The coffee industry relies very heavily upon those who are at the very beginning of the supply chain, the farmers. Despite this, most farmers receive only a very small percentage of the final price of a bag of roasted coffee. This is because coffee is considered a commodity and is largely traded at the 'C' price, which has recently been in the realm of 2.50 - 3.10 AUD per KG. That same KG of roasted coffee however, typically retails between $15 and $30 AUD. This at least is how the commodity coffee market works, and is what you will usually find on the shelf at a supermarket.
Enter the specialty coffee industry, where the key ideas are sustainability, transparency and quality. Sustainability for the farmers so that they can continue to grow coffee, over other more profitable crops, and maintain a fair standard of living by doing so. Transparency so that we as coffee roasters, our green coffee importers and buyers and the general public can make informed purchases that will contribute to the sustainability of the industry. And quality to provide a better product to the consumer, which allows for a higher price to be paid to the farmer and sets us apart from the commodity industry. The focus however, is often strongly on quality, and transparency can easily be forgotten. Yes, I as a roaster or as a barista, might know the name of the farm or cooperative that produced this particular coffee, but that does not mean that the farmer or cooperative in question was paid a fair and sustainable price for their coffee - this is business after all.
Therefore, the way that we buy our green coffee is very important to us here at G&T. We're not happy just buying the best coffees on the market or knowing where they come from, we're looking for a little something more. Luckily we get to work with some great people like the crew behind Raw Material who are just as passionate about specialty coffee as we are. They are able to provide us with information straight from origin and even put us in direct contact with the producers themselves, thanks to the internet.
It is worth noting that a good number of roasters are working this way. Tim Wendleboe is one of the forerunners - he posts transparency reports each year detailing exactly how much coffee he bought, where he bought it from and how much he paid.
This is the goal.