Learn How to Trade Coffee
Trade Coffee: “Put your mug’s fate in our hands with over 2,000,000 happy coffee matches – and counting!” may reek of gimmick, but we tried Trade Coffee Co.’s matchmaking service, and I, for one, have nothing but good things to say for the brand. Why? Never has a coffee buying experience ever led me through six web pages of consultative questions in order to pair me with a bag of coffee. After the folks (or algorithm) at Trade presented me with a suggestion, I took it. Now, here I sit, feet up, sipping from a soupcon that is surely delivering me ever closer – with each shot – to a time and place where I can confidently claim that I am, indeed, living my very best life.
Okay, I might be taking you for a bit of a ride here, but if you want to learn how to profile your ideal cuppa (and maybe self, while you’re at it), there may be no better way than with the help of Trade Coffee. Depending on your profile, Trade may match you with The Classics, which is their best value plan at $25 for two 12-ounce bags. Then there’s The Hookup for those seeking a “surprising and unconventional” $15 to $22 12-ounce bag.
Fair Trade Coffee
Fair trade coffee is coffee that is certified as having been produced to fair trade standards by fair trade organizations, which create trading partnerships that are based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, with the goal of achieving greater equity in international trade.
These partnerships contribute to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to coffee bean farmers. Fairtrade organizations support producers and sustainable environmental farming practices and prohibit child labor or forced labor.
Fair Trade Coffee Brands
Certified Fairtrade coffee is normally exported by secondary or tertiary cooperatives, marketing this coffee on behalf of the cooperatives the farmers belong to with arrangements that may be complex. There is not enough demand to take all the certified coffee produced, so most have to be sold as uncertified. In 2001 only 13.6% could be sold as certified so limits were placed on new cooperatives joining the scheme. This plus an increased demand put up sales of certified to around 50% in 2003 with a figure of 37% commonly cited in recent years. Some exporting cooperatives do not manage to sell any of their output as certified, and others sell as little as 8%.
The exporting cooperatives incur costs including certification and inspection fees, additional marketing costs, costs of conforming to standards, and additional costs of cooperative operation, costs which are incurred on all coffee production, even if little or none is marketed as certified, with a higher price, so the cooperatives may make a loss on Fairtrade membership. Weber reports cooperatives not able to cover the extra costs of a marketing team for Fairtrade, with one covering only 70% of these costs after six years of Fairtrade membership.
Any deficit after paying these costs means a lower price for farmers, while any surplus will normally go on “social projects” for “common goals” organized by the exporting cooperative rather than as extra payment for farmers. These may include the building of classrooms, baseball fields, or the establishment of women’s groups, for instance.
Free Trade Coffee
400+ coffees. Do you need to know any more?
Well, okay, you should probably also know how you can arrange to get your selected coffee delivered. Trade offers three subscription packages:
The Hookup: After you brew a few cups of the beans selected by the Match, you have a chance to rate them. Trade will then select your next coffee based on your feedback. This lets you try new coffees within a similar palette of flavors and aromas.
The Classics: based on your Match result, you’ll get a single bag as a “calibration” to make sure it’s what you’re looking for. If it is, you’ll automatically receive two bags of this on the cycle you choose.
Auto-Reorder: if you know exactly what beans you want, Auto-Reorder will ship them to you on your selected frequency. You can pause delivery as necessary, and you can have as many coffee selections on Auto-Reorder as you want.
Now, as to how Trade helps you select your coffee? Their Match process asks you about the way you brew your coffee, how you drink it, and what kind of characteristics you like.
“Never has a coffee buying experience ever led me through six web pages of consultative questions in order to pair me with a bag of coffee.” – Owen Burke, Business Insider
They’ll choose the coffee that best represents your answers, and then they’ll suggest one of their three subscription options. You can also order a single bag if you’re not ready to commit.
One potential negative: Because Trade deals with individual roasters, coffee selection can depend on what the roaster has on hand. We went back to look for the Peruvian Huabal a few weeks after the initial shipment, for example, and found it was no longer available. Just as with that perfect vintage of Romanée-Conti, once it’s gone… it’s gone.
Organic Fair Trade Coffee
Prior to fair trade, prices were regulated by the International Coffee Organization according to the regulations set forth by the International Coffee Agreement of 1962. This agreement, which was negotiated at the United Nations by the Coffee Study Group, set limits on the amount of coffee traded between countries so there would be no excess supply and the consequent drop in price. The ICA existed for five years and then was renewed in 1968.
The agreement was renegotiated in 1976 due to increasing coffee prices, largely a result of a severe frost in Brazil. The new agreement allowed for the suspension of price quotas if the supply of coffee could not meet the demand, and enabling them if prices dropped too low.
In 1984, the agreement was again redrawn, this time creating a database on coffee trade, and implementing stricter import and export regulations.
The fairtrade certification was then introduced in 1988 following a coffee crisis in which the supply of coffee was greater than the demand; since no price quotas had been reimplemented by the International Coffee Act, the market was flooded. Launched in the Netherlands, fair trade certification aimed to artificially raise coffee prices in order to ensure growers sufficient wages to turn a profit. The original name of the organization was “Max Havelaar”, after a fictional Dutch character who opposed the exploitation of coffee farmers by Dutch colonialists in the East Indies. The organization created a label for products that met certain wage standards.
Quotas remained a part of the agreement until 1989 when the organization was unable to negotiate a new agreement in time for the next year. It was decided that the 1983 agreement would be extended, but without the quotas, because they had not yet been determined. A new agreement could not be negotiated until 1992.
From 1990 to 1992, without the quotas in place, coffee prices reached an all-time low because coffee price quotas could not be decided.
The agreements of 2001 and 2007 aimed to stabilize the coffee economy by promoting coffee consumption, raising the standard of living of growers by providing economic counseling, expanding research to include niche markets and quality relating to geographic area, and conducting studies of sustainability, principles similar to fair trade.
Direct Trade Coffee
Subscription coffee services can be surprisingly varied. Here are four points to ponder while you’re making up your mind:
Frequency. How frequently do they ship? Can you choose how often and how much? Make sure your beans won’t get stale – or worse yet, run out before the next shipment.
Ground or whole beans? Grinding fresh beans just before brewing is our recommendation. However, you may prefer to have ground coffee delivered. Be sure you can choose the option that serves you best.
Coffee preferences. Do you have a favorite coffee you never tire of? Do you love the thrill of the chase for new beans? Be sure you know how the service lets (or helps) you choose the coffee you receive.
Overall cost. What does a typical order cost? How much are shipping and handling? Can you control the frequency of your shipments? Consider the cost of the entire package. With those questions out of the way, let’s take a look at the details of the Trade subscription!