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Calgary Columnist Defends ‘Coffee Snobs’

By holding specific coffee farms and regions in esteem, the coffee industry as a whole, as well as the coffee-drinking consumer, benefits. That’s the thrust of an interesting piece written by James Wilt that was recently published in Calgary’s alternative newspaper, Fast Forward Weekly.

The article notes Canadians’ perceptions of snobbery when a coffee drinker asks a barista about bean origins or roast freshness. But there’s more to the story, Wilt argues.

When a customer visits Tim Hortons or buys a tin of Maxwell House at the supermarket, they aren’t rewarding a farmer for hard work. They’re paying a cheap price because the company is purchasing low-grade beans at the lowest price possible.

columnist defends coffee farmers, coffee snobsThat’s perfectly fine, says Wilt, but don’t flip the scenario and look down on those coffee “snobs” who are willing to pay a higher price for a higher-quality product. Direct-trade relationships, while more expensive even than Fair Trade-certified exchanges, are good for both the source and the consumer of good coffee.

When a coffee lover decides to drink a geisha varietal from the Santa Clara region of El Salvador in a Chemex (from Intelligentsia) or a shot of espresso with beans from the region of Naranjo in Costa Rica (from 49th Parallel), they are reciprocating excellence with a stellar price. Both roasters pay significantly higher prices than average based upon a direct trade relationship; in that trading scheme — which is not officially certified, as with Fair Trade — buyers travel to the source country, negotiate with the individual farmers and develop committed relationships with producers. In many instances, better education, worker benefits and more sustainable farming techniques are implemented by the farmers with the extra money.

For the full story: Fast Forward Weekly (note: the comment section is worth viewing)


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