Growing Confidence From The Ground Up: Building Trust In The Coffee Industry

Trust doesn’t happen overnight. It can, however, be lost overnight.

The coffee industry has been coming face-to-face with trust issues in the past few months alone. Green Mountain Keurigs, an easily recognizable grocery store coffee brand, has been hit with a customer lawsuit citing dishonest marketing practices. News reports having been honing in on how farmers are left out of coffee buying and distribution conversations. Studies have cropped up finding consumers disillusioned with green labels, despite environmental certifications coming in many varieties and requiring a lot of work to obtain. Starbucks, the titular coffee behemoth, has been cagey concerning details on how much the corporation has been paying farmers.

All this information is overwhelming…and rightfully so. Whether you are a distributor, roaster or cafe owner, you literally cannot afford not to build trust.

Buyers can sniff dishonesty a mile away. Keeping tight lips may seem wise in the short-term, but in the long-term can and will affect everyone up and down the coffee line. There is no quick answer when it comes to building trust, either. Not when you have to cultivate the individuality of the people you work with and the people you hope to buy from your business. There are, however, obvious pitfalls that should be avoided moving forward.

Let’s take a look.

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a photo of the rwandan landscape

How often do you think about where your ethically sourced coffee comes from?

Not what the ‘ethically traded’ label says or the origin claim stated by the company…but where it really comes from. If you’re rubbing the back of your neck or avoiding eye contact with your screen, rest assured this is a common problem.

Not just among consumers, but among companies and businesses that work in direct trade with coffee farmers. In our whirlwind day-to-day, thinking about just where our goods come from and at what cost can feel like a tall order (pardon the pun). You’re just trying to get through the workweek in one piece! When it comes to positive change, however…now is always the best time for it. From grower to roaster to customer, the journey of coffee is a winding one. One we can neglect on our way to get the most convenient cup.

An ‘ethical trade’ label on a box or recycling claim on a lid isn’t enough. Several troubling developments concerning coffee sustainability and ethical trading have cropped up these past few weeks, showing that green sentiments are often only skin deep. One story analyzing coffee culture in Rwanda — or rather, the lack thereof — speaks to the real disconnect the West has with the rest of the world. Farmers are caught in such a chokehold between consistent production rates and high costs they’re not even able to taste their own creations. To the Western ear, this is completely surreal…

…and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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