Direct Trade—sourcing coffee directly from a farmer or co-op—is an increasingly popular way for Nordic coffee roasteries to find the best coffee they can, while at the same time making sure that the people in the origin country are paid a fair wage. While Direct Trade is not a set standard with established guidelines, most coffee sources who engage in Direct Trade place an emphasis on sustainable business practices.
Perhaps most interestingly, it often allows for the buyer to positively influence the quality of the coffee. Many are often willing to offer to pay more, if the producers or farmers on their end are willing to make positive changes, such as separating out and harvesting only the ripest of the coffee cherries; investing in new processing equipment like mills, patios or drying beds; and recently also going as far as to separate out different varietals on their farm.
This increased collaboration between buyer and seller, that only started in the last ten years, has produced some wonderful coffees and really is the model of the future, as opposed to the “Fair Trade”-system that, while well-intentioned, is much too rigorously applied and often detrimental to the farmers that adopt it. With Direct Trade, buyers can also choose to engage in a longer-term relationship with the coffee grower, offering guarantees that will make it possible for them to engage in more labour intensive practices without worrying about whether or not they would recoup their expenses. Unfortunately, many coffee farmers and producers are living from crop to crop, barely breaking even.
The Coffee Collective‘s Peter Dupont explains their Direct Trade model as paying 25% more than the Fair Trade price as well as visiting the farm at least once per year. New coffee sourcing company Nordic Approach, operated by Morten Wennersgaard and Tim Wendelboe, who offer complete cost transparency, put an immense emphasis on sustainability and quality development.
Here is an interesting panel debate from this years’ Nordic Roaster Forum on the topic of Direct Trade: