Single origin. Direct trade. Single estate. Farmer grown. Microlot.
With so many terms used in sourcing--and marketing--of coffee, how can the average consumer be expected to keep up with, much less understand, the difference between them all?
The reality is that there's no governing set of standards in use to define terms like "single origin" or "microlot," so they've unfortunately been abused by the marketing departments of coffee companies around the world. For instance, "Single Origin" can be used to mean coffee from one country (i.e. "Single Origin: Honduras"), or even from one particular farm. We can assume the usage of coffee lingo is meant to instill a sense of higher quality, which then assigns coffee a higher value and, subsequently, a higher sales price.
That should mean that coffee farmers receive more money from the final sale value of their coffee, then. Right?
Unfortunately, the truth is that most farmers rarely see any extra pay for their "single origin coffee." Even under most "fair trade" schemes, the majority of profits don't make it back to the farmer; bonus payments are usually retained by their respective cooperatives.
Enter direct trade. Under this format, coffee roasters purchase coffee directly from farmers in a "microlot," which can be defined as a varietal of coffee from a specific farm in a given year, usually 40 bags (giant burlap sacks) of green coffee or less. It's extremely expensive to transact coffee this way: there are, in theory, no middlemen that cut costs for those importing this coffee.
Due to those higher logistics costs, traditionally it was only feasible to import exceptionally-high quality coffees as microlots. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of direct trade coffee is very expensive. Farmers who sell their microlots directly to importers are an elite few, representing less than 1% of all coffee growers.
However, for other remainder of farmers with amazing coffee but a lack of capital to invest in their plantations, the prospect of selling in a direct-trade format is simply an impossibility. They're left to fend for themselves in an endless cycle of low prices, with no incentive to produce amazing quality coffee given that their coffee is purchased for nearly the same price irrespective of its quality.
At Farmers First Coffee Company, our farmers' coffees are not bad. Not one bit. In fact, they're excellent and have been graded as "specialty" coffee (an 80+ on the q-scale) in quality control.
But, they could be even better. Based on what we've already discussed above, normally our farmers would not be able to find a direct trade buyer.
That's why we've created the Social Microlot model in which we pay a 50% premium directly to coffee farmers for their hard work, an amount four times higher than the current "fair trade" bonus.
This extra capital allows the farmers we partner with to invest in their coffee plantations, meaning even better quality--and higher purchase prices--in future coffee harvests.
Farmest First Coffee Company's Social Microlot: the coffee that tastes great and boosts coffee farmers' incomes.