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Organic Coffee and Social Responsibility: A London Coffee Roasters View

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Organic coffee is a bit of a buzzword these days. There are countless organic coffee roasters in London popping up. Just give the word “organic” a quick Google, there are countless new products trying to sell on the basis of being organic. Coffee especially. You can find countless bags of organic coffee beans on Amazon (slightly ironic) promoting organic production, fairtrade and appropriate treatment of farmers. What’s a coffee roaster in London to do?

You’d be right in wondering exactly what are the benefits of Organic coffee. It may seem obvious, but the topic is more complicated than that. Yes, it is better for the environment but is it better for everyone involved. Is it a realistic expectation for all coffee farms to be run organically?

What is Organic Coffee?
So what is organic coffee? The most basic and straightforward definition is this: organic coffee is coffee produced without the aid of artificial chemical substances, such as certain additives or some pesticides and herbicides.

There is also a connotation that organic coffee is fairly traded coffee. This is true 80% of the time. This is mainly down to the fact that the coffee is usually produced on smallholder farms and farmers are often unable to afford expensive pesticides. This doesn’t guarantee that the coffee is fairly traded, but the two often go hand in hand.

However, this has a flipside. With the smaller gardens, the burden of certification is often too much. Farmers don’t always have the technical skills or the time to complete mountains of paperwork and navigate tangles of red tape. Not to mention the financial investment. There are also arguments that organic coffee isn’t healthier, the organic pesticides used may be even worse for you than synthetic ones.

Despite it not always being fair trade or viable for smaller farms, it can be argued it is more ethical for workers. Not only does the environment suffer from this overload, but so do the people who live in it. Farmers are exposed to a high level of chemicals while spraying the crops and while handling them during harvest. The surrounding communities are also impacted through chemical residues in the air and water. These chemical presences are not just unpleasant; many are highly toxic and detrimental to human health.

The Social Responsibility of Coffee Roasters

We at 80 Stone Coffee Roasters believe that being a coffee roaster gives us a sense of responsibility. A real roaster believes in making connections with those we source the beans from and having an ethical approach. This is why we are not always sure that organic coffee is the best way to go. As mentioned before, many of these workers are unskilled and haven’t got the capital to start this venture.

Café Pacas And Social Responsibility

El Salvador is going through a difficult period caused by violence and insecurity in general. During our trip organised by Algrano we came across Café Pacas. They are a committed company, willing to contribute in a positive manner to their society. In order to be socially sustainable, they developed a social responsibility strategy, which includes a series of different programs to contribute to the El Salvadorian society and environment.

The programs that Café Pacas have been working on are mostly focused on education and health. At the same time, they have worked on violence prevention programs in the communities where the farms are located, visiting different schools and offering these workshops to teachers, students and parents. In 2014 they contacted FUNPRES again to help us develop a program aimed at giving emotional support to all our employees at Café Pacas. In the beginning, the program consisted of different workshops related to Social Skills. Some of the workshops were: Emotional Intelligence. Fifty-five people benefitted from the program during the first year.

Finally, Another program was developed for the students of the National School of Agriculture. It allowed them to gain a Coffee Certificate. The students participated in a series of sessions that took them through the whole coffee process chain. The courses were not only about the agricultural part of coffee but also about costs, quality, milling process, marketing, exporting among others. This was a hands-on program where the students would visit our company farms and practice what they had learned. One hundred and sixty students were part of this Coffee Certificate Program.

Coffee Roasters And The Organic Dilemma

Here lies the dilemma for us. Would Café Pacas be able to support these initiatives if they were paying extra for organic coffee certificates and constantly undergoing checks? There are pros and cons to each approach. We think that this development of the community wouldn’t have come from an organic coffee supplier as they’d be far more money and time conscious.

However, we also understand that there are environmental issues. Coffee is being produced at higher quantities every year. With China starting to embrace coffee too, that number is sure to only rise. Making sure we meet the demand while not affecting the world detrimentally will become more important. However, we also need to help these smaller farms grow and continue to support their communities.

We believe that supporting farms like Café Pacas allow us to support the community as a whole. Supporting the community as a whole gives them more autonomy, allowing them to take up more sustainable practices with more understanding. It is a long process but we believe it will reap the rewards with time.

Having a guilt free cup of coffee should be the norm but sadly it just isn’t the case with many coffee suppliers. Organic coffee roasters take this ethical and moral responsibility and apply it to their work. Supporting your local coffee roaster in London is important to try and stem the bad habits of larger manufacturers. Plus we like to think our selection of coffee beans taste much better.

Why 80 Stone Coffee Roasters?

What do you all think? We understand that it is a debated topic and we’d be happy to talk with you all. 80 Stone believes in these sustainable practices and we regularly go out to the farms and nurture our relationships. We see this as a vital step in being a coffee roaster. We have only just gotten back from El Salvador doing just that! We also went to Bolivia, to highlight the importance of organically grown coffee there.

If you’re interested in looking over our wholesale coffee beans, need new coffee machine equipment or looking to invest in barista training, feel free to contact us! We love to talk coffee with our customers and we can help you find the perfect coffee roast for you.

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