A few years ago my wife and I rented a booth at the Toledo Farmers Market. The market took place in the parking lot of an Elder-Beerman. We’d been to our fair share of farmers markets, but being on the other side of the booth was a different experience. There were hundreds of people walking up and down the rows of vendors, trying to find free samples and good deals. We learned quickly that people connect well when your product tells a good story. We’d get asked what made our coffee ‘unique’ or ‘different’.
Recently, people have been reaching out to me once again and asking what makes our coffee ‘unique’. I know that people have hundreds of options when it comes to coffee, and peopl want to know what separates us from the crowd. So I wanted to write about why I think Rad Roast Coffee is unique, and why you should give it a try!
We purchase exclusively fair-trade/organic coffees (and shade certified when available). Certification is the best tool available to ensure coffee production is ethical, equitable, and sustainable. Surprisingly, few coffee shops and stores sell certified coffees. Just 8% of the coffee produced globally is certified, and that percentage is much lower for coffee beans that have multiple certifications (i.e. fair-trade and organic). We want to change that. Without coffee most of us would not survive our mornings, or those late night study sessions. Coffee farmers are the reason we get to enjoy our cup of joe each morning, and we believe certification is an important tool that benefits farmers.
So what’s so great about certification?
Coffee certification is unique because most other globally exported goods don’t have certification programs. Many people are unclear about what the certifications actually mean, so I want to explain why they matter. And the next time you go shopping for coffee, take a minute and scan over the coffee bag to see if it contains those important certification labels.
1. Fair-trade. Fair-trade certification ensures that the farmers and laborers who plant, prune, harvest, dry, and prepare our coffees earn an equitable wage. Fair-trade certification is a ‘stamp of approval’ on the economic side of coffee production. Like any globally exported good, coffee is subject to the laws of supply and demand. The fair-trade certification sets minimum prices to reduce risk and increase profits for coffee growers, and it protects them from large corporations looking to undercut farmers. Whether you buy coffee from us or someone else, we recommend that you try to purchase coffee that has the fair-trade certification symbol on the bag.
2. Organic. Organic certification ensures that our coffees (and the workers who produce them) do not receive chemical inputs, and this certification is also non-GMO. In many instances, those working the coffee fields live on or near the farms. Their families and kids drink and bathe from the streams that flow through the coffee farms. Some of the chemical used to manage coffee pests (i.e. endosulfan) are lethal. These agrochemicals can end up in streams, or on the clothes of the workers spraying coffee plants. Organic certification reduces these risks. In addition, coffee plants takes on the flavors of the landscape, and having natural growing conditions can improve the quality and flavor notes of the coffee. Thus, we purchase organic coffees because it benefits the health of farmers and their families, and because it makes our coffee better.
3. Shade. Shade certification (i.e. bird-friendly) is less common but still an important certification. Coffee was originally discovered as an understory plant in the forests of Ethiopia. The legend says a man named Kaldi was herding his goats near the forest, and a few of them went missing. He went looking for his missing goats and found them dancing and frolicking, and eating these mysterious red cherries. After eating a few himself, he found himself dancing as well. Thus, coffee grows best as an understory shade crop in a forested landscape. When coffee is produced this way, it provides habitat for many bird species that migrate and overwinter in coffee farms. Jaguars and other large mammals have also been discovered using coffee forests as habitat. Shade certification provides important ecosystem benefits for both abiotic and biotic processes.
We believe our coffee is some of the best around. That is because the coffee beans we purchase are grown by farmers who are passionate about coffee. The farmers are the real heroes. We think they deserve to get paid well for the amazing work they do. Certification is the first step in empowering coffee farmers and improving livelihoods. We want to help them in other ways too, but we’ll save that for another post!
Our job as coffee roasters is to precisely roast our coffees to accentuate the unique flavors and notes each coffee farms has to offer. We believe our coffee will taste different than what is currently stocked in your cupboard, and we’d love for you to give us a try. If you are interested in purchasing coffee for your store, office, or church – send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’d love to provide you with top-notch coffees, or we can by do a free coffee tasting for your place of work. You can peruse through our coffee in our online store.
Looking for part-time work? We are looking to hire a coffee sales person ASAP – someone to help us grow and find places to sell our products. If you are interested or know someone that might be a good fit, please send me an email (email@example.com) or call (517-442-9809).