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September 08 Coffee Producers

What’s a Fair Trade for Excellent Coffee?

By: rachel

How much do you care about fair trade?

I mean, it’s all companies, particularly coffee companies, seem to talk about these days. Don’t worry, that Grande frappe latte with cream on top and sprinkles isn’t the result of hard labor with a low payoff.

But what does it actually mean to be fair trade, and why is it so important? Actually, forget those questions – we’ve got a better one. Who introduced fair trade to the coffee industry?

Before there was fair trade, it was easy to turn a blind eye. I mean, who can really put their hand up and say that they were thinking about the welfare of the people at the source? All you cared about at that point was your cream not mixing with the coffee.

Meet a company that didn’t just utilize fair trade because they thought it was ‘trendy.’ No no no. In fact, they couldn’t have possibly done it for this reason because they were the ones that introduced fair trade to the coffee industry. So they did it to get closer to the source and get you guilt-tripping the next time you throw caution to the wind and decide to support someone who doesn’t do fair trade coffee.

Intelligentsia is a holistic bunch. This is because they appreciate the journey that their coffee’s been on – not just the end result. They want to put the spotlight on the people at the beginning of the journey and connect you to them in a way that’s worthy of Hallmark.

Where does this all begin, then, and who are the masterminds behind this crazy concept? Emily Mange and Doug Zell put their heads together in 1995 and decided that enough was enough. They were sick of drinking sub-par coffee – it just wasn’t cutting it.

Emily and Doug decided to take their little coffee dream to Chicago, opening a retail store and coffee bar in one of the more hipster areas. Their passion led them to utilize ancient artifacts for coffee brewing equipment and roasting their coffee on-site, right behind where you stand and stare at the menu.

As you can imagine, like many successful businesses out there, Intelligentsia grew. 22 years later, and guess what – they’re still growing.

They’ve managed to spread their wings and infiltrate another five American cities, bringing the total to six. With training labs, coffee bars, and Roasting Works, they’ve got a pretty sweet, happy little coffee family going on.

Now, let’s get back to that fair trade business. Emily and Doug wanted to pioneer the fair trade movement for a couple of reasons.

The first was to cut the fat. Who needs go-betweens when you can do it all yourself? Plus, how are you supposed to form a relationship with the people cultivating and growing your coffee beans if you’ve got three or four degrees of separation?

Intelligentsia has recruited a team of coffee travelers. They make their way around the globe every year, sniffing out the best of the best and spending time every day on the ground floor with the growers.

This isn’t just a tick of the box kind of deal, though. These aren’t half-hearted audits where they report back to the mainland with a ‘good enough’ kind of report. These people are meticulously collecting data and analyzing all different types of practices in order to improve the overall quality of the product and ensure that their growers’ livelihoods are up to standard.

This leads to a well-earned ego that swells with pride when Intelligentsia talks about their coffee. Yes, they believe that their coffee is the best. They also believe that they’ve earned this title, and there’s not much room for argument when you try it.

So: fair trade, six American cities, traveling coffee team. You get it. Let’s try some coffee.

Intelligentsia Coffee Blends/Single Origin Coffee

La Tortuga Honduras Special Selection: farmer, Fabio Antonio Caballero, is pretty chuffed with his coffee. His direct trade, single origin coffee is taking America by storm – and it’s in season, too. If you’re a citrusy, flowery type of person, this is your go-to brew.

With light sugars to finish off the delicate bittersweet taste of this coffee, you’ll find yourself sitting around wondering when its next season is. With four years of harvesting under his belt, Fabio is looking ahead with a fair bit of optimism that he’ll be able to continue producing the same quality in his coffee.

Kurimi Organic Ethiopia: if you’ve never experienced an Ethiopian coffee, then you haven’t really experienced coffee. If you don’t already know, then it’s time: Ethiopia is the coffee capital of the world. You really can’t do too much better than Ethiopia when it comes to your brew.

This organic single-origin coffee is a tropical trip passionfruit and honeydew melon dominating the flavor profile. Coming in at a close second (or third?) is lemon curd, allowing for a zingy tang to mix beautifully with mesmerizing aromatics of floral.

El Diablo Dark Roast: let’s leave single origins for a second and experience what happens when Intelligentsia blends their coffees together. Trust us; it’s nothing short of magical. While El Diablo dark roast will vary from season to season, you can expect a flavor bomb with every cup.

If you’re typically a sweet person, you won’t want to start the day without a cup of El Diablo. This brew is dominated by flavors of molasses, chocolate, and caramelized sugars. This may lead you into thinking that this coffee is soft and sweet – but it packs a punch.

All these flavors prepare you for the robust resonant finish that will surprise you every time.

Who said that luxury and fair trade couldn’t go hand in hand? We all know the price we pay for products like fur and leather – and the price tag isn’t the only thing that’s sickening.

You’ll sleep better knowing that at least one part of your daily routine shuns dodgy practices and uplifts those who are doing all the hard work. After all, you don’t have to do anything to earn your cup of coffee in the morning – so let’s support those who do.

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