International Coffee Day

The first International Coffee Day was October 1, 2015. Sponsored by the International Coffee Association this day is meant to promote fair trade coffee and raise awareness of the plight of coffee growers. The promoters hope to make this a yearly event. Your favorite coffee shop may offer free cups of coffee but don’t expect to get your most fancy coffee house coffee for free! Since the focus of the day is fair trade coffee, just what is that?

Fair Trade Coffee

What is fair trade coffee? Years ago we wrote this:

Is fair trade coffee the same as healthy organic coffee? How does fair trade coffee differ from organic coffee and when are they the same thing? The original motive behind fair trade coffee was to develop coffee trade relationships based on respect, transparency, and dialogue between producers and sellers. The point is to guarantee fair prices to small coffee growers who would otherwise have no access to fair pricing. At its heart fair trade coffee is an idea for social betterment more so than a way to make better coffee. There is a “Fairtrade” coffee brand for which coffee packers pay a fee, a “Fairtrade” logo and brand name. Coffee carrying this name must come from an associated cooperative. In general cooperatives only sell part of their harvest as fair trade coffee because of lack of demand.

Demand, Certification and Cost

One of the premier coffee growers in Panama grows coffee that is organic in all respects except the name. The grower in question paid Bio Latina to certify his coffee on behalf of the USDA.

If your organic coffee originated in Latin America it is likely that it was subject to Bio Latina organic coffee certification. Bio Latina is located in Lima, Peru. The company certifies farms, ranches, and forests for sustainable practices on behalf of organizations throughout the world. Bio Latina certifies in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela as well as in Panamá, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador Ecuador and Mexico. The label on a bag of healthy organic coffee from Latin America may say that it is USDA certified. However, it may be Bio Latina organic coffee certification on behalf of the USDA that guarantees a pure cup of organic coffee.

And the grower in question paid the required fee for three years. And he never sold any more coffee and never was able to charge any more for his coffee. After three years this well-known Panama coffee grower continued to make the great Panama Mountain Grown Organic Coffee that he always did, but without the certification. Our point is that the same situation exists with fair trade coffee. The value of International Coffee Day is to increase awareness of the situation and encourage coffee drinkers to specify Fair Trade when they purchase at the coffee shop and look for fair trade when they visit the coffee roaster. Fair trade coffees are typically of very high quality and usually organic in practice even if they are not officially certified as such.

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