Direct Trade vs Fair Trade

We are often asked what it means to be direct trade and if direct trade and fair trade are the same thing. Simply stated, direct trade is providing the financial transaction for the coffee directly with the farmer.  Fair trade is the focus on providing equity for the different participants in a given transaction.  Direct trade may or may not lead to fair trade.  At the same time fair trade may not necessarily lead to maximum financial benefit for the grower.

In the infographic above it shows how fair trade can potentially lead to a smaller profit for the farmer than direct trade. That does not mean the two should be pitted against each other.  Cooperatives protect the farmers by establishing an interdependence that increases the economic benefits for all member parties and mitigates risks. In many cases this protection by the co-op might lead to smaller income for the individual farmer yet lead to greater economic viability by the sharing of costs.  Also, dealing directly with the co-op is direct trade when you are dealing with the co-op at origin.

Sina Green is a direct trade company that will only partner with those who engage in fair trade principles – beginning at origin. It is an honor to work with our partners and know the more we support them the more we support local farmers.  Drink more coffee!

Coffee Value Chain

To keep it simple, there are 10 stages that coffee goes through to transform from a fruit on a tree into the delicious beverage that we enjoy everyday.

  1. Growing

Climate, environment, weather, pests, human waste, soil health, etc…there are so many factors that must be managed on the farm to make sure the coffee gets the right amount of sun, shade, water, and nutrients to develop its flavor profile while still on the tree

  1. Picking

While still on the tree, coffee grows in different waves and at different rates each year.  To make sure that only ripe cherries are picked our farmers monitor each tree closely to selectively pick each cherry at the right time.

  1. Processing

Each coffee lot has different characteristics.  Based on those characteristics there are various ways to process the coffee cherries.  They can be processed in water, naturally dried by the sun, or fermented to draw out a certain flavor profile.  There is a lot of attention given throughout each step of each process

  1. Milling

In order to get the bean ready for roasting it must go through a process of having its pulp, mucilage, and parchment removed.  There are different ways to do this and they all take careful attention

  1. Roasting

Once the beans complete the previous stages they are ready to roast.  Roasting is a very tedious process which employs thousands of people all across the globe.  It is a very delicate art that can ruin a high quality bean if the right variables are not monitored and tended to with each roast

  1. Packaging

Packaging must be done at the right time and the right way or a perfectly grown, processed, and roasted bean can spoil or lose its flavor

  1. Shipping

Since virtually no coffee is grown on the US mainland, most coffee takes a risky journey spanning land and sea.  It must meet global standards and pass through multi-national checkpoints before it is deemed a salable product by the US government.

  1. Grinding

Few people realize how important this phase is to enjoy a quality cup of coffee.  If everything has been successful up until this point and the coffee is ground to the wrong size according to the method in which it will be brewed it can ruin what eventually makes its way into your cup.

  1. Brewing

Are you drinking an espresso? French press? Chemex?  Depending on how you want to enjoy your java there are a myriad of different brewing styles.  Whichever method you prefer it is only going to be as good as the attention given all of the previous stages of the value chain

  1. Drinking

You can enjoy a simple cup of coffee at home or in a café by a trained barista who serves you a cup in accordance with the gold cup standard.  You can enjoy it black or with specialty syrups and creams.  You can enjoy it hot or cold and nitrogen infused.  However you like your coffee it has provided jobs to hundreds of people by the time it makes its way into your cup

Introducing Huskee Cup

The name Sina Green comes from a combination of two characteristics that define us.  Sina is an ancient way of referring to China.  This is where we are based and where all of our coffee is grown.  The name ‘Green’ denotes our focus on sustainable agriculture practices and natural farming.  Our devotion to environmental and ecological responsibility is one of the driving forces behind how we operate and who we partner with.  We care deeply about the farmers and farms at origin and make sure that not only do we provide them above market prices for all aspects of the value chain but that we take good care of the environment as well.  Birthed out of this we have been able to support an incredible project that is changing how waste in the coffee industry can be used.

Through a collaborative effort that you can read about in this Collective Hub article you will learn how one of the parts of the coffee cherry that is discarded during the processing of the bean can be turned into a usable product.  If you would like to enjoy our coffee in a cup that is made from itself (ha!) we would love for you to check out the Huskee Cup Kickstarter campaign.

Snapshots from Origin

Yunnan Coffee Traders is one of our close partners that help out with processing, logistics, and exporting. They have the amazing privilege of living at origin which grants them constant interaction with the farmers, production methods, oversight of processing standards, and the ability to accurately implement quality control.

To see some stunning pictures of some of the farms, processing centers, and the folks we get to work with please check out the Yunnan Coffee Traders Youtube channel.

Photo cred: @bryonlippincott

Xinglong Overseas Coffee Farms

Xiao Ying in Xinglong’s “Overseas Chinese Farm” in 1959. Photo cred: Ginger Huang (黄原竟)

In a rather “obscure” part of Hainan Island lies a series of farms that are unique.  From the period of 1949 to 1979, through three successive waves, about 12,000 overseas Chinese from 21 different countries resettled in the area.  They were granted land and many of them brought different types of crops from the countries they were returning from.  A large group of them brought with them coffee seeds.

As the land began to bear its fruit the local population fell in love with its bounty.  Coffee became a part of their everyday lives.  They were sure the rest of the world was going to fall in love with Xinglong coffee.  Unfortunately, the love for tea is so strong in the surrounding culture that coffee never really broke through.  It was a precious crop enjoyed by the few but ready to be shared with the many.  There are two excellent articles entitled The Bitter Coffee of Hainan that give you a great glimpse into the sadness of the locals who wanted to see their coffee enjoyed by the greater population.  You can read those articles here and here.

All hope is not lost.  We have connected with these farms and been able to share in their affection for the coffee they have put so much blood, sweat, and tears into.  We have been able to encourage them it is still possible for the world to enjoy their coffee.  This past year we hosted a processing course for some of the farmers and they have a new hope and a new vigor.  With small changes to their growing methods we are helping increase their yield so there is enough volume to share it globally.  As soon as the Xinglong coffee is available you will want to seize the opportunity to taste what these faithful farmers have been longing to share!

China as a Growing Coffee Origin

China has been such a unique and mysterious land for so many generations that few people fail to realize what all lies within its flourishing landscape. We have had the privilege of working with coffee farms for many years now and the production is at a level where the world is finally getting to enjoy some of the finest coffee China has to offer. Please read this article published by the Perfect Daily Grind. It details some of the of the great coffee that Sina Green is bringing to your cup.

Photo cred: @bryonlippincott

The Story of Mr. Hu and Fuyan Farm

The beans that we are currently selling in the States have come from Fuyan Farm in Yunnan, China. The farm is located in the Hani people’s autonomous region and is the reason for the Hani Coffee Company’s name.

The story of this farm goes back to 1996 and a man named Hu Xi Xiang. At that time, Mr. Hu was an agricultural technician. He provided technical support for tree maintenance, soil balance, and basic plantation operations. The government saw how coffee was leading to economic development in rural areas in other areas throughout the world’s coffee belt and wanted to cultivate it in China as well. With Mr. Hu’s background and experience in the region he became the person to kick off the coffee growing initiative. After receiving seeds from the local government he planted his first crop.

In 1999 there was a great winter storm that led to a freeze that decimated the majority of all crops in the Pu’er region. It utterly destroyed Mr. Hu’s coffee trees. He never gave up though. He was committed to producing quality coffee so he re-planted and persevered. Coffee takes 3-4 years to produce a crop so the decision for him to start again was a very costly one. We are so thankful he did though. Now, a little more than 20 years later Mr. Hu oversees nearly 700 metric tons of coffee produced annually! To learn more about his journey please read the full article regarding Mr. Hu from Fresh Cup Magazine. It is a great look into the narrative behind some of the greatest coffee China has to offer.

Photo cred: @bryonlippincott