Fair Trade Coffee - From Bean to Cup

Us Brits have always been known as the tea drinkers, the country who loves a brew of extra strong, extra milky, builders tea. But I think that's changing. We all love a mug of coffee nowadays. I go through a lot of cups a day, and even have a favourite mug to have my coffee in - it just tastes better in that one. 

In fact, in recent figures by the British Coffee Association (BSA) our coffee consumption has increased from 70 millions cups a day in 2008 to 95 million cups a day in 2018. And obviously those coffee beans that give us the morning pick-me-up don't grow in the UK, and if you’re a fan of drinking fair trade coffee, that journey is all the more wonderful and varied. 

You see, the journey of a coffee bean depends on which farm it came from, the grower of the bean, and how it was processed. And then a large-scale coffee plantation will operate a lot differently from a simple and small fair trade coffee farm. But fair trade is a much better way to choose your coffee, the process is more eco-friendly and more worker friendly too!

As an example, CIPAC's fair trade honey and coffee co-operative in Guatemala has in excess of 140 members working for them. It may be a remote area, but it's a fantastic area to grow coffee all the same.

Numerous farmers here are performing a trade inherited from many family generations. There’s lots for CIPAC’s farmers to do before the beans are ready to be made into the delicious coffee we know and love. So what exactly happens on the journey from bush to mug? 

Harvesting coffee beans
Winter is typically coffee-harvesting season for many farmers and on family-owned farms, the whole family might get involved. Coffee ripens at a slightly different time within this period, depending on the climate, the altitude, the type of soil and the variety of coffee. 

The de-pulping and cleaning process
Once the coffee has been harvested, it is moved on to the farmers. This involves the harvesters often having to travel up and down hills and across rickety bridges to reach the end destination, where the cherries are de-pulped within 24 hours. Once the coffee cherries are de-pulped, they are submerged in unique water pools for a full day in order clean them and remove any remaining layers. Some beans will float in the water and these beans are always removed.

Drying and transforming the beans
After cleaning, the beans are laid out to allow the sun to dry them naturally. The farmer chooses an area that’s wide, flat, and clean, and spreads the beans out with a rake to let them all dry individually. They keep turning the beans while the sun shines. As well as this, they also cover the beans every night, to keep off the dew. 

The parchment beans are then sent to a fair trade cooperative where they are then turned into green beans. This process involves the beans being judged by their weight and appearance, to make sure they’re of the best quality and finally, the beans are ‘polished’, which removes the last layer of skin covering the coffee beans.

CIPAC sells the coffee beans to Cafesca who are a fair trade operator based in Mexico. From there, some of the beans are sent to another Mexican fair trade operator, Descamex, who are the only facility in the world to use the Mountain Water Method to produce decaf coffee. Descamex send the decaffeinated beans back to Cafesca, who transform all the coffee beans into instant coffee and instant decaf. Once the finished coffee is sealed in jars, they’re loaded onto a container, then onto a ship, and then transported to the UK to be sold by retailers such as Traidcraft.

It’s clear to see that coffee beans go on quite the adventure before making it into your mug and how we should appreciate every last drop that comes from those beans! 

1 comment:

  1. Great information, thank you. I think Traidcraft are a good brand to look out for.