Coffee certifications and high quality coffee
Coffee consumption trends are changing very fast. Coffee lovers are becoming more demanding about the quality of the coffee they drink and at the same time social awareness about our environment, human & labor rights, and good trade practices is on the rise. In such a context coffee certifications have boomed. The purpose of this post it to provide some perspective about what they are and their relation with the quality of coffee you are buying.
The main purpose of these certifications is to guarantee good practices when growing, processing and trading coffee. After obtaining a certification, coffee farmers get paid a premium as an incentive, however the amount is usually very small compared to the effort required in order to get the stamp.
I like to group coffee certifications in three categories which are not exclusive, that is one certification may consider two of the categories:
- Origin: this is an easy one and it is about the regional origin of the coffee. In the case of Colombia it can be for the whole country or just a province, like Antioquia or Huila.
Environmentally friendly: There have been environmental concerns about the coffee industry related to the amount of water used in the coffee processing, deforestation in order to grow coffee trees, or water pollution caused by the lack of treatment of the mucilage after coffee fermentation. The most popular under this category are bird friendly and rain forest stamps. Both are very important for a country like Colombia, in particular the bird friendly given than Colombia is the country with the largest variety of bird in the world. So if you love bird sighting come to Colombia and enjoy an amazing coffee while watching the birds around.
- Human & labor rights: This coffee certifications are focused on good practices when producing coffee towards the right treatment of workers and also about the right compensation of farmers that produce coffee. The purpose of these certificates is to discourage human trafficking, slavery, child labor and similar forms of human exploitation. In the case of the fair trade stamp the purpose is to increase the compensation farmers receive for their coffee and try to reduce income inequality within the production of agricultural products given that farmers always get the smallest size of the cake. The most popular coffee certifications within this category are 4C and Fair Trade.
Major coffee brands have also introduced their own certifications in order to ensure the coffee they serve is produced under high environmental and human & labor standards.
Finally it is important to highlight that coffee certifications can’t guaranty the quality of coffee you are drinking. Hence coffee certifications and specialty coffee are not synonyms. Of course it is desirable that the Specialty Coffee that you drink is at the same environmentally friendly and doesn’t promote any kind of human exploitation. The question I want to raise is how effective are coffee certifications to promote good practices and values when growing, processing and trading coffee.
Please share with us your thoughts about this topic. Have you ever considered any of these issues while enjoying your coffee?