For us, it’s all about the people - those individuals harvesting and processing each coffee bean. Fair Trade models can work, when premiums are paid out and used well to the benefit of the community, but sometimes the size of certifying agencies like Fair Trade can cause unnecessary barriers for the official stamp of approval to smaller scale coffee farmers & co-ops. We view each coffee on a case by case basis, determining with our roasters and import partners that the coffee is ethically farmed and sourced.
We hope to establish long term relationships, sourcing coffee from the same places year after year to continue to support these communities for the long haul, eventually funding clean water projects in the exact same places we source our coffee.
Other times, our impact is per people group. For example, with our fall 2016 offering of the Panama Indian Baru High Estate coffee, we were able to select that coffee based on quality, our relationship with the farmers, as well as Solea Water’s connection with the Ngobe people who harvest the coffee. Not only is the coffee beautifully complex and great tasting, but we were able to meet with two generations of coffee farmers - learning about the history of the estate and their farm-level practices. In addition, the people harvesting the coffee in Boquete are of the Ngobe tribe, often leaving their communities on the comarca (or reservation) to pick and process coffee during the harvest season. They then take their earnings back to their families on the comarca until they can return later in the year. Since 2009, our co-founder and Solea Water’s Executive Director, Rachael Burchett, has been working to implement clean water projects in the Ngobe-Bugle comarca, most recently finishing a project in a place called Oma.
A note about organic: we recognize the value in knowing your coffee or tea is organic, and we don’t promote the use of inorganic fertilizers, farming methods, or GMOs in our products. However, for smaller scale farms, getting an organic certification can be a large cost burden. We’ve heard stories of farms being denied organic certification unless they had different fence posts - an arduous task that would be an expensive modification for smaller farmers. We also face a challenge in roasting. Blueprint Coffee is not a certified organic roaster, and so even organically farmed coffees roasted and stored in their facility we are not allowed to stamp as certified organic. Instead, we hope that when you see us use the term “organically farmed” you’ll know and be able to appreciate the care that went into the production of the coffee offering.
Principles of Ethically Sourced Coffee
Fairness - the prices we pay for coffee will always be at or above prices set by the Fair Trade Organization. Farmers wages must be fair, and working conditions must be humane and suitable to human flourishing.
Commitment - Our desire to make an impact in a particular region fuels our plans to continue to source from the same farms year after year when the quality continues to meet our standards.
Opportunity - We will intentionally seek out struggling or emerging coffee markets to expand the impact of the global coffee trade. This means we will work with small scale farmers when available, or source coffee from atypical places like Haiti.
Water - There are multiple levels to our commitment here:
10% of our profits will go back to funding water projects in the regions we source our coffees
We’ll work with farmers to address potential sources of water contamination from coffee processing, and encourage farming methods that conserve fresh water.
We’ll make sure workers have access to clean, safe drinking water while they work.
Ethically Produced Goods
The desire to have an impact through our supply chain also extends to the goods we sell in store and online. We feature St. Louis- based and international makers to support artisan made work, and these companies use locally available, ethically sourced raw materials when possible as well.