What is Direct Trade and why do we like it?

At Science of Coffee, we are champions of Direct Trade. But what does that mean and why do we care?

Direct Trade occurs when coffee roasters buy (most often single origin coffee) directly from coffee farmers. The roaster pays the farmer for their coffee beans, establishing a direct relationship with them. This cuts out middle men, as well as regulatory organisations, with the aim of delivering a great product while respecting the farmers’ livelihood.

Direct Trade coffee is the alternative to Fair Trade coffee. Fair Trade coffee is coffee that has been certified as having been produced in line with Fair Trade standards such as better working and trading conditions, and sustainable farming and environmental practices. Fair Trade coffee is usually bought through a cooperative that handles all of the transactions between farmers and buyers, and in turn pays the participating farmers at or above the Fair Trade minimum price while keeping some of the profit for community purposes.

While Fair Trade coffee does accomplish a more ethical system of buying and selling coffee than has historically been the case, supporters of Direct Trade disagree with certain Fair Trade elements, including the lack of increases in premiums paid to farmers, the fees involved in being a participating Fair Trade body, the lack of sufficient quality incentives for farmers wanting to form relationship with sellers, and the limits and strict requirements for Fair Trade participation such as the fact that individual farms cannot be certified unless part of a cooperative. As the alternative to Fair Trade coffee, Direct Trade coffee is often referred to as “beyond Fair Trade” as it honours the principles of Fair Trade while going further when it comes to protecting the farmer and ensuring the quality of the bean.

The benefits of Direct Trade include

1. The building of strong, collaborative relationships between independent farmers and roasters through direct communication and independent agreements.

2. The producing of great quality, often rare coffees, in limited lot sizes. This is because roasters have greater control over the type and quality of the bean they buy and Direct Trade allows farmers and roasters to collaborate around growing and roasting processes. The result? Possibly an even better batch of coffee next time round.

3. A direct money exchange between farmers and buyers resulting in more profit being returned to the farmer (rather than going to co-operative costs), so the farmers get a better deal overall.

Like any trading system, Direct Trade has its own issues but research shows that, when it to pursuing an ethically responsible interaction, Direct Trade leads to better incomes for farmers, improved product quality, and increased levels of producer optimism and wellbeing. 

Want to buy ethically sourced and unique Direct Trade coffee online? Buy from us! Browse our website to see our blend and brew equipment ranges – they’re the top quality products you’ve been looking for.

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