Who do you work for?

Fairtrade, RFA, Direct Trade, NASA, Australian Certified Organic. These are the labels we use on our coffee that represent what each of them deem to be the desireable and responsible way of trading, growing, processing and handling of coffee. Transparent and auditable, these organisations and arrangements aim to adopt the ‘nothing to hide’ principle to prove their credibility beyond reasonable doubt. I am a big advocate of such transparency, and indeed these more ethically traded and produced coffees, but I’d like to make an assertion here about what I consider to be ‘retail transparency’.

I define retail transparency as the freedom or restriction of accurate information provided to the customers who buy coffee over your counter. Think about what exactly you tell your customers whilst selling them coffee. (For the sake of the context here let’s assume this person is obviously very interested and wants to know as much as possible) Is it detailed information about processing methods, origin specific stuff, varietals, roast info and flavor profile? If not, is that info available? and if it isn’t, why not? I recently worked a few shifts at a local roaster and was dismayed by the lack of integrity with which they treated their coffee sales. Selling at least two different coffees under two names each, thus doubling their perceived product lines, and mislabeling one of each as organic, was an obvious faux pas for me and that approach was evident throughout their operations. What does this say about their credibility? More importantly what does it say about the way they think about their customers?

Other things to consider when buying coffee are;

  • How is the coffee displayed?
  • Can you see how they store their coffee? Why/why not?
  • Do they weigh and seal the bag to order? Or is the bag being handed to you a bag from the end of the stock rotation?
  • Do they hide behind labels? “Its a mocha” only rarely relates to a Yemeni coffee
  • Can they actually talk about the coffee? Or do they just know the pitch by heart?

There are lots of other things that can give an idea about how straight your coffee retailer is being, please leave your ideas in the comments section.

Cheers,

Nic

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4 Responses to “Who do you work for?”

  1. hazchem Says:

    that’s my mental checklist right there for buying coffee at retail. If the outlet gets past the main test – can they make a good brew in the first place!

    I also like to see that more than one person can talk to me about what the outlet is selling and that all the knowledge isn’t held by one person.

    I am disturbed by your tale of the local roaster, I hope I can avoid supporting that sort of practice by NOT drinking their coffee in the future.

    • nicwalker Says:

      Yeah man, it was a scary, scary experience, and believe me thats not the worst of it! The places where you have been recently according to your tweets don’t use their coffee though so you are probably ok. Besides by the sounds of it we have similar taste in coffee and you probably wouldn’t like this stuff.

      N

  2. Roger Says:

    So how do you legislate / enforce admin / record keeping procedures that make this level of retail skull duggery instantly identifiable to a retail authority, that then has the power to withdraw a licence to sell, on the spot. If only the ACCC had that kind of bite and application!! Allas, we live in a world of compromise and corruption. Love your work, Nic!

    • nicwalker Says:

      Hey mate, there is legislation that regulates the use of the term ‘Organic’ and also any use of the Fairtrade and RFA symbol, but the issue is as you point out is the application of it. I’m not sure who’s responsibility it is to police, no doubt the justice would be blunter than we’d like and I’m sure there would be way too many instances to keep up with. I might do some research and get back to you on that! Thanks Roger!

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