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Kyle Freund is the Interim Liaison Manager in the office of Communications at Fairtrade International. He is attending the SCAE coffee event in Vienna, Austria, Europe’s largest coffee conference mixing hundreds of producers, traders, roasters and retailers as they come together to discuss everything coffee.
A lot of things came full circle yesterday at the SCAE as I watched Colin Harmon compete in the World Barista Championsip (WBC) here in Vienna – if you don’t think making coffee is that captivating, you haven’t been to a WBC. He ended an amazing performance by citing his coffee philosophy.
“I think our number one strategy should be building trust through taste.”
That moment took me back to earlier in the morning when members of the international Fairtrade system hosted a ‘Meet the Fairtrade Producers’ event. There were producers from Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Brazil. Interested traders, roasters and retailers came by and all milled about discussing organic vs. conventional, the effects of climate change, the problems and the opportunities.
Talking with a pair of producers, I realized the importance of trust throughout the entire supply chain. Fairtrade is not just about a better price or premiums for community development; most times the most important thing is the long-term relationship that forms between a group of farmers and their buyers.
At its best, the give and take in a strong stable relationship can help both parties navigate a tricky market. One year the buyer and importer may float the cooperative extra funds or pay well above the market price to help the coffee farmers through a difficult situation. The next year, the cooperative may cut their market partners a break or deliver the highest quality beans at a lower price reserved for friends.
It all comes back to taking that step beyond price and building mutually beneficial relationships.
Back at the barista competition, Harmon ended his presentation with a plea to taste, enjoy, and learn to trust. And be nice to people.