Written By Liam Burge
In a world of rising costs, we as consumers are forced to think about the hard questions. Such as whether the products that I buy fit into Necessity or Luxury.
Coffee is fast becoming a necessity for many, being an imperative ritual every morning to bring life before entering the world. 50 years ago, frivolous spending on an item such as coffee would have been frowned upon, however as wages rise and the cost of living becomes more accessible, more and more people are placing coffee consumption out of LUXURY spending and into their daily needs. But how much should your cup of coffee cost?
Your first thought would be “NOT MUCH”, And rightly so. You want to save as much as you can, whilst still being delivered quality products. However, how does the flow of money affect not only your cup, but the industry as a whole.
Let’s look at it from the start. Before the bag, before the roast, before the bean itself and look at coffee in its most natural state; the tree. Yes coffee grows on trees, and these trees are INCREDIBLY FUSSY! Arabica coffee trees will not grow unless they are at very specific temperatures, with very specific rainfall, at a very specific elevation. If you do manage to get a tree growing outside of these conditions you can be safe to bet that the beans (if produced at all) coming off these trees will taste nasty.
“Sounds difficult” you might say, “Sounds like a bit of a hassle”. Yeah, it is. Yet it's a way of life for so many across the world. 125 Million people depend on these plants as their livelihoods as one of the sole means of income to support their families. These unsung heroes tend to the trees for up to 5 years until they even start producing cherries! True experts in the scene who live and breathe coffee from its very beginnings.
How much do we think they are earning?
44% of coffee farmers are living below the poverty line, with 22% of those earning under $3.20 a DAY! These are people who carry ALL of the risk. Investing a minimum of 5 years into a crop without a return until it grows its first lot of cherries. So where does the money go?
First up, the farmer sells to a milling station. Who will give the farmer (x) amount of cents per kg, per harvest. The milling station then processes the cherries into green beans using whichever method they use (natural, washed, honey ect. depending on where in the world they are) and then sells it to the distributor for a premium. Distributors come in all shapes and sizes, many of which buyout bulk lots for discounted prices and sell them to major chains, again for a premium, who then roast and sell it back to you for a competitive market price (well above what was given to the farmer at the start of the line).
Coffee roasters and providers have, for years, exploited these heroes for their work. Taking as much coffee as they could for as little a price as possible, cutting corners and taking easy routes to make a quick buck in the name of profits. At first glance your $11/kg supermarket coffee may look appealing, until you imagine the money chain going backwards, back to the farmers. You can imagine that the amount given back to the farmers is extremely minimal.
So how do we fix this? How do you know that the coffee you are buying is making a difference?
Shop sustainable. Most major brands will inevitably be out there to make profit, that's just business. The tricky part is finding a brand who minimises these profits OR uses these profits for good. Companies who connect as directly to the farmers as possible, companies who support initiatives through their purchases, companies whose goal reaches far beyond the lining of their pockets.
Take our Rwandan Single Origin coffee for example. A coffee from the Muraho Trading Company, whose family values and connectivity allows companies like us to give back more money per kilo DIRECTLY back to their farmers. Or our limited edition Kenyan Coffee, supporting Vava Coffee’s 'Women Run Initiative', allowing women in Kenya to grow, produce and sell their own coffee.
We are constantly supporting initiatives that provide education, resources, incomes, health services, and more importantly a higher income for the true heroes of the coffee industry. So why aren't more brands doing the same?
Unfortunately, in a world run by money, the cost of the product then goes up. Instead of picking up a coffee for $11/kg that you know has cut corners, it may end up costing anywhere from $60-$80/kg. For a product that goes through so many hands to get into a bag on your shelf, knowing that it is supporting families to live better and healthier lives is a reward in itself.
Support those who support others. As consumers we have the ultimate choice in deciding the future of the industry. We can choose where the money chain goes, we get to decide who lives below the poverty line.