When coffee is fair

The most common coffee certificates

Theefforts of people in more developed countriestoday to protect the planet, animals, plants and people who find themselves in adverse conditions that often threaten their lives are admirable . With this effort and especially theidea of a better tomorrow, new projects andorganizations are being invented tosupport or shield certain problem areas. New opportunities for obtaining certification from theseorganisations are linked to this .Sometimes it happens that although the original idea was correct, its practical implementation and the resulting awarding of the certificate does not quite lead to the original stated goals of the organization. Of the many known certifications that coffee can obtain, we will now present those that you should look forwhen choosing a coffee.


Where else should we start this inventory than withthe Fair Trade certificate, which is well known not only in the coffee world. Translated , it meansfair, or fair trade. You can imagine smiling farmers, buyers, distributors and roasters shaking hands and sharing the money they get from trade fairly for quality work and product. This sun-drenched image should be the goal of the certificate and, indeed, of the entire organization.

Thefair trade movement is human-centred. In our case, the coffee grower. Ideally , it seeks toimprove the conditions of the people working on the coffee farm by setting fair prices for their products to prevent them from being exploited and undervaluing their work. In doing so, they help to protect their human rights and the economic security of farming families. Unfortunately, we have to say that the adage 'all that glitters is not gold' applies here too.

Fair trade written as 'fair trade' is an idea or a movement of people who support this concept. Together, written "Fairtrade" (or FAIRTRADE) is then directly the name of the certification.

What is wrong with FAIRTRADE?

Imagine a situation where a farmer is faced with this decision: he has two bags of coffee, one with a better crop, the other with a worse one. The fair trade price guarantees that his coffee will be bought at a given price, which is exactly in the middle between the selling price of the bag with the worse coffee and the price of the bag with the better coffee. It is logical that the farmer will sell the inferior coffee as FAIRTRADE. He will make a profit on it and then make a profit on the better one in a conventional sale.

We want the farmer to make a profit, but for the idea of fair trade, this means that thebest and highest quality beans that the farmer has grown will not bein the FAIRTRADE coffee packet. Another negative is the transaction itself. While the price of the coffee is set so that the farmer is not at a loss, the farmer may not be fully compensated. The journey between the farm and the roaster is a long one. At the same time, the coffee meets many people along the way. As a result, that fair distribution of money may not be kind to the farmer's pocket.

What about FAIRTRADE and choice coffee?

The idea of fair trade is aimed at a large global market. Commodity coffees are often sold below cost on the exchanges. This is what Fairtrade coffees were meant to counter. However, these coffees are becoming, as the name implies, commodities. It is a commodity of unsorted quality and is also easily replaced by another farmer's coffee. These commodity coffees end up in large processing factories. As a result, you will usually find them displayed on supermarket shelves as commercial brand coffees. You don't have to look back at all for the Fairtrade label when you buy select coffees. Selective coffee is linked to Fairtrade by its very nature. Coffeeclassified as selective is rated with a cupping score of at least 80 . Choice coffee is the best quality coffee that farmers have grown. As quality increases, so does the price. The farmer will also get a fair rewardfor his honest work. If there is a demand for quality coffee, the farmer's earnings will be guaranteed.

Fairtrade vs. direct trade

Two quite similar terms but with different results. Fairtrade coffee, which was the original intention of the fair trade movement, is implemented in the form of direct trade. That is to say, by direct selling. Such trade is based on a relationship. The farmer and the buyer, the roaster, agree towork together. This relationship is beneficial both for the farmer and for the quality of the coffee. The roaster wants to provide the best for his customers. It therefore also demands the best from its farmer. Thanks to the direct relationship established , heknows what he is buying. We know our farmers and their coffee.

This often results inunique coffees according to the requirements of the roaster and their customers. This relationship brings the farmer both a good salary directly into his pocket, but also leads to a flow of information about techniques and innovations in coffee growing. This leads to an increase in the quality of his production. The roaster then has the challenging task of arranging everything necessary to transport the coffee from the farmer to the roaster. It is, for the roaster, a challenging journey, but one that brings not only thecertainty of quality original coffee, but often also long-term friendships between continents.


The stamp with the little frog in the middle indicates a package of coffee coming from farms where they care not only about pure coffee, but also about the environment in general. A farmer seeking to obtain his frog must meet the criteria for sustainable agriculture. Each year, the farmer is then visited by experts in biology and agronomy who monitor whether the farm is respecting the standards set by the certificate. The RFA have set out tocombat deforestation and climate change. They also care about rural prosperity and the people who live and work in these areas. RFA strives to improve conditions comprehensively in a 360° approach. It is this broad perspective that can result in the threshold to get a flip-flop on the packaging of their products being quite low. Even though a grower has to respect the standards, only 30% of his production needs to meet these conditions to be certified. Nevertheless, we believe that, for example, because of the annual audits by the sustainable agriculture experts commissioned by SAN, which works with the Rainforest Alliance, manages tomaintain contacts and relationships with farmers. These relationships in turn bring with them awareness of the importance of farming in harmony with nature.


Sustainable cultivation of coffee, but also tea, cocoa and hazelnuts. This is the focus of theUTZprogramme , which has been affiliated to the Rainforest Alliance since January 2018. They have joined forces and are working together to create better conditions for farmers and care for nature. UTZ has been primarily associated with coffee since its inception. The project, with the aim of sustainable agriculture on a global scale, started in 2002 with the original name Utz Kapeh. The name comes from the Mayan language and means "good coffee". The Dutch roaster Ward de Groote and the Belgian-Guatemalan coffee producer Nick Bocklandt are behind the project. The red flag of the UTZ certificate can only appear on products whose suppliers comply with theUTZ Code of Conduct. This code is based on the principles of honesty and transparency. It sets out methods for improving management and working conditions. It also contains guidelines for better care of nature and future generations.


Coffee, which is referred to as Organic, isgrown under organic farming conditions. This means that it has been cared for exclusively using practices that respect biodiversity and ecological balance. No synthetic growth promoters are used for cultivation. It is organic production that improves the health of the soil, nature and the end consumer. In order to be certified, the farmer must invest in annual fees not only for inspection to ensure that they meet the specified standards, but also for the certification itself. When converting to organic farming, the farmer must stop using chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides at least three years in advance to ensure the soil is clean.


Thesympathetic name of the certificate, which features coffee and birds, was created at theSmithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC). The aim is to ensure protection of tropical forests for birds. The organization's ecologists have written criteria that determine what a coffee farm should look likethat is in harmony with the native forest cover. The creation of a coffee farm usually brings with it devastation for the landscape in which it is located. Farmers destroy the native vegetation to create their coffee fields. This violent devastation of the native landscape affects the entire local ecosystem and leads to global consequences. Finding the right balance for growing coffee while preserving native landscapes and plants, which are important refuges for migratory birds (and more). This is the idea behind the certificate. Become a friend of the birds too and seek out coffees that are Bird Friendly.


In addition to the certificates listed above, you may come across many others. Coffee lovers are spread all over the world and there are a lot of us. We can spread the joy of a cup of coffee in our hand in ways that will bring that joy back, perhaps in the form of a unique coffee in our next cup. Stay open to information that supports the ecological and humanitarian mindset of people who are growing a better future for themselves, for us, for our children and perhaps for those who don't drink coffee. So far.


Look out for these interesting organisations like the4C Association, which works in partnership with the Global Coffee Platform to bring information, advice and experience to even the smallest coffee farms to improve their business and living standards theirs and their country's .

IWCA, the International Women's Coffee Alliance, with its mantra "Strong Woman = Strong Coffee" encourages women to participate in all aspects of the coffee industry to achieve a meaningful life.

The coffee world is not only keen on improving and developing the production of existing farmers It also supports young aspiring farmers. With the Coffee Kids project , young farmers become thriving entrepreneurs.