Of Coffee Snobs, Critics and Direct Trade Growers

July 20, 2011

In Calgary, it seems, it’s not politically correct to be an enthusiastic connoisseur of coffee who is just as interested in the terroir of coffee as the taste. Such “geeks” are called snobs and baristas who bubble over with coffee facts may be called pretentious. Writer James Wilt has taken up the argument and puts forth reasons for showing an interest in the cup beyond just gulping it down.

Though coffee prices go up and down based on supply and demand, there are some coffees that get higher prices regardless. These are the specialty coffees grown by farmers, often in small lots, who have a direct trade relationship with the marketer of their coffee. In past seasons, many coffee farmers were paid such low prices they almost starved. So it made sense to develop a relationship with someone who will market their coffee and also help with problems and farm growth issues.

With a higher profit received, such farmers are more willing to invest more time in their crops to insure better quality coffee. This has been so successful they can offer single origins and provide, as a group throughout the world, coffees with prized qualities that vary with the geography of each area. The coffee drinker who cares about taste is happy, and the farmers bring in more money.

Coffee goes through 13 steps from field to cup, and its treatment at each one can either enhance or destroy the end taste. This brings us to the barista, whose brewing can make or break the final taste and quality. He plays a role that helps to support the farmer’s work. As long as the consumer is happy with the coffee and pays the price, the farmer succeeds and can continue to improve his crops from season to season. Not unlike the wine industry, the farm’s reputation is enhanced by the quality of the consumer’s experience.

Some call it hype and snobbery, some call it a third wave of coffee culture. Regardless, coffee has never seen such a growth in demand, enjoyment and popularity. The new system must be working, and who can argue against many farmers from poorer countries experiencing success unimaginable to them ten years ago. All this might be worth a little more money per cup.

You be the judge. ROASTe has tens of Direct Trade coffees. Below are just a few.

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