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Is our coffee pesticide free?
(What about certifications like Fair Trade, RFA, Bird Friendly, Shade Grown, Women Owned, etc.?)
The short answer is "yes", all of the coffees we source are organically grown and fairly traded. However not all of our coffees carry an 'official’ certification stamp as FairTrade or RFA or Organic etc. Why is that? Well, here is where the answer gets longer….
All the coffees we bring in are organically and sustainably grown. Much of it is also "certified" as RFA, Organic, Bird Friendly, Shade Grown or other of the many certifications that are out there.
However, we like to purchase from very small farms that produce very high quality coffee in very small amounts. This is improving, but it has been quite difficult for these small farms to afford to get certain certifications.
For instance, when the quality is high enough, we purchase a specific Ugandan coffee that originates with 1100 coffee farming families on Mt. Eglon. Each farm is only 3 to 5 hectares in size so their individual production is miniscule. None of those families can afford to purchase chemical fertilizers or pesticides. They also cannot afford to be certified as Organic farms. That would require all of them to individually pay the equivalent of a month's salary and completely shut down their operations twice a year for 'inspection'. They would have to pay and shut down three years in a row before they could achieve certification.
All 1100 family have their coffee processed at a central mill and if one of their farms is not certified, the coffee that comes from that mill cannot be certified either. It's simply not economically viable for that group of farming families, and many others in similar situations.
Organic and RFA certification is much more achievable by larger coffee plantations than it is for the smallest coffee farmers.
When we do purchase coffees that have achieved certain certifications, we often can’t actually advertise it as such because our roasting plant is only large enough for one green room in which to store coffee before we roast it. Since we have to store the organically certified coffees in the same "air space" as those that are not certified, the certified coffees lose their certification as soon as they come into our roasting plant.
We can't afford to duplicate our green room and roasting operation to keep those coffees separated all the way to the bag, so we cannot use the certified stamp on the bag.
We will source a FairTrade Certified coffee from time to time when we can find one that meets our very high quality standards. We often have one or two coffees that are both high enough quality and are certified Fair Trade Certified. They come and go as fresh harvests are brought to the States for us to evaluate.
We strongly believe that farmers need a fair price for what they produce. We think they should be rewarded for higher quality product too. We've done a lot of research and have had direct conversations with several coffee farmers and we've learned (along with a growing percentage of coffee industry) that many of the certification groups are not as efficient nor as transparent as they could be.
Most elements of the supply chain are vital to making coffee work. As roasters, it is in our best interest to help ensure that the crop we depend on for our livelihood can profitably sustain the lives of every element in the supply chain. That includes everyone from the farmer to the barista. We source through companies who think like we do, understanding that producers must get a sustainable price.
Still, our primary social mission is that of working to tackle the problem of recidivism here in the U.S. Our means to that end is roasting and selling the highest quality, organically grown, fairly-traded coffee in a sustainable supply chain from crop to cup.