We make a point of selling not just coffee, but USDA Organic, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, and Bird Friendly-Certified coffees. So what does it matter, or are we frivolously jumping on that green marketing machine?
Coffee is the world’s second-largest traded commodity, but is produced in some of the poorest places in the world. We’re a part of that $18 billion industry, and we’re on the fortunate end.
Ashley has already shared some of the claims that coffee companies will make about their products, and how at Black River Roasters we will always work to source the best quality beans. This quality comes through not just in how our coffee tastes, but also in how it affects the planet and the people who grow it. Read on below and you’ll see why we certify – because without a healthy planet and healthy farmers we have no coffee to sell!
The organic process extends all the way to roasting. As one of the few certified organic coffee roasters in the state, we stand to make sure that flavoring agents and other extraneous chemicals don’t make it into your cup. Our Organic Mexico Decaf is a Mountain Water Process coffee, employing essentially a water filtration system, rather than industrial solvents, to remove caffeine. And all organic products touch organic-only surfaces.
Yet if it turns out that there’s no reason to worry about chemicals in coffee since the cherry is removed in processing, and even if roasting and brewing the coffee doesn’t leave detectable levels of agricultural chemicals…
Because what we do know is that the farmers who raise and harvest our beans aren’t being exposed to pesticides and herbicides that are toxins, nerve agents, and carcinogens! Without our farmers we’d have no business, and all farmers deserve to raise our planet’s food without putting themselves in danger. An organic certification is the one way to be certain that chemicals – harmful on our end at consumption and on the farmers’ end as they work with them – stay out of the soil and off the plants. We prefer to maintain that integrity and skip the chemicals altogether.
Regarding coffee, Fairtrade International puts farmers directly in contact with importers. By having a direct line of sale, farmers don’t need to worry about being taken advantage of by middlemen who will pay farmers a fraction of what they’re owed.
Coffee is a traded commodity so its price fluctuates, at times drastically. Fairtrade guarantees a minimum price to be paid for coffee, but when market prices exceed the minimum, they champion paying market prices. And producers are incentivized to grow organically and to invest money back into their communities!
There’s no consensus on the effectiveness of Fairtrade. The additional expense for these certified products applies to all points of production – retailers, roasters, importers, exporters, farmers. So although the extra money earned isn’t paid directly back to growers, they earn more money by growing certifiable beans. And although the organization itself says that market prices should be paid, a minimum guarantee that’s lower than market seems better than being at the mercy of the market. That’s why we source Fairtrade products.
Simply put, since coffee trees inhabit the same parts of the globe as tropical rainforests, rainforests have been cleared to make way for coffee plantations.
Because no effort must be made to preserve the landscape, clear-cut coffee plantations are most common, and the system that most conventional growers use.
By comparison, Rainforest Alliance maintains a list of rigorous standards which are designed to preserve the spectacular biodiversity of tropical rainforests. Farmers are required to intercrop so that their farms mimic the arrangement of the forest around them. In the process, agricultural pests are more easily deterred when not allowed to spread freely across a monocropped plantation.
(The conundrum is that coffee plants don’t tolerate full equatorial sun very well. They’re shorter trees that are native to the tropics and so are adapted to growing in the long days and dappled shade of rainforests.)
Deforestation in the Coffee Belt is still an issue. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of coffee, and since 1970 has lost the area of something like 33 New Jerseys, or one Texas, to deforestation! And while Brazil has seen a general decrease in deforestation over the past several years, Indonesia is seeing an increase. So when looking for products from the tropics, it’s important to purchase those which have been conscientiously produced.
With tropical deforestation comes the loss of habitat, for all sorts of creatures including migratory birds from the northern and southern hemispheres which overwinter in the tropics (not to mention native species). The Smithsonian Institute essentially requires the coffee to be Rainforest Alliance and USDA Organic certifiable. If you purchase a Bird Friendly coffee, it’s been grown with the utmost concern for environmental integrity.
Since we care about what we do, we care about the people and the world that makes what we do possible. We certify because we will always do our best.
See you at the bar,