John Cossette, Vice President of Green Coffee Purchasing at Royal weighs in on the pricing change and shares his take on our best Fairtrade Organic offerings.
Since 1995, Royal Coffee has been an active participant and importer of Fairtrade and Organic coffee. Starting with a few tentative purchases from Nicaragua, Fairtrade Organic Coffee now represents over 25% of all Royal Coffee sales, a stunning success story we are proud to author.
Feel how you may about Fair Trade, in the course of these 28 years we have seen continued improvement in quantity, quality, and selection, to the point now that some of the top-rated coffees we carry in any given country might be Fairtrade Organic certified. More important still is the enduring lifespan and success of the some of the cooperatives we have done business with over these years – ASOBAGRI, El Guaya’b, Prodecoop, Cepco, etc.– testimony that Fairtrade works and keeps farmer-organized groups together and thriving. Meanwhile, payment to small growers across the board has improved, as independent collectors for the large exporters now must pay higher purchasing prices in the field as they compete with the cooperatives, a rarely noted consequence of small growers having a Fairtrade alternative.
Landmark Change in Pricing
As I wrote this, the Fairtrade movement was on the eve of a landmark change in its pricing guidelines. For the first time in years, FLO International has raised the floor price and premium on Fairtrade certified coffees, effectively increasing the guaranteed minimum floor price by $0.50/lb. FOB. The change goes into effect for all new contracts as of today, August 1st, 2023.
The change, however, has not been accepted, nor will it be adopted by Fair Trade USA, potentially creating a massive rift in the Fairtrade movement. Will this negation of the new guidelines on the part of Fair Trade USA deny millions of dollars to small growers, or will it help preserve the demand for Fairtrade coffee from roasters and consumers interested as much in affordability as they are in social justice and equitable pay? A scenario of a double-tiered “Fair Trade” program, one under the guidelines of FLO International and another under the aegis of Fair Trade USA, is now emerging. Controversial and messy? You bet!
Meanwhile, there is neither confusion nor question mark regarding the current Fairtrade Organic inventory of Royal Coffee. Many of our current offerings of both SPOT coffees and future deliveries are fully FLO Certified and FT USA Certified. You can always check with your trader if you have questions. The following is a regional tour of our fantastic collection of spot and upcoming Fair Trade Organic coffees:
MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA
We are just now receiving our final deliveries of the season for FT Organic coffee from Mexico and Central America. These coffees will have to cover your needs from August through next March. Happy to say, our current collection is outstanding.
Here, we are not terribly long, so find what you like and cover your bases soon.
Abundant and exceptional.
30308 Huehuetenango ASOBAGRI Los Jovenes Apple juice, tamarind, fig, chocolate, juicy.
30307 Hueuetenango ASOBAGRI SHB EP Nectarine, papaya, milk chocolate, full-bodied.
30318 Huehuetenango El Guaya’b SMBC Pink lady Apple, floral, balanced. 22 bags remaining.
Down to last 4 lots until new crop, plus some specialty lots.
30420/31116 Raos Marcala Grapefruit, lemon grass, brown sugar, dark chocolate.
31126 Finca Liquidambar Yellow Honey Exceptional. Strawberry, peach, kiwi, lavender, Greek yogurt, vibrant, juicy, a perennial favorite.
Solid inventory to carry us to new crop, the best of them are:
30471 Segovia Canta Gallo Plum, orange zest, apple juice, floral, exceptional.
30556 Jinotega Coomulfac Café de Mujeres Lemon/lime, grape, citrus, dark chocolate.
30555 Jinotega Coomulfac SHB EP Lemon/lime, toffee, peanut butter, dark chocolate, creamy.
With South America, we are awaiting shipments of new crop Peru and fly crop Colombia with Brazil still a few months away. Following is what is here now and good and what to look forward to down the road.
Low current stock but several lots shipping out in August and afloat, best here now:
30887 Huila Asopcafa Orange zest, apricot, cherry, cocoa powder.
Just a few lingering lots from past crop here now, but a flotilla of new crop on the way. Look forward and buy ahead on.
31505 APROCCURMA Café de Mujer August Shipment.
Numerous lots shipping out from Norandino, Selva Andina, et al.
We still have a good supply from previous crop, all in GrainPro. No new crop until January for these, so cover till then.
The best: 30546 Sul de Minas Poco Fundo Strawberry, peach, black tea, milk chocolate, creamy.
SOUT EAST ASIA & THE PACIFIC ISLANDS
Normally at this time of year our first shipments of the season of FT Organic Timor are on the water and set to arrive in September. This year, however, we are sad to report that there will be no availability of this coffee due to complications in their FLO Certification. While they are in the process of rectifying the situation, it is unlikely to be resolved in time to resuscitate this year’s crop. This is a significant blow to the Island and to our SE Asian offering of FT Organic coffee. With this in mind, it places heavier emphasis on Sumatra as our lone FT Organic representative in that arena, necessitating planning and coverage now.
We are down to fumes here in Oakland for the next month but have a great line up arriving at the end of August and early September, along with decent SPOT inventory still in Seattle and Madison. These coffees will need to carry you through the end of the year so I cannot stress strongly enough the need to plan ahead and book now. These incoming lots are from the spring/early summer harvest and will be fresh and luscious:
While the Royal Coffee selection of coffees from Africa is vast, in terms of Fairtrade Organic, with one small exception (Rwanda) it means Ethiopia. And more Ethiopia.
We are blessed with abundance and brilliance of new crop selection of both washed and natural FT Organic arrivals.
In the Washed arena:
30694 SCFCU Sidama #2 Homacho Waeno Classic lemon, bergamot, floral, herbal.
30695 SCFCU Sidama #2 Shanta Golba Lemon, white peach, bergamot.
30504 Oromia Yirgacheffe #2 Lemon, blueberry, jasmine, cranberry, black tea.
30509 Oromia Yirgacheffe #2 Apple, plum, peach mango, floral, milk chocolate.
30963 Oromia Sidamo #4 Apricot, orange, apple, nougat, dark chocolate.
30699 Sidama #3 Fura ETA 8/13.
30702 Sidama #3 Shanta Golba ETA 9/10.
Additional lots of Sidamo #4 arriving as well in August.
Happy to announce we have 1 lot of FT Organic Dukunde Kawa Mbilima shipping to us in September, only 130 bags available so plan ahead if interested. I should say, however, we also have a few small lots of conventional (non-organic) Fair Trade Rwanda coffees available and they are excellent:
29211 FT Coocamu Farmer Group 2 Lot 6 Kumquat, sage, eucalyptus.
29212 FT Coocamu Farmer Group 4 Lot 5 Citrus zest, nougat, clean.
29213 FT Coocamu Farmer Group 3 Lot 4 Blackberry jam, brown butter, oregano, sweet.
And no discussion of inventory would be complete without talking about Fairtrade Organic Decaf, a world in which I thanklessly and anonymously toil, but do so with great pride. Planning for and keeping in stock Fair Trade Organic Decaf is like planning for a war or a natural disaster. Despite my best intentions and foresight, it is an imperfect logistical science, so here more than any other category, I beseech you to please plan ahead and make sure you are covered. Here is what I like now and look forward to in the fall:
31738 Decaf Sumatra FTO ETA September
31534 Decaf Ethiopia FTO ETA September
31538 Decaf Mexico Oaxaca Cepco FTO ETA September
31471 Decaf Peru Pangoa FTO October Arrival
31585 Decaf Peru Norandino FTO November arrival
32033 Decaf Guatemala FTO November arrival
This list of coffees is by no means exhaustive and there are dozens of other excellent deliveries scattered about for each origin. Please discuss the options with your trader. The lots I have noted, however, are slam-dunk stellar selections. Avoid the confusion and the controversy about to ensue in the world of Fairtrade certification and book the coffees available now at Royal, the right coffees at the right time.