The Problem with Cheap Coffee

Recently a friend came to me super pumped about buying a Ib of ‘ specialty ‘ coffee for $5.99 from their local grocery store. It shook me to my core and lit me up ! I’m certain they will never look at cheap coffee the same again. Cheap coffee and cheap food is nothing to celebrate as it’s telling of the ethics of the brand, compromised supply chains, stale beans or unethical practises. We need to stop celebrating cheap and focus on good value.

What is the real cost of a cup of coffee? This is a question retailers, cafes and consumers need to start asking themselves more. Especially considering the costs of growing coffee is rising exponentially due to climate change, certification fees, transport and added costs for market access. Even Fairtrade industry standard prices barely covers the costs of producing.

The ratio between what a coffee farmer earned in the 1970’s versus what the retailer received was roughly a ratio of 1:3, today it’s now 1:8. It’s a terrible injustice to the hard working coffee workers harvesting the most labour intensive crop in the world.

We need to be conscientious consumers valuing the effort food production takes and the reality that our cup of comfort provides little comfort for those responsible for the harvest. Our relationship to our food is disconnected by the grocery store and the comforting ‘ buy me ‘ lingo and bright appealing packaging. But we all need to see past it, ask tough questions and challenge grocery and manufacturers to do better.

As a grower, importer and roaster we know all too well the challenges at source in a changing climate and the commitment to pay equitably and how that translates through our supply chain. We’re fortunate in that we measure success with a long vision a heavy dose of aspirational profit and a business that is all about source.

The colonial realities of coffee’s history doesn’t always feel like history. The global coffee industry turns out the second largest profit. It’s a monstrous machine that spans all the coffee growing regions - rich and poor - and for that reason it is still riddled with grave ethical and moral challenges.

Buy your coffee with your conscious; actually you should buy all your food like that. Don’t get numbed by snazzy lingo that may be hollow. Challenge manufacturer claims and stay away from cheap coffee!

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