The benefits of supporting local coffee shops and farmers abroad and at home.
Not only is coffee a great way to start the morning, but it is almost a stimulant for the economy. The global coffee industry doubled to nearly $90 billion in the last decade alone. The 2014 NCA USA Economic Impact Report also found that the coffee industry was responsible for 1,694,710 jobs in the U.S. economy.
The coffee giants and national economies are reaping the benefits of this industry, but what about the local farmers?
Conceptualizing the complex and nuanced relationship between agricultural producers and large companies through the lens of the individual consumer can be challenging, so let’s think about this on a smaller scale.
Even though coffee is grown globally, most of the coffee that is traded and sold comes from countries in South America, namely Brazil, Peru, and Columbia. For those grounds to make it in the average person’s 8a.m. espresso, those beans have to go through the supply chain, which often includes several levels of intermediaries.
Buying directly from farmers cuts out the intermediaries between the producers and consumers, particularly large companies. Businesses often make up for this cost easier, but coffee ranchers historically have gotten shortchanged in this arrangement. Farmers who aren’t making enough profits will often try to reduce their production costs. This can affect environmental conservation efforts and increase rates of child labor.
Some organizations try to put more financial power back in the hands of those who grow coffee plants. Operations like Fairtrade International accomplish this by providing farmers and workers with better working conditions, access to advance credit ahead of harvest time, and a financial safety net for when market prices drop, among other things.
Consumers can also do their part by buying coffee grounds directly from them or supporting local coffeeshops that source their grounds from these farmers.
There is also a social benefit for the traveler from buying local. Visiting local cafés while travel is an easy way to immerse yourself in the culture and language of the country or region.
Local coffee shops don’t have to follow national flavor trends to satisfy their customers. They can cater to the individual needs of their customers by providing culturally influenced options and unique flavors.
Traditionally, Turkish coffee is prepared in a special pot called a cezve using finely ground beans. This differs from the espresso served in places like the United States. Also, although you would be hard-pressed to find anything other than espresso in the U.S., popular flavors vary between regions and seasons.
Of course, there are times when you need a more convenient option. Someone who has ten minutes until they board their flight and needs something to get them through the next half hour would most likely choose a nearby chain coffee shop instead of searching for a small business. But once they land and have a little more free time, searching for coffee from local places that source beans directly from farmers would be more realistic and helpful!