F for Fairness

Kifu Coffee Roasters’ goal as a coffee roasting business is above all to roast and sell excellent coffee. However, the coffee production industry and the supply chains that govern coffee movement in the global exchange are, unfortunately, managed and manipulated by many greedy hands. So while our fundamental goal is to roast and sell excellent coffee, our means of achieving that goal is, in many ways, just as important as the goal itself. This is why we strive to sell sustainably farmed coffee. This involves buying coffees that have been certified by various organizations (Fair Trade USA, Rain Forest Alliance, Organic Certified) that help to ensure production sustainability as well as fair labor wages and conditions for farmers across the globe. These organizations are great, but they are not perfect. Our preference is actually to sell coffee through a more direct trade model, which often allows for more on site accountability and higher wages to farmers than these large certifying organizations can offer. Many micro-farms, often family owned, are by nature operated more sustainably, and their product is often more excellent, simply because corrupt business practices and poor quality control are naturally the product of mass production. Unfortunately, some of these smaller farms are not certified by any of the above–mentioned organizations for any number of reasons (e.g., they are not eligible since they are not part of a cooperative; they simply have not had the opportunity; they are under geographical restrictions that make cooperation with other farms or organizations difficult, etc.). So while we do offer variously certified coffees, we also offer coffees that have not been certified, and we will continue to do so until these certifying organizations can show that their “fairness” includes equal opportunity to every farm across the globe, no matter how small.

One of the ways we can look out for these small farms is by using ethical and reputable importers that buy directly from farmers. This is simple mathematics. With every ‘middle-man’ in the supply chain there is a mark-up in price. Because small farms often do not have immediate connections to their market, they have to sell to these middlemen, in auctions, or to a cooperative for a very cheap price. The cheaper they have to sell it, the less quality control there is for their product and the less quality of life for the farmers. So cutting out middlemen is key. It enables importers to pay farmers a fair price but still sell coffees to roasters at a fair price, which enables us to sell you coffee at a fair price! So by using these higher paying importers, many of whom are seemingly more genuinely concerned for their farmers than some of the certifiers we’ve worked with, we are indirectly paying more to farmers and laborers, as well as investing in their quality control. This even allows us to offer detailed information about many of the farms—and sometimes even pictures of the faces!—that produce this coffee, since our importers often have their representatives on site for quality control and ethical accountability. For us, as a buying principle, ‘direct is best’, since it allows for less arbitrary mark-up, more direct dividends to the farmers, and less bureaucracy for everyone involved. In short, we do our best to work within the complexities of the coffee market to ensure an uncompromising standard of quality and overall fairness.

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