much. During several Civil Wars, they were forced to join a radical group or they were driven from their farms - or killed. 

Our meeting with Carlos must have been in 2005 or 2006. I understand some five years later one of currently nine "Farmer Support Centers" was launched in Manizales, Colombia. This is where coffee farmers can have their soil tested, learn about disease-resistant trees, climate resiliency programs, the best fertilizer for their land and other best practices. 

Now let's talk about Fairtrade as such. This logo may look familiar to you:

It's the label we look for as we purchase bananas, chocolate, cotton, flowers - or coffee. It enables smallholder cooperatives to achieve more stable prices as well as more long-term trading relationships. Both farmers and employees on plantations receive an additional Fairtrade premium for community projects. The standards also include criteria on democratic organizational structures, environmental protection and safe working conditions.

Then there is this one that may look less familiar to you:

When it comes to Starbucks they have their "own" program, that actually goes beyond Max Havelaar, and it does so by applying C.A.F.E. practices. 

C.A.F.E. stands for Coffee And Farmer Equity, and it was developed with Conservation International, an independent organization taking care of transparent, profitable and sustainable coffee growing practices and the well-being of the coffee farmers, workers, families and communities. 

The program is being verified by SCS Global Services, a third-party who is responsible for ensuring the quality and integrity of the audits.

As an example, Starbucks has been known to pay 33% over the commodity price for the coffee. They helped build schools and clinics in coffee growing countries, they installed facilities for clean water, and have been launching many more projects, some through the Seeds for Progress organization.

An important aspect is the fact that farmers and cooperations are given loans. That way the can invest into processing equipment, or they can bridge the time when money is tight between cultivation and harvest.

In my personal opinion Starbucks should do a better job communicating the good things they're doing. Otherwise they risk to be perceived as high-end brand overcharging consumers.  

If you're a customer, did you know any of this? Does it make a difference knowing?


  1. Fairtrade the name is so apt as it gives the fair share of benefit i suppose. Am not keen on frequenting gaints like Starbucks for the same reason. Their commercialisation. Some people have a habit to buy daily there. It surprises me why !

  2. Very interesting blog, since I don't drink coffee I don't really pay attention to coffee companies. I didn't realize this about Starbucks either.

  3. I love Starbucks, but I didn't know any of this. You're right that they don't do the best job of sharing what they do. I'm not sure about other areas, but here Starbucks prices are comparable (sometimes less) than other local coffee shops.

    I've always liked Starbucks because they're consistent. I love the flavored drinks, like white chocolate mochas, and it's always good at Starbucks. It's hit or miss other places. I don't mind paying basically $6.00 for it (it's a treat not a daily thing), but I want to be sure I'm going to enjoy it when I do. I know it will be good from Starbucks. It may or may not be good from some of the other places.

  4. I don't really drink coffee, so I haven't really thought much about this. I usually get chai tea if I go to Starbucks but it is nice to know that the company is striving towards fairer trade practices...

  5. It does makes difference knowing. We are for organizations and companies that fosters goodwill.

  6. Fairtrade IS important to me, but I wasn't aware of C.A.R.E.

  7. Did not know that. I am happy, then, that I buy Starbucks (when it is on sale) to have at home.

    Janet’s Smiles

  8. My daughter and I were just talking about Fairtrade in relation to chocolate. We're huge chocolate eaters in our house and it's another area where it really makes a difference. Weekends In Maine


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