Introducing a New Title: Relationship Coffee

By Sebastian Simsch | |

As we have engaged more and more heavily in finding Direct Trade farm partners, we wanted to find a way to call out coffees which are ethically sourced but do not clear the bar of “Direct Trade” in our rigorous definition (see Sebastian’s previous blog post for details.) We decided to give those coffees a label of their own: “Relationship Coffee.”

What is the difference between Direct Trade and Relationship Trade? Our definition of Direct Trade is pretty simple:

  • we know and buy from the farmer personally;
  • we visit the farm at least once a year;
  • we work with the farmer to develop better coffee crops;
  • we establish and invest in a partnership for years;
  • and we pursue fairness in price.

Overall, we are committed to the highest possible transparency for every coffee we label Direct Trade.

Sometimes, we are presented with an opportunity to buy ethically sourced coffee that doesn’t meet every single one of the criteria for Direct Trade. This might mean that we haven’t directly worked with a farmer or we haven’t been able to visit the farm in more than a year.

The three Brazilian coffees we’ve just released come from our trusted friends at JC Coffee Importers here in Seattle. We are working with our friend Sergio Dias to advance quality while it’s already quite clear to us that the farmers are acting in line with our values of fairness. Sergio has the direct relationship with the farmers. He is a part of every step from harvesting to importing, and his values align with our own. In June/July 2013, our coffee-buying team, Oscar Garcia and Sebastian Simsch, spent three weeks at Sergio’s own farm (Fazenda Canaan) while also touring some of the other farms which are part of the local Carmo de Minas cooperative, Cocarive. (A detailed blog post about the learnings on that trip is forthcoming, or so I hear!) This is a perfect example of Relationship Trade. We have met one of the farmers in person (Jose Pereira of Fazenda Serrado), the other two farmers are hand-picked by Sergio. We feel we have a pretty close connection to them through Sergio’s company, JC Coffee Importers. Why, in finding out everything about these coffees, we were able to get in touch with the different farmers, and Sergio went to great lengths to provide every communication opportunity possible, including the Skype contact, for these farmers. While not having seen the farms with our own eyes, we believe we have every indication that we’re dealing with upstanding, ethically run farms and kind, trustworthy farmers. We’re excited to deepen our relationship with these three farms in coming years, and hopefully one day we can call some of them Direct Trade partners.

In all our green coffee buying, we take time to make sure our partners are as interested in ethically sound practices and a relentless pursuit of excellence in the cup as we are. Whether it be Direct Trade or Relationship Trade, we are certain the farmers are being treated well and getting a deserved price for their beans.