Responsible Coffee is more complicated than a certification sticker. Learn more here.
All of our coffee at Tryst, Open City and the Diner is certified organic with the exception of the Brazilian component in our espresso blend. Organic farming is great for environmental sustainability, however, certification is not always logistically or financially feasible for all farmers and not all organic coffee is going to be labeled as such. Every farmer has to make a decision between the benefits of organic farming on their environment and family versus the negative impact on yield, which can reduce their crop by as much as half. Also, there is no health benefit to drinking organic coffee. Any non-organic material or chemicals will cook out of the bean during the roasting process.
Another area of certification that is very important is Shade Grown coffee. Shade allows coffee to be grown alongside other important vegetation. It improves biodiversity, soil quality, water runoff, and helps with organic farming issues such as nitrogen fixing. It also slows the maturation of the fruit, improving the coffee's quality. The disposal of coffee fruit pulp and water used in processing the coffee is one more important environmental issue. The acidity of this “sweet water” can contaminate streams. Even organic coffee can harm the environment.
Coffee is a huge crop that drastically impacts the environment and economies in the countries where it’s grown. Coffee is a mammoth commodity. Nearly sixty billion dollars worth is traded annually but there are many farmers who receive little of the retail price by the time it trickles down to them.. Economic concerns have motivated many projects and forms of certification that are difficult for even those of us in the industry to keep up with and sort out.
Fair Trade certification established a base price that is paid to small farm producers who are part of a larger coop. Fair Trade certification kept many farmers afloat when commodities prices bottomed out in the 80s and early 90s but Fair Trade prices have not gone up much in the past 15 years. Fair Trade has done well to draw attention to the economic situation of farmers but not all farmers can or are willing to pay for certification. Roasters like ours, Counter Culture Coffee, have focused instead on establishing Direct Trade. These direct relationships between farmers and roasters, cut out middle men allowing farmers to get paid more. They also help to educate farmers on environmentally friendly farming and how to grow better coffee that will demand a higher premium in the future. Some of our coffees are Fair Trade certified but we're confident that all would exceed Fair Trade's standards.