Fair Trade Month – Coffee!

Ah Coffee! A very popular beverage in most of the world. Coffee is the second most valued commodity traded around the world. Only the trade in petroleum commodities is of higher value. (Of course this is legally traded commodities since it is estimated that there could be some drug that are valued higher).

There are only two types of coffee plants – Arabica and Robusta. The Arabica is grown at higher elevations and it is this coffee that is prized for its nuances of flavours. Robusta is usually grown on larger plantation, has a higher level of caffeine content than Arabica, stronger coffee flavour, and the plants handles more mechanization than the more delicate Arabica plant. Robusta is used in flavourings, in lower grades of coffee (think of the industrial coffee dispense in many machines or fast food businesses), and in many instant coffee. It is quite often added to espresso mixes to bolster the flavor profile.

All coffee is produced in majority world countries (Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Peru, Mexican, India, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica, Cuba, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Sumatra, etc) in the Tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world with the noted exception of Hawaii.

Coffee was the first commodity that was brought under the Fair Trade umbrella. The problems in the coffee business needed to have some respect, more equality and justice brought to it. The producers are some holding farmers, selling up the chain to brokers that exploited them, the majority of the western and more affluent world consumed the majority of the produced coffee, there were many religious and social justice organizations that were concerned about the disparity of return of wealth compared to labour by the actual growers, and large multinational corporations controlled the distribution and retailing products in Europe and North America (Nestle/Nescafe, Sara Lee, Cargil). Time was ripe for a new system.


Coffee was the product that created a better system for trading this commodity. Fair Trade mechanisms and relationships were created and continues to be a benefit to growers and consumers.

Coffee, like wines, pick up trace minerals, inputs, and flavours from the soil and environment they are grown in and since there is this subtle difference in coffee taste it appeals to a very large number of people (though it could just be the addictive properties of caffeine and the effect it produced in our bodies – :).

Earth’s General Store offered products that were produced via more socially just processes even before the was a Fair Trade organization in Canada (we dealt with the original Bridgehead organization – a project by Oxfam and other religious groups). We helped coordinate the first Fair Trade Fair in Canada back in the early 1990s and we are the only Certified Fair Trade roaster in Edmonton that ONLY roasts Fair Trade and Certified Organic green beans. We have a long history with the Fair Trade movement.

Our coffee comes from the following coops:

  • Mexican – CESMACH, or Campesinos Ecológicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas. Check out this video about the coop.
  • Nicaraguan – CECOCAFEN, Northern Nicaragua, La Central de Cooperativas Cafetaleras del Norte from northern Nicaragua. Check out the Producer Profile
  • Peru – CECANOR, Central de Cafetaleros del Nor Oriente is located in northern Peru. Check out the Producer Profile.
  • Colombia – Empresa Cooperativa del Sur del Cauca (COSURCA) is composed of 15 farmer associations and coffee cooperatives from four municipalities in Cauca, a mountainous province of Southwestern Colombia. Check out the Producer Profile.
  • Ethiopia – Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, has more than 1.2 million coffee growers and approximately 15 million households depend on coffee for their livelihoods. We offer coffees from the Sidamo and Yirgacheffe regions of Ethiopia. Check out the Producer Profile.

Our decaffeinated coffee is produced using the Swiss Water process and is done in Vancouver, BC. We use a decaffeinated Peruvian bean.

What we love about the Fair Trade mechanism:

  • Farmers are guaranteed a certain amount for their coffee production ($1.35US/pound plus 30 cents/pound if certified organic) and don’t have to be hostage to the world’s commodity markets.
  • Farmers need to work through cooperatives and there is another premium added to the cost of the coffee bought from these coops to fund the coop, provide community financial support for projects like school, health care services, potable water infrastructure, etc.
  • The coffee is traced through the system from coop to end retailers/roasters.
  • People that choose Fair Trade coffee are supporting a system that is more just and respectful.

Learn more about Fair Trade at FairTrade Canada.

Fair Trade – a better deal for everyone!