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The Unknown Human Cost of Coffee

Reveille is a company dedicated to providing our consumers with the very best in specialty coffee direct from farmers and roasters to your door. In our past blog posts, we’ve talked about why specialty coffee is distinct in terms of flavor, and that is indeed important. But what makes our coffee unique is more than just the taste of the beans, it’s the people that provide those beans.

Most Popular Drink

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, and the demand is higher now than ever before. Nevertheless, the farmers that grow that coffee, workers that harvest it, and roasters that prepare the product for distribution are rarely compensated fairly for their work. In a world that is driven by money, poor and marginalized people are often counted as acceptable losses to corporations intent only on producing and profiting. Coffee companies are far from the only businesses to practice human rights abuses, but they are a significant player.

Laws Prohibiting Exploitation of People

Despite international as well as national laws prohibiting slavery and child labor, many large coffee companies rely on the exploitation of their workers to keep prices low while keeping up with the demands of the industry. Workers are paid pennies on the dollar for long days of backbreaking work and are relegated to homes little more than shacks without running water or electricity. Children as young as five have been discovered harvesting coffee cherries in the fields, without breaks or water. The list goes on, each discovery more saddening than the last.

Investigations into Farming Practices

In recent years, probes into the coffee industry in Brazil, Mexico, and other countries have revealed these deplorable conditions for workers harvesting coffee for major companies such as Nestle. Third-party monitoring of worker conditions does exist, and laws have been made. Still, with less than 2 percent of farms inspected per year, large corporations are less able or willing to monitor working conditions than they claim. The coffee they produce may be less expensive, but the human cost can be much higher. It can be challenging to continue consuming coffee while understanding the conditions under which it was produced, and many find it hard to reconcile their need for caffeine as well as justice. Fortunately, there are ways that even average consumers can help to make a difference.

How to Tell if Coffee is Ethically Sourced

One way that may be familiar is buying fair trade coffee. Fair trade certification means that the product, be it coffee or other items, has been produced by persons paid a living wage. The fair trade movement has picked up speed in recent years, as more and more people become conscious not only of the environmental impact of their buying habits but the human impact as well. However, fair trade certification is not always a guarantee. Fair trade certification costs money; smaller farmers often cannot afford, and wage protections only apply to farms with a certain number of workers. 

Direct Trade Coffee is Ethical Coffee

Reveille is about more than trendy labels; however, you may have read about our origin story: on a trip to coffee farms in South America, we spoke to many coffee workers and farmers. We recognized that the people who keep the world supplied with this essential beverage are often treated as secondary to profits. We decided to take direct action against this practice, and so Reveille was born. 

Reveille is a direct trade coffee distributor: dedicated to moving coffee directly from farmers and roasters to the consumer. Direct trade means higher pay for our partners and higher quality for you. We are committed to making sure that our coffee farmers receive fair and ethical compensation for the services they provide. With no middlemen to drive up prices and no bureaucracy to obscure unsafe or cruel practices, we can ensure that our farmers and roasters can provide the highest quality beans to us and the highest possible quality of life for themselves and their families.

One of the primary tenets of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), of which Reveille is a part, is a commitment to ethical operation and respect for the individual. While coffee is of vital importance and value to the SCA and us, it is no more important or valuable than the lives and livelihoods of the people who make our coffee possible. Our business is about more than great coffee and high-profit margins; it’s about making the world a better place for everyone involved in the coffee-making process.

Our Partner Farms

We partner with farmers who have a passion for good coffee made well. We know and work with our farmers and roasters, able to put faces with names and connect with human beings rather than faceless numbers and profits. Our partners share our commitment to providing the best quality for both their employees and consumers. Currently, we are partnered with multiple farms, producing beans from Brazil, Honduras, and Jamaica, and soon hope to partner with many more ethical, hard-working businesses.

What You Can Do to Help

At times it seems that the world is run by influential people that operate so far above us that it feels impossible for one person to make a difference. But here at Reveille, we firmly believe that it always matters; your voice, your attitude, and even the coffee that you drink can make an impact on the world that reaches far beyond your home and family. Activism and change don’t have to be all letters to lawmakers and marches for action, though these things are essential. Sometimes, even something as small as purchasing coffee can make the world a better place.

By buying coffee through Reveille, you are directly supporting farmers and workers rather than Wall Street CEOs. By doing something as seemingly unimportant as deciding to drink coffee that is fairly and ethically produced, you are making a meaningful impact on people and families that you may never meet in person. It doesn’t hurt that our coffee tastes fantastic, either! 

Taste the change you want to see in the world; visit our online store today to learn more about our partners and help us make a difference!



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